Don't Ask, Don't Tell Alive And Well In The Marvel Cinematic Universe

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Earlier, news broke of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's director James Gunn's comments about the appearance of LGBTQ superheroes in Marvel movies. And you really should check out Kaitlyn Booth's excellent article looking at his comments. Gunn's statement is to the effect that maybe we already have LGBT characters, but we just don't know it yet. Or to give his full quote,

"Somebody asked me, "will there be any gay characters in Marvel movies?" And, you know, what I meant is there's a lot of characters in the MCU and very few of them have we delved into what their sexuality is whether it's gay or straight or bisexual. We don't really know so I imagine there are probably, you know, gay characters in the Marvel universe and we just don't know who they are yet,"

However, not everyone has taken these comments very well. Particularly LGBTQ fans and audiences who have heard this kind of excuse trotted out time and time again, and have seen it so often used as an excuse to never actually include visible examples of the LGBTQ community in film.

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If I'm honest, I don't think Gunn even realised how much of a backlash his comments would cause. How could he? He's not LGBTQ+ himself, he's never faced decades of marginalisation in and outside of media, he's never been hard pushed to find characters like himself to look up to and be excited about. How on earth is he supposed to know that intimating that there are queer characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they're just in the closet, wouldn't go down so well?

I mean, he could have spoken to any gay person he knows. Or he could have maybe looked at the commentary online swirling around ideas of representation and diversity. Or he could have outright talked to fans on twitter etc. Hm.

It's tone deaf, but also understandable coming from Gunn. I genuinely don't think it occurs to him that such a comment is maybe not what the LGBTQ+ audience wants to hear. We don't want 'maybe they are', we want 'this character IS, and they are awesome!'.

But it's not unusual. Marvel Studios hasn't always had the best message when it comes to LGBTQ representation, such as Kevin Feige's promise that we'll see a queer superhero in Marvel films 'within the next decade or so'.

It's also odd when it's not like the films don't go out of their way to confirm the sexuality through romantic sub-plots of many of their heroes, like Black Widow, Star-Lord, Hawkeye, Vision, Scarlet Witch and Captain America. Even when, with the latter character in Captain America: Civil War, the romantic subplot felt completely out of place, awkward and frankly weird as hell. And when Cap's previous film, The Winter Soldier, arguable had no romantic subplot and is easily one of the best MCU films to date.

Today marks nine years since the Marvel Cinematic Universe began, with Iron Man back on May 2nd, 2008. As yet, outside of some badly handled, overused gay panic and prison gay stereotypes, there have been no discernible queer characters outside of the TV shows and Netflix series. So far, Marvel Studios have gone out of their way to prove the heterosexuality of many of their superhero characters with romantic elements, no matter how unnecessary or contrived for the films. They just don't seem that bothered about doing the same for anyone else on the sexuality spectrum.

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About Joe Glass

Joe Glass has been contributing to Bleeding Cool for about four years. He's been a roaming reporter at shows like SDCC and NYCC, and also has a keen LGBTQ focus, with his occasional LGBTQ focus articles, Tales from the Four Color Closet. He is also now Bleeding Cool's Senior Mutant Correspondent thanks to his obsession with Marvel's merry mutants. Joe is also a comics creator, writer of LGBTQ superhero team series, The Pride, the first issue of which was one of the Top 25 ComiXology Submit Titles of 2014. He is also a co-writer on Stiffs, a horror comedy series set in South Wales about call centre workers who hunt the undead by night. One happens to be a monkey. Just because.
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