Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has defended Avengers: Endgame's brief use of the MCU's first explicitly gay character. Marvel Comics always prided itself on being set in "the world outside your window," albeit with the addition of superheroes. As a result, themes of diversity and inclusion have increasingly become a part of the Marvel Comics universe. The MCU, however, has been fairly slow to follow suit.
2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming was the first MCU movie to feature a black woman in a speaking role (Zendaya as MJ), and it took Marvel 11 years to release a solo film starring a female superhero. Avengers: Endgame had the MCU's first openly gay character, a grieving husband featured in a counseling session with Steve Rogers at the beginning of the film. Played by co-director Joe Russo, the man talked about going on a date where both he and the other guy cried. It was sweet, but it was over all too quickly and was heavily criticized for being absolutely inconsequential.
During an interview with i09, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige defended this brief scene, insisting it was never supposed to be a big deal.
"That was never meant to be our first focused character. That was just meant to be a matter of fact and a matter of life and a matter of truth. And I liked it that our hero, Steve Rogers, doesn’t blink an eye at that fact. It is just truth and is heartbreaking for his loss and for the life he’s trying to put back together. It was never meant to be looked at as our first hero. I guess it’s the first reference, so it does, of course, get a lot of attention."
In truth, Feige's response suggests that Marvel still doesn't entirely understand the criticism that they haven't really understood the demand for diversity in their shared cinematic universe. The MCU is no longer the new kid on the block, and after 11 years it's well past time for an openly gay superhero. The issue's particularly notable given Marvel has had plenty of opportunity in recent years, most notably when Thor: Ragnarok introduced the bisexual character Valkyrie. Unfortunately, Marvel cut the single scene that alluded to Valkyrie's sexuality, which would have shown a woman walking out of Valkyrie's bedroom.
Ironically, Marvel fanned the flames of controversy for Avengers: Endgame by initially treating Joe Russo's character as a big deal in marketing. The day before the film's release, Deadline ran a major piece celebrating the MCU's first openly gay character, complete with quotes from Joe Russo about how important representation really is. That backfired, with viewers turning up expecting someone who actually mattered to the plot somehow, and audiences were left surprised and disappointed.
Kevin Feige insisted that it won't be long before Marvel addresses this issue, saying, "We haven’t been shy about saying that that’s coming and that there’s much more prominent LGBT heroes in the future." There have been reports that Marvel is casting their first openly gay actor for The Eternals, which is generally expected to be part of the 2020 slate, so hopefully things will improve in the next year.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019