Marvel has been praised for a great number of things throughout the development of the MCU, but one of them is sadly not doing much of anything to increase the visibility of LGBT people. Its lack of any such characters is a routine criticism, and has now been officially documented.
GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, released its annual Studio Responsibility Index, in which it rates studios’ output from the previous year regarding first the percentage of their movies that even acknowledge gay people exist and then how well they do in representing them using the Vito Russo Test.
To pass the test, named for the gay rights activist and co-founder of GLAAD, a movie must feature at least one character who is both identifiably LGBT and not solely defined by this, and is also significant enough to the story that their removal would be noticeable and detrimental. You’d think that this wouldn’t be much of a hardship, but the published numbers are disappointingly low, with Marvel Studios’ parent company Disney being ranked in the bottom three of the studios whose output was analyzed, with a two-star/’Poor’ rating.
The only officially gay character featured in the entire Infinity Saga was a cameo appearance by director Joe Russo in Avengers: Endgame, who mentions dating a new man after his partner disappeared in the Snap. Obviously, a character on screen for less than a minute who doesn’t even have a name is a pretty poor showing.
Although nothing is official, the MCU has technically featured queer heroes before, with Tessa Thompson stating that Thor: Ragnarok was supposed to show that Valkyrie was bisexual – as she is in the comics – by having her leave the bedroom of a female partner. Additionally, although Carol Danvers is not directly stated to be gay in either Captain Marvel or Endgame, she was heavily coded as such in the former, and if you ask any queer person they’ll tell you that she and Maria were a lot more than just really close friends, while in the latter she rocked up with one of the butchest haircuts it’s possible for a woman to have, along with a suit patterned with muscle definition.
However, that their sexualities have not been officially acknowledged is part of the problem, and even though we’re actually going to soon see the first superhero explicitly depicted as gay with The Eternals’ cosmic engineer Phastos, it really shouldn’t have taken 25 movies to address such an easily rectifiable oversight.
The limited representation of LGBT people is an issue being too slowly dealt with, and large studios wielding vast levels of social influence have a huge potential part to play in it. When they aren’t being too cowardly that it might adversely affect their bottom line, that is.