Thor: Ragnarok's Valkyrie Shows How Far We've Got To Go For LGBTQ Representation On The Big Screen

Image: Marvel Studios

Thor: Ragnarok is a great movie - but one area where it falters is with Valkyrie. Not because of characterization, because she's just as great, kickass, and engaging as the rest of the cast. But Ragnarok's Valkyrie was meant to be bisexual, and the erasure of that identity in the film is profoundly disappointing.

A few weeks ago during an online Q&A with fans, Tessa Thompson, who plays the delightfully surly-turned-heroic warrior Valkyrie in Ragnarok, dropped a bombshell: her take on Valkyrie is that she's bisexual, just as the character is in the comics. As Thompson's comment started spreading, a few days later she had to add an important clarification to her previous reveal - Valkyrie's sexuality is never made explicit in the film itself.

Left there, the story would have been a bizarre oddity, courting the positive attention of LGBTQ representation without actually... you know, representing. But eventually, through a profile with Rolling Stone, it was revealed that there was going to be a moment where Valkyrie's bisexuality would have been acknowledged on screen. Thompson lobbied director Taika Waititi to shoot a small moment including a woman walking out of Valkyrie's bedroom. Despite Thompson and Waititi fighting for the brief moment to stay in the film, it was eventually cut, because it was considered a "distraction" from the expository dialogue going on elsewhere.

Thompson's remark to Rolling Stone about the scene being cut is unsurprising for the play-it-safe politics of making mainstream, wide-appeal blockbusters, but it's still a grim reminder of where LGBTQ representation is at for these kinds of movies:

There were things that we talked about that we allowed to exist in the characterization, but maybe not be explicit in the film. There's a great shot of me falling back from one of my sisters who's just been slain [in the Valkyrie flashback with Hela]. In my mind, that was my lover.

And what is allowed to "maybe not be explicit" in Ragnarok is specifically the LGBTQ elements of Valkyrie's character. Elswhere, the movie is fine cracking jokes about sexuality as a topic -- the size of Hulk's wang and shots of his gamma-irradiated buttcheeks are played for laughs. The Grandmaster's luxury spaceship (Thor and the gang's chosen method of escape from the planet Sakaar) was used to host dazzlingly disco orgies, complete with fireworks displays, plays a small but crucial role in the film's big chase scene.

While it's kept fairly subtle -- a knowing glance here and there every once in a while -- the movie is also fine with indicating that sparks could fly between Valkyrie and Thor several times. But apparently a couple-second-long shot of a woman leaving Valkyrie's bedroom would have been too distracting from the narrative of a scene? That sucks. Not just because the excuse of why the scene ended up being cut rings hollow, but because it serves as a reminder of just how painfully short what passes for LGBTQ representation on the big screen still falls. It's especially disappointing for Marvel Studios, whose failure to introduce more diverse characters in their movies, including LGBTQ ones, is amplified by the fact their TV output has had considerably fewer issues on this front -- Agents of SHIELD, for example, introduced gay Inhuman Joey Gutierrez in season three, and his sexuality was integrated into the character's backstory without being a "distraction" to the show's narrative.

There's a fantastical surreality to the sorts of scifi and fantasy movies we cover here at io9 that audiences are more than willing to buy into more often than not. People are perfectly fine accepting someone can be a space alien or a giant goat person, but apparently the concept of said space alien/goat person being attracted to a member of the same sex is a step too far. What's even more discouraging, though, is that while queer representation in these films is actually on the "rise," it's only in the barest of manners possible.

Beauty and the Beast heavily touted its "exclusively gay moment" with Josh Gad's character Le Fou in the run-up to release, only for it to be a literal moment -- a blink-and-you'll-miss-it dance with another man in the film's closing musical number. Power Rangers sought to cut off middling reviews by revealing, days before release, that Yellow Ranger Trini would become the first on-screen LGBTQ superhero. But Trini's "outing" to her fellow heroes in the movie itself, is couched in such vagueness and avoidance, that it still feels like a half-step. And now we have Valkyrie, Marvel Studio's first LGBTQ superhero, who you'd only know as such as long as you followed Tessa Thompson on Twitter, because her actual "exclusively gay moment" ended up on the cutting room floor.

Images: Disney and Lionsgate.

In a world where even these tiniest scenes -- which, if we inverted them and put straight characters in their place would be so banal and nondescript that they wouldn't be even worth mentioning -- are seen as bold and daring examples of representation, the fact that Ragnarok couldn't even get that far is even more disappointing. And yet, there will be headlines anyway, because LGBTQ people are meant to applaud and be fine with just the tiniest, tiniest moments of representation, even when Ragnarok's offering didn't even actually appear in the final movie. Small steps forward are still steps forward, right?

