“Thor: Love and Thunder” Promised Us Gay Valkyrie, So What Happened Here?

The following review of “Thor: Love and Thunder” has spoilers for Valkyrie’s gay storyline. The most significant spoilers are marked off with the designation [spoilers begin], however reading ANY of this review comes with the presumption that you have either seen “Thor: Love and Thunder” or don’t mind being spoiled overall. And away we go on a flying winged rainbow horse called Aragorn! 🦄⚡️🌈


I first knew that I’d buy tickets to Thor: Love and Thunder back in 2019, when at San Diego Comic Con Tessa Thompson said that Valkyrie’s first priority as the King of New Asgard would be to find her queen. Ok wait, that’s a lie, I first knew I’d buy tickets to Thor: Love and Thunder back in 2017 during Thor: Ragnarok, when Tessa Thompson used a oversized space gun to make a joke about a strap-on. But I knew that I’d be buying tickets on the first day — Covid risk and all (I wore a mask the entire time) — when a Love and Thunder trailer came out last month, and Tessa Thompson was licking what appeared to be gold blood off of a sword with her whole entire tongue. I am but a simple woman, my sweet King Valkyrie was finally going to be gay on screen, after being queer coded for years with her canon bisexual scene left on the cutting room floor. I was going to be there to see it.

Of course, earlier this week we learned that the dreams of Valkyrie finding her queen were not going to happen. Instead the on screen confirmation of Valkyrie’s queerness would come from a mention of her dead girlfriend. I grinned and bared it. I’d already bought the tickets. By the time a viral tweet started circling about Natalie Portman (Mighty Thor/ Dr. Jane Foster) lying when she called Thor: Love and Thunder “so gay” — it only stung a little.

Measured in terms of popcorn and air conditioning in July, there’s a lot of fun in Thor: Love and Thunder. It’s a worthy successor to Thor: Ragnarok (my favorite, and despite what Natalie Portman claimed, still the gayest Thor movie). Love and Thunder is full of the same irreverent humor, bright colors, and tales of space Gods that helped Ragnarok break the mold of previous buttoned-up Thor films and become a classic of the genre. It juggles too many plot lines, but does so efficiently, including an opening act featuring all of the Guardians of the Galaxy and also a recreation of Dr. Jane Foster’s plot from the Mighty Thor comics, in which she battles cancer by picking up Thor’s hammer and becoming her own version of a Thor. Yes, cancer battles are dark, but Thor: Love and Thunder somehow finds appropriate moments of levity that I didn’t expect, and for reasons I cannot explain, it mostly works? Speaking of dark themes that shouldn’t work but do — Christian Bale is a haunting standout as Gorr the God Butcher. His whole thing is that he wants to kill all the Gods in the universe for vengeance and Bale is simply sublime as the stuff of nightmares.

That’s all well and good, but I left Thor disappointed. Then the disappointment gave way to a fireball orbiting around me like rings of Saturn (hey! We are talking about a Thor movie here). It’s not only that Valkyrie, the King of Asgard and leader of her people, doesn’t have anything close to her own love story in a movie literally called LOVE and Thunder (well, it’s more than a little about that) — it’s that Valkyrie overall is criminally and bewilderingly underused.

Valkyrie licks a green dagger in Thor: Love and Thunder

What’s fun is that Valkyrie’s very clearly queer; few women wear a suit as well as Tessa Thompson and the Gods bless us as King Valkyrie cycles through several, each hotter than the last. She briefly flirts with a greek goddess. As always, Tessa Thompson hums with what’s quickly becoming her signature “I’ll take you, and if you don’t watch out I’ll take your girl, too” energy beneath every gaze — and as always, it is perfect. And, given the context, it is a big deal to finally have Valkyrie’s queerness named on screen.

What’s upsetting is, of course, the scene where this confirmation happens — which was spoiled for many before the movie was even released. While traveling across the galaxies, Thor and Jane share a romantic moment on the deck of their ship. Inside Valkyrie, a little tipsy, confesses to Korg — a Kronan warrior whom I usually describe as “cheerful Rock monster” — that she stopped believing there was still love for her when her girlfriend, another Valkyrie, the love of her life, died in battle. Presumably we saw this death in a flashback during Thor: Ragnarok, though the movie doesn’t make that connection explicit.

[spoilers begin] The scene itself is a mild annoyance that I could get past, but what’s worse is that Valkyrie’s confession is almost manipulated immediately by Gorr to emotionally torture her (in a scene that, it must be said, Tessa Thompson just heart wrenchingly delivers) before she becomes a hair’s breath away from being the latest statistic in queer tv and film’s most hurtful trope. Then, for reasons that are not suitably explained, she sits out of the third act completely. I expected that with Jane Foster returning, Valkyrie (who was originally introduced to the series after Natalie Portman declined joining for the third movie) would have to vie for screen time. I did not expect that someone who at The Battle of Earth — gotta love those comic book movie names — and helped to defeat Thanos (!!) would be so thoroughly and unceremoniously sidelined.

In fact, her ending is so abrupt, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover in a few weeks that once again some part of Valkyrie’s plot ended up on a cutting room floor.

