Remember the gay moment in Avengers: Endgame? It was a scene where a man (played by director Joe Russo) mentions going on a date with another man. That’s all. Yet Joe and his co-director/brother Anthony Russo spoke to Deadline about it like they had just done something incredible for the LGBTQA+ community. That didn’t play well to that community or our allies, because—first off—this was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment so minor many viewers did miss it. And secondly, this minor moment drew major attention to that fact that it took until the MCU’s 22nd movie to have a character that was openly queer. And that character wasn’t a superhero or even a sidekick. It was a nameless rando we’ll never see again. But hey, now Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige is here to let us all know it was never intended to be a big deal. Happy Pride Month, everybody.
Feige is currently doing press rounds to promote the 23rd MCU movie, Spider-Man: Far From Home. In an interview with iO9, Feige was asked about the reaction to the Avengers: Endgame moment Deadline called a “milestone” for queer representation in cinema. He answered:
“That was never meant to be our first focused character. That was just meant to be a matter of fact and a matter of life and a matter of truth. And I liked it that our hero, Steve Rogers, doesn’t blink an eye at that fact. It is just truth and is heartbreaking for his loss and for the life he’s trying to put back together. It was never meant to be looked at as our first hero. I guess it’s the first reference so it does, of course, get a lot of attention.”
Please note that in a question about a gay character, Feige couldn’t even say the word “gay.” Instead, he says “first focused character,” whatever that means. And yeah, we know this sad man was never meant to the MCU’s first gay character. As I mentioned the first time this scene made news, it could have been Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok or Okoye in Black Panther. However, both those gay scenes got cut before release. Whoopsie! But hey—Feige suggests—can’t you just be impressed that Captain America wasn’t unnerved by being so close to a gay man?
Feige went on to tell the outlet that a for-real queer hero is “coming soon!” Adding, “We haven’t been shy about saying that that’s coming and that there’s much more prominent LGBT heroes in the future.” And that’s true. Feige has been vaguely promising a LGBTQA+ character in the MCU since 2015. In 2018, he said we might even get two. Which considering the MCU already boasts a cast of characters that just about equals the population of Rhode Island, this seems less than generous.
It’s already been 11 years, 22 movies, and a dizzying number of characters in which such representation could have been included. Yet Feige still demurs from giving a concrete answer about which MCU hero will become the first to actually give queer audiences some worthwhile representation in the too-big-to-fail franchise. And yeah, iO9 mentions the rumors that an openly gay character might appear in the upcoming The Eternals. But I’m over giving the MCU the benefit of the doubt. I’m tired of excuses being made for Marvel Studios dragging their feet. I’ve lost my patience with Feige scoring fawning headlines for more vague promises that someday maybe possibly there could be a queer MCU hero. I can’t understand why we’re supposed to nod along to MCU filmmakers declaring “Representation is really important,” while they do the very least to show it.
What sucks: whether we like it or not, Avengers: Endgame was a historic moment for queer representation in cinematic history. The LGBTQA+ community has had better and bolder representation in other action movies, other blockbuster franchises, and other superhero movies. But the MCU is a game-changing franchise that’s popular and powerful worldwide. And the best in queer representation the MCU has had to offer is Joe Russo using he/him pronouns to describe his date. It’s pitiful and yet historic! It was a big deal, and it was bullshit. It was Marvel timidly testing the waters. And rather than sparking mass outrage from homophobes that they acknowledged the existence of gay people, they got the vocal response from the LGBTQA+ community and our allies that said the very least wasn’t enough.
It’s past time for the MCU to do better. They’ve been talking the talk for years. It’s time to walk the walk or STFU.
Header Image Source: Getty