It’s finally happening!
The company that has been on the fence about queer representation for years has finally confirmed its first openly gay character in the upcoming film The Eternals.
Marvel has revealed that Atlanta star Brian Tyree Henry will play the gay superhero Phastos and that Little America actor Haaz Sleiman (who is openly queer IRL) will play his husband.
While in the past Marvel has hinted at queer representation, its promises have often turned out to be major fails. Remember how the Russo brothers promised Marvel’s first openly gay character in Avengers: Endgame, only to feature a blink-and-you-miss-it moment during the beginning scene? That kind of lack-luster representation just doesn’t cut it nowadays.
Marvel Co-President Kevin Feige has specifically announced that, in The Eternals, Marvel would actually have a lead gay superhero. Feige stated,
“He’s married, he’s got a family, and that’s just part of who he is.”
Sleiman even confirmed that the two would share a kiss, telling NewNowNext,
“It’s a beautiful, very moving kiss. Everyone cried on set.”
Not only is this huge in terms of LGBTQ+ representation, but the fact that Marvel is planning to portray an openly queer couple of color is almost revolutionary.
For years, when it has come to queer representation in mainstream media, the default character has always been a gay, cisgender, upper-class white man.
When only one facet of a community is represented, that means the rest of the community, as beautifully diverse and complex as it is, becomes simplified in terms of how the public views them. That means that the issues that apply at the intersection of queerphobia and racism are often ignored or glossed over.
For decades, we have talked about the power of representation, about how validating it is to see oneself in the media we consume. We have seen the effects of this in movies like Love, Simon and The Thing about Harry, in movies bringing queer joy and love to the forefront, allowing LGBTQ+ viewers to imagine realities where they can find such things for themselves.
But for queer POC, representation often comes at the cost of one of their identities being prioritized over another. So having a queer couple, where both partners are people of color, is a huge deal.
Not to mention that casting the lead gay superhero with a black actor is giving young queer black men a chance to see themselves as a hero, which can be quintessential when homophobia still runs rampant in the black community.
While many viewers are still hesitantly excited about the film’s gay prospects given Marvel’s history with queer-baiting, the promise of these characters and actual queer affection being shown on-screen is bringing hopes of a more diverse future for Marvel films.
And hopefully, this means that the chances of actually seeing an explicitly bisexual Valkyrie (played by iconic Tessa Thompson) on-screen are greater than ever.