I have a bone to pick with your movie studio.
With Thor: Ragnarok, we’re roughly 17 movies into Marvel Studios’s historic cinematic universe, and we’re set to get a culmination of this universe building with the arrival of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 not long thereafter.
Marvel Studios has given us exciting adaptations of it’s properties. This year, they’ve delivered with Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2, Spiderman Homecoming, and recently Thor: Ragnarok.
While the movies have been unending fun, something which isn’t necessarily the best in the long term, they have been methodical at building the cinematic universe, but it has ultimately paid off for the studio.
I do know the studio has had their three phase plan, and stuck to it with an impressive level of devotion.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have given us a vast array of movies, choosing to go with quality over quantity, with 2017 being the first year they upped their output from two movies a year to three.
The thorough process, despite its successes, has not come without its failures – namely that the MCU has been slow on incorporating diverse voices and actors into it’s world.
While Marvel had a bigger head start over DC, it was Wonder Woman who made it to screen as the first female led superhero movie – overlooking Elektra and Catwoman – going on to become the top origin story of all time.
Marvel has its first female lead in Ant-Man and The Wasp, in 2018 before following that up with Captain Marvel, who will be the studio’s first solo female heroine in 2019.
The first black female lead character came with Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, and while her introduction was badass, it’s a little frustrating that it came now only.
The Marvel stable however, are forgiven for this slow delivery because they are in fact blessing us with a predominantly black cast in Black Panther – which is the first movie with a predominantly black cast to have a big action superhero blockbuster budget.
(The Blade trilogy did exist, but Wesley Snipes was always surrounded by predominantly white actors)
Black Panther is a pretty big deal because there will be disenfranchised and disillusioned young black boys and girls, who will get to see themselves represented on screens as heroes, and while to some this may seem trivial, it’s actually a huge deal.
Representation matters. Seeing yourself represented in the various media you consume matters.
Which is why as a member of the LGBT+ community, it’s frustrating when in interviews directors speaking about queers characters existing in the MCU but not showing that, or saying characters are bisexual, but having them acknowledge that on screen.
James Gunn, director of both Guardians of the Galaxy films was asked about this, in a previous interview, and then later again clarified his remarks saying:
“You know, somebody asked me will there by any gay characters in Marvel movies, and what I meant was there’s a lot of characters in the MCU and very few of them have we delved into what their sexualities are – whether it’s gay or straight or bisexual,” Gunn said.
“We don’t really know. So, I imagine there are probably gay characters in the Marvel Universe, you know. We just don’t know who they are yet.”
While his remarks seem harmless, it is frustrating when all you hear is about these fictional LGBT+ characters, but you never see them.
It’s an empty gesture. A form of tokenism to allow the studios to appear more queer friendly without having to put action to their words. It creates false hope.
Queer people don’t want to see ourselves represented as token characters because in our everyday lives we are the heroes of our own story. We aren’t tokens that exist for people to brag about showing off how accepting they are.
We battle our own demons, villains and face our own challenges. Sometimes we are the villains of our own story, but in reality we live complicated queer lives.
On film screens, we’re sorely lack the same level of complicated portrayal.
We’ve been so starved for on screen heroic representation, it’s why the #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend social media campaign galvanized so many people.
It was their way of expressing their desire to see the lead hero, Captain America get a on screen boyfriend.
— cassidy (@dxnnyrogers) May 24, 2016
#GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend bc being queer isn’t ‘weird’. making out with the niece of your dead ex after her funeral is.
— ￼ (@ravenclvws) May 24, 2016
#GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend it’s 2016 and we shouldn’t be so afraid of showing different sexualities on the big screen.
— cinna 🍁 bons (@elkknight) May 24, 2016
The request, which isn’t unfounded or unreasonable when taking into account the high level of queer baiting which exists between Steve Rogers and James “Bucky” Barnes.
[Queerbaiting is the practice to hint at, but then to not actually depict, a potential same-sex romantic relationship between fictional characters. The potential romance may be ignored, explicitly rejected or made fun of.]
It’s also alarming when your lead character has more romantic chemistry with his best friend than that of Sharon Carter – whose romantic development was so rushed in screen it’s comical and not in a good way.
There is however a bigger picture to consider – global audiences and their conservatism…especially in big profit areas such as China and India.
Marvel is a movie studio, and movie studios need money to continue making more movies. The more money the better for them. It’s why they’ve started paying attention to releasing their films in the international markets.
Within some of these countries, they have restrictive guidelines about what may or may not be shown, and with Hollywood eager to captalise on the vast profit potential that these regions offer, they will certainly stick to these guidelines.
In China, the biggest film market outside of America, the The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) board pulled and banned LGBT related shows, which were successful as these shows went against what they perceive as normal.
An example of this was a show I have watched called “Addicted” – which deals with the development of a relationship between a teenage same sex Chinese couple.
To quote a Guardian article the show was banned as:
“The government said the show contravened the new guidelines, which state that “No television drama shall show abnormal sexual relationships and behaviours, such as incest, same-sex relationships, sexual perversion, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violence, and so on.”
The ban also extends to smoking, drinking, adultery, sexually suggestive clothing, even reincarnation. China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television told television producers it would constantly monitor TV channels to ensure the new rules were strictly adhered to.
The clampdown follows an increase in cultural censorship in China since Xi Jinping came to power in November 2012
The same goes for it’s films.
In India, another big film market, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) besides, having banned a gay film, Ka Bodyscapes – they also had Oscar winning film, Moonlight allegedly recut removing pivotal scenes from the film which directly reveal it’s handling of homosexuality.
In India, homosexuality is still seen as a taboo.
It is for this very lucrative reasons that one can understand why Marvel has been so slow and been dragging its feet when it comes to LGBT+ representation, and giving vague answers, trying to appease those who want to see LGBT+ representation.
It’s also maybe for this reason why the Valkyrie scene in which it was suggested that she was bisexual was removed.
So in closing…
Dear Marvel, If you’re not interested in tackling or adding LGBT+ characters then please say so.
It’s your prerogative to do as you wish, and decide if you will tackle LGBT+ characters or not, it’s also our prerogative to decide what movies I am going to spend my money on.
Who knows…maybe DC will be the first movie studio to do that too…
The Lion Mutters.
PS: I know your TV shows have been delivering some LGBT representation, but let us not get started on how TV and film differs. Also how they had to separate y’all because you couldn’t place nice.