After 11 years and almost two dozen movies, it was a bit of a shock: a character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was openly gay. How it was handled, however, was arguably more shocking.
The moment, of course, happens early in Avengers: Endgame. At a post-Snap support group, a character credited as Grieving Man (played by co-director Joe Russo) mentions to Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) he’s dating another man but that it’s difficult with all the grief in the world.
Some people were not happy at the throwaway nature of this obviously huge moment for the Marvel film universe. Gizmodo’s own Charles Pulliam-Moore wrote:
As disappointing as [previous] missed opportunities for queer representation were, none of them stung anywhere nearly as much as the Grieving Man’s introduction inadvertently does, because his presence comes across like an inconsequential afterthought, and it doesn’t help matters that the Russos and Marvel appear to be quite pleased with the creative decision.
During a conversation about the next MCU movie, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Gizmodo asked Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios, about his reaction to people’s disappointment in the scene.
“That was never meant to be our first focused character,” Feige said. “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.”
Feige also added, “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 it’s “coming soon.”
Of course, what Feige said should be the truth. This shouldn’t have been a big deal. Being gay is just a part of life and that character fit in well with the themes of the movie.
In fact, it probably wouldn’t have been a big deal if, the day before the release of a highly secretive film the studio marketed with a hashtag to #DontSpoiltheEndgame, Deadline had not run a huge article on this ‘mild spoiler’ with the consent of the filmmakers.
That made it a bigger deal, and made it seem like they were patting themselves on the back, even if they were not. And, obviously, it wouldn’t have been a big deal if in the 11 years prior to Endgame, the issue had been dealt with, but what’s done is done.
You get the feeling that while Marvel’s handling of LGBTQ+ representation has been below average at best, the studio is aiming to make up for it “soon.” Possibly in The Eternals, if the latest rumour is anything to go by.
Either way, it’s very, very important that it does so. These days, more people see Marvel movies than anyone else’s in the entire world. “With great power comes great responsibility,” right?
With that kind of platform, showing audiences of all different beliefs honest LGBTQ+ representation can really make a difference.