With the release of Captain America: Civil War, Marvel seems set to cement its position as the leader of comic book movies. The film has already crossed the $200 million mark without even opening in the U.S. yet, and its ticket pre-sales have surpassed that of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Batman V Superman.
With the movie's release taking audiences into the start of MCU's Phase 3, talk inevitably turns to future films, and the shape the MCU will take moving forward into Phase 4 and beyond. With the rise in popularity of female superheroes such as Jessica Jones, and the appetite audiences have to see characters such as Captain Marvel and potentially Black Widow lead their own films, Marvel is having to bring things up to date in order to keep their fans satisfied.
One aspect of humanity that has been missing so far, is the inclusion of any LGBT characters. Over at Fox, Ryan Reynolds has been open about Deadpool's pansexuality, while closer to home, many Marvel fans have speculated on the nature of the relationship between Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. Captain America and the Winter Soldier. Despite many a fanfic, though, the pair share nothing more than a hearty bromance on screen, so might we actually see the arrival of an open LGBT Marvel character in the future? According to the Joe Russo, speaking to Collider, the chances are very strong:
"I think the chances are strong. I mean, it’s incumbent upon us as storytellers who are making mass-appeal movies to make mass-appeal movies, and to diversify as much as possible. It’s sad in the way that Hollywood lags behind other industries so significantly, one because you think that it would be a progressive industry, and two it’s such a visible industry. So I think it’s important that on all fronts we keep pushing for diversification because then the storytelling becomes more interesting, more rich, and more truthful."
Of course, there are those who will vehemently disagree, but the fact is, if Marvel wants to represent all aspects of humanity, then that means both inclusive casting, and creating a diverse range of characters. Adding LGBT characters to the MCU not only gives a more complete picture of society, but it opens up a whole new aspect of storytelling to explore, not to mention the huge boost it would give to the LGBT community, who are still severely under-represented in mainstream film and TV. There will always be those who argue back and say "why make a character gay for the sake of it?" but there again, why make a character straight for the sake of it?
Despite progress being made in Hollywood, it is still an industry that doesn't tend to feature LGBT characters in leading storylines for fear of the films not being accepted on the world's stage. If the Russo brothers and, indeed, Marvel, are willing and open to this kind of inclusion, then they need to take a stand and make this happen, but they need to tread carefully.
In countries such as China and Russia, where LGBT people face horrendous violence and discrimination, but where Marvel films fare well, they would run the risk of any movie featuring a gay or trans character being either heavily censored, or being boycotted altogether. However, this doesn't seem to phase Anthony Russo, who is quick to point out that Marvel's success, and the weight it holds, make it easier to take risks.
"I think this is a philosophy of Marvel, in success it becomes easier to take risks... there’s more of a boldness in terms of what you can try and where you can go. So I think that’s very hopeful for all of us moving forward that bolder and bolder choices can be made.”
Marvel also has its argument bolstered by the opinions of J.J. Abrams, who recently said he would love to see Star Wars feature gay characters, adding that part of the fun of Star Wars is "the glory of possibility." Fans have been quick to notice the affection between Finn and Poe Dameron, though nothing has been confirmed surrounding the sexuality of either character. In time, Disney might decide to explore their relationship a little more, or to introduce new LGBT characters to later films.
It's always going to be an emotive subject, but moving forward, if society is moving toward becoming ever more inclusive and accepting, isn't it time that our biggest movie franchises follow suit?
Captain America: Civil War opens in theaters May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.