Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame.
Avengers: Endgame includes the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first openly gay character, but unfortunately, the film stops short of proper LGBTQ representation. The culmination of a 11 year long story arc, Avengers: Endgame picks up after Avengers: Infinity War, with half of the world still missing after Thanos collected all the Infinity Stones and snapped his fingers. The movie itself is an incredible feat of storytelling, but it doesn't properly reflect audiences in all ways. Marvel and Disney have, over the years, come under fire for the favor seemingly shown to the straight white male characters, but Marvel and directors Anthony and Joe Russo have hinted that all that would change with the introduction of Marvel's first openly gay character in Avengers: Endgame.
If fans thought they were getting a gay character within the MCU who would have any kind of significant impact, though, they were in for a disappointment. The openly gay character in Avengers: Endgame is merely billed as "grieving man," and he's played by Joe Russo. In the five years after Thanos' snap, Steve Rogers leads a support group helping people to "feel whole again even though half of the world is missing." Grieving man talks about going on a date, where both he and the other guy cried, and says that they'll see each other again in the future. It's sweet, and Russo delivers his lines well, but it's over all too quickly and if you'd decided to take a bathroom break in that moment, you'd never know of grieving man's existence.
Some (the Russo brothers included) would argue that this moment highlights the diversity of Marvel moving forward, but many would disagree, saying that this is nothing more than a mere nod to the LGBTQ community. Indeed, it feels very much like a token gesture, as though they thought they better include a gay person somewhere, and that was as good a moment as any. When fans push Marvel and Disney to be more inclusive, this isn't necessarily what they mean.
Yes, it's good to see a survivor of the snap talking about how they're trying to move on, and they just happen to be gay, but let's be real; grieving man is unlikely to be a character of any significance moving forward. What LGBTQ fans mean when they argue for fair representation, and what Marvel should be striving for, is an openly gay character who is foremost in the MCU, with a prominence up alongside Thor, Doctor Strange, and Spider-Man, for example; a superhero who happens to be gay, just as Steve Rogers is a superhero who happens to be straight.
Many hoped that Valkyrie's bisexuality would be addressed in Thor: Ragnarok, but the movie steadfastly avoided talking about her personal life in any significant way. Many also hoped Carol Danvers would be queer in Captain Marvel, but there was no hint of romance between her and Maria, merely a very close friendship. If Marvel want to show true diversity on the screen, and true LGBTQ representation, then they need to do better than a grieving man with a few lines. This might happen in The Eternals movie, as Marvel is reportedly casting for an openly gay lead, but that has yet to be confirmed. Avengers: Endgame is a fantastic movie, and rightly deserves all its praise, but there's still a long way to go before Marvel and Disney can really say they're giving the LGBTQ community true representation on-screen.
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