I Still Can’t Believe is a TV Team series where we remember the things happened on television that baffle us — in good and bad ways — to this very day.
I’ve been rewatching all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies in timeline order because I caught a glimpse of both Tessa Thompson with a lightsaber and Cate Blanchett in that leather suit when Thor: Ragnorak was on TV the other day, and I thought to myself, “No, Hoagie, you need to earn that.” So I started with Steve Rogers in World War II, like good nerds do. I’m not even through MCU Phase One and already I’ve found myself yelling, “Kiss! KISS!” at Bucky and Steve; and, “GAY YOU’RE GAY!” at Maria Rambeau and Carol Danvers, like I did in my head when I saw these things in theaters.
That against the backdrop of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Disney+’s latest Marvel entry, which featured Bucky and Sam Wilson getting gayer by the episode — going to couples therapy, rolling around on top of each other the grass, browsing other men holding tigers on dating apps — while the show’s writers and directors gave interviews after basically every episode laughing about “Ha, ha, ha! Yes, we can see why you’d think that’s gay due to it looking and sounding gay, but it’s not gay!”
I still can’t believe, in 2021, that Marvel’s never heard of bisexuality!
Let’s just start with the easiest thing: The MCU characters who are already queer in the comic books. There’s Valkyrie, played by real life queer human Tessa Thompson. There’s Loki, who is also genderfluid in the comics. And, more recently, there’s Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Star-Lord. Then there are Marvel characters who aren’t in the MCU, like X-Men’s Mystique and Deadpool. None of them have been canonically queer on-screen, even though promises persist and Ryan Reynolds is insisting Deadpool be gay when the character is folded into the MCU. How easy it would have been — and still would be! — to have any of them smooch on another queer person, or even a queer alien! So easy! Just so easy! Smashing your mouth against someone else’s mouth is, in my expert opinion, a lot easier than wearing a harness attached to springs and wires and pretending to fly!
Okay but, let’s say there’s no more room for new characters in MCU movies. Ten million characters is enough. Fine. Fair. What about the characters who are already very clearly in love with each other and have filmed scenes with both action and dialogue that prove it? Maria Rambeau and Carol Danvers, just for one example. Living together, working together, raising a daughter together, running at each other against the setting sun crying and clutching at each other while making promises and saying how they’re the only ones who ever knew who the other person really was, how they only ever believed in and were at home with each other.
When two women are not very clearly gay on-screen together, they are filmed like Pepper Potts and Black Widow in Iron Man 2: side-by-side looking at stuff that’s not each other, talking about stuff that’s not each other, and going their separate ways at the end of the movie without any acknowledgment of when they might see each other again. They walk beside each other and the camera invites you to look at them, instead of showing you how they can’t stop looking at each other.
When two women are very clearly gay for each other on-screen, they are filmed the way so many bazillion cishet scenes have been filmed before: staring longingly at each other, getting closer and closer to each other, never breaking eye-contact, never talking about other love interests, eyes and body language only for each other, each separation significant. LIKE MARIA AND CAROL.
It’s the same for Bucky and Steve, of course, and then Bucky and Sam, in the Captain America world. The way they live and die for each other, pine and grieve for each other, put their faces really close together and lie on top of each other, risk it all to keep the other one safe/bring the other one back from the dead. Bucky gets classically, heterosexually fridged as a motivating plot device for Steve! Bucky comments flirtily that Steve should keep his full-body spandex Captain America suit! Bucky literally says to Steve, “I am with you until the end of time” like some kind of Disney prince!
Look, we are living in a time when TikTok has declared everyone under the age of 25 queer, in a year when gay people are such a lucrative market that Disney is making its own line of Pride apparel, and when A-list actors are begging to be gay in big budget comic book movies. There’s no excuse for these straight shenanigans anymore. Bisexuality already exists in MCU’s movies. Marvel just needs to acknowledge it. Or, at the very least, stop denying it.
This article is so perfect I feel it in my bones. I do a Sci-Fi Feminist podcast, and I will say my co-host (excellent ally) was fine with Carol and Maria not being sexually queer (though at the VERY LEAST they have a queer, intimate friendship) because it kept Carol from being an absentee mother — especially since she leaves *the*planet* at the end of Captain Marvel.
And honestly, that’s the only argument I’ve heard/will hear to justify not making it canonically gay. (Though, they so clearly are.)
You are so very right with all of this.
If you look into the original Scandinavian Loki he was a shapeshifter who “in separate incidents appears in the form of a salmon, a mare, a fly, and possibly an elderly woman named Þökk” (wikipedia)
I’d love to have seen Marvel try and turn one of their main characters into a fish. But they also didn’t choose a red haired Thor, which I always thought was a shame.
It’s wild how Monica Rambeau in WandaVision basically acts like Carol is her deadbeat mom and Marvel is still trying to sell me that Maria and Carol weren’t in love with each other.
Yes! Monica hears Carol’s voice in her head multiple important moments in WandaVision. At these transformative moments in her life we’re supposed to believe she hears the voice of …her mom’s friend?
This is so true! The only reason Nico was bisexual in Marvel’s Runaways is because it wasn’t a big movie or anything and it was pre- any marvel mini series tv shows like now and with characters not seen on screen tied to the official franchise before.
Heather, as a lesbian who’s also working through the MCU in timeline order, THANK YOU for saying what we’ve all been thinking.
Yes thank you!! The obtuseness at this point is really…something
Also this article is how I learned that Disney is introducing a Pride apparel line. Considering that they’re still expecting Representation Cred for 2-second shots of gays kissing or dancing (or talking about their dead husbands!), this makes me want to start throwing things :)))
Ryan Reynolds wants Deadpool to be bisexual. Not gay. The character is bisexual in the comics too.
I honestly thought that some kind of gay reveal was going to happen in the Bucky/Sam show because of how incredibly exponentially gay it was being, even for a marvel thing. Thank you for this perfect article, it is so endlessly frustrating (and patronising) to watch!
I watched Captain Marvel on the theater, and the queer vibes were so big everywhere through it… and then their meeting was like “she is her partner or it is going to be in the future” (I’m not particularly versed in the different stories/characters/universes). And yes, I agree that bisexuality is a word that tends to be omitted in both the big and the small screen. Even sometimes in media. I understand the need for representation, but sometimes a woman dating another woman is not “switching teams”, she is just dating or loving someone new as many lesbians, gays and heteros do.
Thanks for this article.