'Avengers' directors teased the debut of Marvel's first openly gay character in 'Endgame,' but it wasn't at all what we expected

Marvel Studios‘Some people move on. But not us.’
  • Warning: Minor spoilers ahead for “Avengers: Endgame.”
  • The Russo brothers recently spoke to Deadline about their decision to include the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first openly gay character in “Endgame.”
  • The character, played by co-director Joe Russo himself, appears briefly in an early scene as a member of Captain America’s support group.
  • Representation is really important,” Joe Russo told Deadline. “It was important to us as we did four of these films, we wanted a gay character somewhere in them.”
  • The scene itself, however, is underwhelming and doesn’t warrant this self-congratulatory attitude – especially given that Joe Russo is not openly queer.

Warning: Minor spoilers ahead for “Avengers: Endgame.”

Among a collection of beloved superheroes and the most hardcore villain in recent memory, “Avengers: Endgame” includes the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first openly gay character – but the inclusion isn’t as revolutionary as one might expect.

The character, played by co-director Joe Russo himself, appears briefly in an early scene as a member of a post-Thanos support group, led by Captain America.

People on Earth are seen trying to grapple with half of the population having vanished. Joe Russo’s character, who remains nameless, describes the pain of losing his partner in the “Snappening.” He casually refers to a new romantic interest as a “he” when describing their recent date.

Captain america trailer endgameMarvel/YouTubeSteve Rogers, aka Captain America, does his best to help people move on post-Thanos.

The moment is extremely subtle, but according to the Russo brothers, it’s also groundbreaking.

“Representation is really important,” Joe Russo told Deadline. “It was important to us as we did four of these films, we wanted a gay character somewhere in them.”

Anthony Russo added: “That scene was important to us in telling the story of the larger world.”

“When you have a story point that includes killing half of all humans on Earth, you’re telling a bigger story than ‘The Avengers,'” he said. “That character that Joe is playing really came from that point of view, him being an everyman who has suffered from Thanos’ act.”

In reality, the gay character didn’t feel groundbreaking

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has made a visible push in recent years to embrace diversity. “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel” marked the studio’s first solo films for black and female superheroes, respectively.

In comparison, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mention of a same-sex relationship is hardly worth shouting about.

Valkyrie thor ragnarokMarvelIn the comics, Tessa Thompson’s character Valkyrie is bisexual.

If LGBTQ representation were truly a priority for filmmakers, there were plenty of opportunities for a meaningful gay storyline or an explicitly queer superhero in “Endgame.”

Tessa Thompson has openly embraced her character’s bisexuality, which would be true to how Valkyrie is depicted in the comics, but we’ve yet to see that onscreen. Many fans are rooting for Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, to be depicted as openly queer – and it sure looks like Brie Larson is on board.

It would also be very simple to put one or more (or all) of the film’s literal aliens on the LGBTQ spectrum.

When a cinematic universe introduces mythological gods, talking raccoons, and characters with antenna, sexual orientation can hardly remain binary – but the films have staunchly ignored this fact.

In “Guardians of the Galaxy,” for example, playboy hero Peter Quill is romantically entangled with a variety of different species. But everyone he’s seen with is visibly feminine, as if Chris Pratt hooking up with someone with red skin or tentacles would be less jarring to audiences than a romantic interest who presents as masculine.

Guardians of the galaxy fusia girlMarvelIn ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ this red-skinned character hangs out on Peter Quill’s ship for a while because he forgot she was on board.

The Russo brothers’ self-congratulatory analysis of the scene makes it worse

There’s something to be said for a subtle scene that works to normalize same-sex relationships. The brief moment wasn’t especially notable, but on its own, it was sweet at best and neutral at worst.

The Russo brothers actively congratulating themselves on embracing “representation,” however, may give viewers a sour taste after the fact.

https://twitter.com/pastagays/status/1121103366317195264?ref_src=twsrc^tfw

Representation is important, and it can be achieved in a variety of ways. But that scene is simply not detailed, important, or innovative enough for the directors to pat themselves on the back.

The character could’ve easily been played by a gay actor

Joe anthony russoJesse Grant/Getty Images for DisneyAnthony (left) and Joe Russo (right) at the world premiere of ‘Avengers: Endgame.’

Joe Russo has never identified himself as queer and, as he’s married to a woman, he publicly presents as straight.

While we should never presume to know how a person identifies, the MCU’s first openly gay character would have been granted much more gravity if the filmmakers had cast an openly gay actor in the role.

“We felt it was important that one of us play him, to ensure the integrity and show it is so important to the filmmakers that one of us is representing that,” Joe Russo explained to Deadline.

It may be true that the scene felt important to the directors, but if handled correctly, it wouldn’t have been used for a gratuitous cameo.

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