The problem is, mainstream studios are still petrified of taking anything further than those first small steps. To LGBTQ people, those further steps -- the steps where we actually get to see people like ourselves on the big screen, being themselves like the myriad ways straight characters are allowed to be, instead of their sexuality being an offhand declaration treated like an easter egg -- are the ones that are vital. To see people like yourself, openly accepted and acknowledged as such, as they get to fight bad guys and save the day like someone like Valkyrie does? That is powerful, important imagery, and it's something LGBTQ people rarely get to see in big-ticket genre entertainment.

Nearly a decade after Iron Man changed the superhero movie game forever, we're still waiting on Marvel's first openly LGBTQ movie hero to be explicitly acknowledged as such on screen (we're also, alarmingly, still waiting on their first female or first non-white lead, but at least we know those are actually on the way relatively soon). A few years ago, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige told Collider the first openly LGBTQ character could appear in a Marvel movie by 2025. 2025! And that was meant to be a positive statement! Imagine saying that about any other form of minority representation, and there would be understandable outrage. But for LGBTQ audiences, that's about as much as you can hope for when it comes to big blockbuster entertainment: We're worth a headline-grabbing moment every once in a while, but not much else beyond that.

Two years on from that comment from Feige, and try as Thor: Ragnarok might, we're still waiting for that openly LGBTQ hero. But at least Valkyrie is here, and has opportunities to be queer in future movies. It's a shame we couldn't be getting right now, instead of having to continue to wait for it.

WATCH MORE: Entertainment News


Comments

    LGBTQI represents around 3% of the population, Hollywood already pushes the LGBTQI "quotas" well pass 3% of movies.

      Does it somehow impact your viewing experience to see people who are different to you?

      Oh no you had to see someone different to you? Oh the humanity, Wont someone think of poor pformagg?

    Do you not get bored being continually outraged at nothingness? or are you just playing to the professionally outraged. You talk about maintaining broad appeal as if it is some evil. No it isn't evil, the studio want to maximize profits by maintaining a broad base of appeal. Go watch the many, many, other TV shows and movies that have these elements you want so much, conservatives have to deal with that in all forms of media, Perhaps you can stomach one of the few movies not rubbing everyone's face in the obvious or better yet use your own money to make your own Thor movie (Thor is a Norse god and not subject to copyright) I am sure it would be great!

    Who cares what the sexuality of a character is? There was no woman walking out of the grandmasters bedroom/pleasure palace to indicate if he's gay/bi/straight either. Who cares? I don't need to know.
    Valkyrie is great at kicking arse. That's all that matters.

      Amen.

      I don't think a characters sexuality needs to be "explored" in every damn movie. This is meant to be a fun action movie not a deep exploration of the perils that beset mythological gay beings.

      I also think it's annoying that people complain about a moment in a movie where a gay person kisses someone. As in claiming that it's not truly representative and that it's too short. Seriously? What do you want? Full on man on man (or woman on woman) action? Any portrayal needs to fit into the movie. We *don't* need 10 minutes of LGBT action just to prove that the director and studio is open minded.

        totally 100% who the hell cares! this is so PC its stupid! make good movies, no one cares about LGBTIYGFHGVHTFJBKHUYGHN and every other acronym.

      who cares!!!! ditto !! OMG SO MUCH PC ITS STUPID !

        who cares!!!!

        You do clearly. Otherwise you would not have commented chucking a sooky la la about it.

        Last edited 13/11/17 9:10 pm

          it should not even be a thing, is what they are saying. its such a waste of time its annoying !

          Last edited 14/11/17 8:33 am

      Tony has Pepper
      Cap has Peggy
      Thor has Jane
      etc, etc...All of those relationships indicate at least part of a character's sexuality. People care, because it's part of who the character is, and queer people like seeing themselves represented in media.

        All of whom are main characters. The movie revolves around them and their "lives". It doesn't revolve around a side character.

        Look at the bitching that happened after Star Trek tried to put in a gay relationship for one of the side characters (Sorry Trek fans if it's not Kirk or Spock it's a side character). So much hate because it didn't get enough focus or screen time. Until the *main* character is gay then they're not going to get a lot of screen focus and rightly so.

    A few years ago, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige told Collider the first openly LGBTQ character could appear in a Marvel movie by 2025. 2025! And that was meant to be a positive statement! Imagine saying that about any other form of minority representation, and there would be understandable outrage.

    This is a bullshit complaint too. You know what it's going to take that long for them to be on the screen? Because they're not one of the big tentpole characters that make money. They're a second string character that will eventually get a film because they're fairly popular but they're not in the current "roster" of heroes that are in the planned movies.

    If Iron Man or Captain America was gay then I'd agree with you since they're key, super-popular characters. But when it's a character that no one would have expected to even make it to the big screen 10 years ago, then suck it up and get over it. You might as well bitch about why we aren't getting to see a standalone Dr Druid or Triathlon movie.

      The Guardians aren't tentpole characters either - everyone expected that movie to flop.

      It's amazing what happens when studios take chances.

        There's a difference though. Guardians are integral with the Thanos/Infinity Stones story. Though they ballsed that up by holding back Warlock until after Infinity War. *The* main protagonist from the story turns up late. *sigh*

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