The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a problem with queer representation. We’ve known it for a while. We also know it’s not out of malice; the MCU isn’t out here trying to consciously hurt those of us craving more queer people on our screens.
But while the MCU didn’t set out to actively erase queer folks from the picture — despite LGBTQ characters being acknowledged and celebrated in the source material that the films are based on — it’s done a pretty thorough job of creating a universe that is largely straight, male, white, and geared toward that demographic.
But what if there was already a way to bring in the queerness that a considerable portion of the MCU fandom craves? What if queer women were the key to solving one of the MCU’s biggest problems right now?
As a queer person who’s been craving some blatantly queer representation in the MCU (a franchise I’ve loved as long as it has existed), I’m ready for this universe to have some new life breathed into it. And not just in the way Star Wars writer Jonathan Kasdan recently tacked on Lando’s pansexuality like an afterthought shortly after Solo: A Star Wars Story premiered (despite the character already being well-established in the pop culture consciousness).
The MCU doesn’t need to retcon character histories or fundamentally change anything about what has been established in terms of the overall narrative arc. No, this is about merely making space for some of the characters who have already been introduced and acknowledging them in a blatant way. Specifically, those who are female, queer, or have queer comic book roots, notably Thor: Ragnarok’s Valkyrie and Black Panther’s Okoye.
While those afraid of change could potentially create a roadblock on the path to introducing a new queer era of the MCU, that problem could potentially work itself out by the time the credits roll on the Infinity War sequel in 2019. In a world that will be forever changed following the deadly events of Avengers: Infinity War, you can imagine there will be a stronger sense of mortality amongst the characters of the MCU.
The rules will change. The drives will change. The fates will change. A new reality will be created and it’s in this new world that I like to think that there will be a plausible comfort amongst the characters to discuss the possibility that some of their friends and fellow heroes aren’t entirely heterosexual.
To create the queer change needed to breathe some life and authenticity back into the MCU, we have to look around and see what characters we already have established (or could potentially establish) to bring about the change. This is where our queer women come in.
As previously mentioned, Valkyrie and Okoye are already prime candidates. Even though both of the films they appear in erase their queerness for the sake of the story or for undisclosed reasons, there is an opportunity to bring out their queerness once again. We’ve seen it hinted at and coded into their backstories and interactions with their female peers — Okoye’s relationship with Ayo deserves better, people — but it is time to have them actually declare it.
The same goes for Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Nebula and Mantis, two characters who present as gender non-conforming and who may potentially be queer characters. Can we not explore these characters on a deeper level, especially when GoTG: Vol. 2 went to such great lengths to discuss the rest of their backstories? Stop erasing the fundamental parts of who these characters are, Marvel.
And if it isn’t revolutionary enough to imagine a cinematic universe where women of color and gender non-conforming characters change the dialogue around queerness in the MCU, let’s imagine the possibilities that come with Phase Four, beginning with Captain Marvel. The jury is still out on whether Carol Danvers will have an active love interest in her origin story, but even though she isn’t canonically queer, why not take the tiniest of liberties here and create a powerful queer female superhero? There has been no instance thus far in the MCU where a superhero’s sexuality has affected their mission, so let’s go all the way.
For too long, this seriously major corner of pop culture — the MCU — has operated in a way that doesn’t reflect a reality unique to a large part of its fanbase that deserves to be represented. We don’t have Infinity Stones or Vibranium or a Quantum Realm in real life. But what we have out here on the other side of the movie screen is a fanbase that includes queer folks, non-binary folks, and gender non-conforming folks who are just as magical, spiritual, and precious as those fantastical things. Except they are even more deserving of accurate representation simply because they are real.
If the MCU can imagine a world where Infinity Stones exist alongside real people and places, why can’t it bring to life queer superheroes alongside its other superheroes? With three phases on the books, it’s time.