For years, stories written for mass consumption have been from a limited perspective. However, slowly but surely, LGBTQ+ representation has become a part of mainstream media.
This year, part of the conversation around Avengers: Endgame has surrounded Marvel’s diverse cannon of heroes, including a gay character in the film. There wasn’t much known about the role, but most had high hopes based on Marvel’s minority representation in the past.
For people in and outside the LGBTQ+ community, this is a positive thing, because seeing someone you don’t typically see on-screen can do a lot in terms of accepting who you are and who others are.
Superheroes are characters that show that the impossible is possible. Nonetheless, while Marvel is taking some steps to increase representation, there is still the question of whether or not the people at Marvel did enough to accurately represent these marginalized people in Avengers: Endgame.
Avengers: Endgame is one of the most popular movies of our generation. As a superhero film and a conclusion to this saga of the Marvel universe, it is an exceptional movie. The only let down was that the significance of a gay character making their first appearance in the film wasn’t as prominent as many thought it would be.
The character only appeared in one scene and he wasn’t the focal point. Including a character and open discussion of their love life would have been monumental because there hasn’t been a gay character on-screen in that universe before.
Representation is good in any form, but was this character even prominent enough to represent anyone?
Avengers: Endgame is the conclusion to many of the main characters’ stories and so it was logical that Marvel included new characters as a way to advance into a new phase of stories. So, while Marvel reducing this character to a side character is disappointing, it is a step in the right direction.
Another path for Marvel is to give the spotlight to other characters, foregoing the subtlety that they have been using lately. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is said to be bisexual as stated by Thompson at a red carpet event for Avengers: Endgame. Brie Larson talked about how she believes her character, Captain Marvel, is a lesbian. However, there hasn’t been much screen time devoted to either character’s sexuality, or many of the female characters at all.
There are countless stories that follow the typical heteronormative narrative. Because of this, when characters are introduced, most viewers will automatically assume that they are straight. This form of media conditioning makes it so that without explicitly naming a character’s sexuality, the general assumption will be that they are straight. Therefore, because the sexuality of these characters was not a topic of discussion in the movie, Marvel cannot claim to be representing the LGBTQ+ community.
In the future, Marvel can use examples like Love Simon, Call Me by Your Name, and many more to show how they can increase representation of LGBTQ+ identities in mainstream media. Representation is all about showing other people’s stories and Marvel is off to a good start, but they didn’t do as much as they could have.
A character’s sexual orientation isn’t what defines them. Nevertheless, it is still an important part of their identity. Marvel needs to find a balance between the two.
Moving forward, Marvel should acknowledge that a character’s orientation is important while still developing the rest of the character. This can allow for more people, especially young people, to see themselves represented on the big screen, whatever their sexual orientation may be.
Overall, Avengers: Endgame should be celebrated as a good conclusion to many of our favorite superhero’s stories, but not for its representation of the LGBTQ+ community. Marvel should take the initiative to make sure that every kind of person and every kind of fan of its movies feels seen, heard, and noticed.