Warning: This article discuses scenes from several movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you have missed a movie or two and mind spoilers, come back later.
Earlier today, I shared with you the words of actress Tessa Thompson on why her character’s sexuality was never addressed in Thor: Ragnorak.
After being asked for possibly the hundredth time, Thompson responded that there was a scene involving her character Valkyrie and another woman. That scene was later cut out. Though, Thompson says the cut wasn’t for political reasons, but simply because it didn’t serve the greater purpose of the story.
“It wasn’t Marvel or Disney or anyone extracting that because it was an issue,” she explained.
“It just was like, that particular moment didn’t make sense in the context of the scene. And there were other beautiful things where you get a sense of her back story.”
This situation reminds of what happened with Black Panther earlier this year.
Before Black Panther hit theaters, Marvel fans, and specifically LGBTQ Marvel fans, wondered if the gay romances within Panther’s royal guard, called the Dora Milaje, would be explored.
Rumors then spread that a scene was filmed where Florence Kasumba’s Ayo attempts to flirt with Danai Gurira’s Okoye. Comic fans were excited by this prospect as Ayo is canonically gay in comic history.
That said, those rumors were quelled early on and Kasumba later spoke on why the scene didn't made the final edit.
“The thing is, if the makers would have wanted everyone to see the scene, it would have been in the movie. The final result that we’ve seen, there were a few scenes that have been cut. Different scenes, also. They didn’t make it into the movie for certain reasons, and at that point, I have to say: What their reason is, I can’t tell you, because nobody told me about whether it’s in or not.”
“But at this point, I personally think people have no idea who T’Challa is, who are the Wakandans, what is Wakanda, where is Wakanda, what is their culture. There are so many important things that had to be told in these two hours. So the focus was on what is so important for T’Challa. What happens after the last movie that we saw. I know all the other scenes that we have also filmed that are not in the movie. People have their reasons why not.”
On one hand, I can understand this argument of superhero story over romance. There’s only so much time allotted to a movie. Even an MCU movie. Including a scene for Ayo to flirt is nice, but ultimately a waste as she’s virtually pointless to Black Panther’s plot. And including a scene where Valkyrie gets out of bed with a woman doesn’t serve Ragnorak’s story either (though, it could have been served with humor had Thor awkwardly walked into the room).
But on the other hand, there are countless examples of pointless romances in the Marvel Cinematic universe. Marvel hasn’t pulled punches with underwritten and pointless romance before, so why do it with the gay ones?
As an example, I saw a Doctor Strange related video a couple days ago and was reminded of Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer. I had completely forgotten about Dr. Strange’s love interest, because she was so underwritten and unnecessary for both Strange’s story and the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s.
Next is the obviously forced relationship of Captain America and Sharon Carter. In this instance, a single scene of flirtation in Captain America: The Winter Soldier leaped into an “it’s complicated” relationship and single kiss scene in Captain America: Civil War.
The story had only the slightest buildup for that romance and was mainly built on the fact that comic fans knew the relationship would be happening. The movie’s script itself put in very little effort.
This is a similar situation to The Scarlet Witch and Vision. While there existed an atmospheric two scenes in Civil War between the two characters, there was no real indication of a romance there. But, Avengers: Infinity War depicted the two in an all-out relationship.
In this case, I can forgive the time skip, and I do note that the relationship tied into the film’s overall plot. But, I still have to point out the convenient writing for the romance.
Ultimately, there have been very few romances, and romantic interests, with actual value to Marvel’s superhero films. The only standouts being Pepper Potts and Nakia (though, that character never dated Black Panther in the comics and was changed to give the hero a romance).
This shows a basic truth. Romances suck in the MCU. While we’ve been given political drama in Civil War, cultural euphoria in Black Panther, and comedic splendor in Thor: Ragnorak, we haven’t seen a compelling romance yet.
But then why spend time trying to give Jane Foster a purpose in the first two films? Why bother introducing Christine Palmer for the sole purpose of going, “Strange, are you ok?” Why include a kiss at the very end of Ant-Man when there was no build-up or foreshadowing for it? Because straight people like seeing romance and the romances already established in the comics. But you know what else? Gay people like that too, and we deserve to be included.
Earlier this week, I shared with you the words of Marvel Studios Executive Victoria Alonso. Alonso said that the MCU is dedicated to representing its audience. All of its audience.
“You don’t get to have this kind of success if the entire world doesn’t see your product, so we are determined to have every one of those people represented in our films in some way. At some point in time. Now, we only make two or three movies a year, so it’s difficult to have every single one. But it is definitely one of the things that we have in our minds all the time.”
Alonso then said that Marvel Studios still needs work on representing LGBTQ characters and audiences (along with Latin and Asian audiences).
“I think we haven’t represented the Latin community in general. I think that’s something that we have to do better. The gay community has not been represented whatsoever. I’m gay, so I can tell you that I long for that. I think we haven’t represented the Asian community well. I think we’ve had some representation, but it’s minimum. And, we would like to represent that in a big way.”
But what counts as good representation? This is a conversation we’ve been having more often in the past few years.
LGBTQ fans have continued to express disappointment with movie attempts at representation. LGBTQ media sources complained after Yellow Power Ranger Trini’s speech about being different than her family never explicitly mentioned her sexuality. Harry Potter fans also complained when Dumbledore’s sexuality was never expressively stated in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
It seems that right now, Hollywood’s attempt at representation is through coded references. If movie watchers aren’t actively looking for these coded scenes, gestures, and lines, they can easily miss them.
Unfortunately, these coded messages towards gay representation are what big budget movies have settled on offering us. This is where the politics of movie making comes in.
Hollywood is trying it’s best to market towards the global box office, and championing LGBTQ content is sadly a burden for that. Look at Malaysia, which recently censored 24 minutes worth of content from Queen Biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. Anything that touched on Freddie Mercury’s bisexuality was edited out of the nation’s final cut.
China has also become a juggernaut in the movie business. Sadly, China is limiting or outright banning all access to LGBTQ content online and in films. As such, Hollywood movies have to follow those rules if they want to make any money in the second largest box office in the world.
Efforts to make money with anti-gay governments and communities, like China and Malaysia, could be why Marvel has yet to openly represent gay characters/romance.
But as Tessa Thompson said at the beginning of this article, “It wasn’t Marvel or Disney or anyone extracting that because it was an issue.” So, that argument may be up for debate.
In the end, would Marvel be willing to openly fight China and company over the inclusion of gay romance scenes? I’m doubtful.
But for every LGBTQ youth who’s out there watching a Marvel movie. For every viewer who would smile, laugh, and jump at the sight of a gay kiss, flirt, or post-coital bed scene, I say do it anyway.
Change was never created through the application of the status quo, but by constant pushes towards progress. It doesn’t have to be big or drawn out. Baby steps are fine. Hell, a 3 minute scene is all I need.
So come on Marvel Studios. Represent us already. If you can give others sloppy romances, you can give us a few too. Give us 3 minute scenes indicative of gay and lesbian romance, or give all Marvel fans no romance at all.
This was created by one of our Contributing Writers and does not reflect the opinion of Instinct Magazine or the other Contributing Writers.