- 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.
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.
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.
— Brie Larson (@brielarson) March 18, 2019
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.
someone: there’s an *explicitly* gay character that you would NEVER expect in endgame
stan twitter, who’s been saying every single marvel character is gay since 2008: pic.twitter.com/ztTGFP0mGD
— 1312 (@ZUKOSMULANEY) April 23, 2019
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.
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.
Hey guys!! If you’re hyped about the rumored gay character!! :D don’t be.
— ✿????baka x3????✿ (@b_ung_il) April 26, 2019
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 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.
- Read more:
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- ‘Avengers: Endgame’ has a subtle nod to ‘Iron Man 3’ you probably missed
- ‘Avengers: Endgame’ finally answers a question fans have been wondering since ‘Age of Ultron’
- 11 things to know before going into ‘Avengers: Endgame’
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