It’s sounding like there may be some internal conflict going on at Disney. Word is that Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige is eager to get more openly LGBTQ characters in the MCU, but those plans are having the brakes put on them by the Mouse House. Sources close to WGTC – the same ones who said that National Treasure 3 was moving forward and that Marvel was planning a She-Hulk show, both of which turned out to be correct – are telling us that Disney are scared that the inclusion of too many LGBTQ characters may mean that Marvel movies will be unable to be screened in the increasingly lucrative Chinese market.
This story comes hot on the heels of the confirmation that The Eternals will feature the MCU’s first same-sex kiss between an openly gay married couple. This was intended to be an opening salvo for the MCU integrating more openly queer main characters in Phase 4, with Thor: Love and Thunder already confirmed to show Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie pursuing a lesbian relationship.
It seems that while Disney might be fine with having vague LGBTQ representation in their movies, they balk at making them so intrinsic to the plot that it would be difficult to edit out. For example, after much press about the blink-and-you’ll-miss it same-sex kiss in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the studio proceeded to cut the scene from the Singaporean release. This is also reportedly why they walked back making Elsa openly gay in Frozen 2 (but will still go down that route in Frozen 3 since it’s an animated movie and can be easily dubbed or changed for that market, and is the final film in the series).
Thing is, though, compared to many other countries, China isn’t actually that bad when it comes to gay rights. I’m not going to pretend it’s some kind of paradise, but for example, unlike many other countries, the State Administration of Radio Film and Television had absolutely no problem with the brief gay moment in 2017’s Beauty and the Beast. However, it was theorized by Chinese LGBTQ activists that this was because ”LeFou was just a sidekick, not part of the major plot,” and that so long as the movie promotes “social virtues like love and harmony, it will be safe.”
So, The Eternals should prove to be something of a litmus test for how far they can go in a major blockbuster and still get a Chinese release. That film arrives domestically on November 6th, 2020 and should generate a ton of headlines as various countries’ ratings boards pass judgment on it.