And that brings us back to fireball. The one that’s burning me. Marvel keeps getting away with this! There was no excuse that in 2017, the morning after flirtation between Valkyrie and another woman was edited out before Ragnarok’s release or that the death of her supposed greatest love was left as a question mark, only to be clarified in a movie five years later. There was no excuse that in 2018 a quietly queer flirtatious moment in Black Panther, reportedly between Okoye and Ayo, met the same erased fate. It was nearly laughable in 2019 when the first queer canon character finally came to the MCU, it was a glorified extra role in the early minutes of Avengers: Endgame (their 22nd film!) that could have easily been removed from the plot with no consequence.

Chloé Zhao’s Eternals in 2021 brought Marvel’s first same-sex kiss, which coincidentally could also be easily cut with no notice if necessary, Brian Tyree Henry’s excellent work as Phastos notwithstanding. 2021 also came with Loki coming out as bisexual, but in a single throwaway line during the third episode of his television show, which I mention with no disrespect to Loki director Kate Herron, who’s also bisexual. I’m sure even that single line was hard fought for. Earlier this year, in 2022, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness’ America Chavez, a famously lesbian Latina superhero in the comics, had her queerness reduced to a small Pride pin on denim jacket and a less than 20 second scene with her lesbian mothers, which again — are you picking up the theme here? — could have been cut without changing anything in the script! Disney of course, did not cut it, and if they wanted a pat on the back for their “brave” choice, look at that — I’m fresh out of participation trophies.

Now we’re full circle back to Valkyrie, who’s big anticipated queer reckoning — after her first cutting room floor incident — was merely a mention of an off-camera and dead girlfriend. Here we are again.

We deserve more than this. If skipping a single scene is all it would take to erase someone’s queerness for an audience, then it is not enough. We deserve more than “blink-and-you-miss-it” representation, or to pretend that representation is good — when we know it’s not! — because we’re scared that if we ask major studios for more, it will be taken away altogether. We deserve real storytelling, not crumbs. Even among Gods of thunder, perhaps especially then.

Marvel comics are notoriously queer, and owe so much to queer and trans perspectives, but the multi-billion dollar movie and television empire spawned off its back seemingly never will be, at least not in any meaningful way. That should probably not still be maddening at this point, but I guess I like ramming my head against a wall or something because I can’t stop screaming (or watching).

Ultimately, in a movie that promises love to span each universe, nearly everyone finds some version of a love-filled ending, except the sole queer woman of color. Even Korg — yes, the cheerful Rock monster dude! — finds gay happiness to call his own. Funny how the Black bisexual woman can’t say the same, now isn’t it?


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Carmen Phillips

Carmen is Autostraddle's Editor-in-Chief and a Black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 478 articles for us.

20 Comments

  1. I have three possibilities

    1. Marvel/Disney interfered and now Tessa and Taika are trying to stay on Disney’s good side. Disney knew the backlash against them not condemning the bill until the last second died at this point.

    2. Taika was lying or exaggerating when it came to Valkyrie’s supposed romantic storyline.

    3. Disney’s first instance of damage control after Lightyear failed. I won’t be surprised if they water down Ethan’s crush on Diazo in Strange World. Or cut the romance out and make Ethan crush on some unnamed character in the final film.

    • That third one, though. I really hope Disney didn’t cave to the right and is gradually phasing out LGBT representation, especially with the growing backlash against pro-LGBT groups and the very possible red wave/ return of Trump/Desantis presidency. Cause if those events happen, LGBT representation in the media could be on its last legs.

    • I think the existence of Eternals and Phastos proves that Disney can have substantial gay representation IF THE CREATOR OF THE FILM WANTS IT.

      I think this is entirely on Taika. He simply lied

  2. I don’t know all the things that were said prior to this movie coming out but I like to think that they’re playing the long game and will somehow find a way to bring Valkyrie’s girlfriend back from Valhalla.

    In my overly optimistic mind I am already having fun trying to fancast this character.

  3. You can tell there’s some sexism going on in this pattern. Almost all of Disney’s “first” LGBTQ characters in their movies are male. And their representation is usually boring (sorry Phastos) with some stereotypes thrown in for good measure. The queer female characters get even more conservative backlash and are often mistreated by the narrative and sometimes queer fans themselves. Lightyear got praise when Alicia and Kiko’s kiss was restored despite them dying shortly afterwards. Now, almost no one talks about them. Funny how the hype died that fast.

  4. It amazes me how y’all continue to be surprised at the insufficient or completely absent queer rep offered by these big companies. They don’t care! They never have! The thing that matters to them is money, and if it means getting more money they will cater to homophobic countries everytime (cough, cough, China) over us.

  5. Good, pressure them to the point everything is just pandering to 1% of the population so they lose money by alienating a majority of their customers.
    Then they will realize you’re all tarded and stop listening to outrage culture. Then they can focus on making good content rather than idenity politics.
    Keep up the good work!

    • That depends on what Disney will do with Strange World. If they abandon the gay teen romance, then we’ll know where they stand. Marvel might not acknowledge Ayo’s queerness in Wakanda Forever either because I heard nothing about it from the filmmakers. Not like how Taika paraded Love and Thunder as gay even before filming only for his claim to turn out as an exaggeration post release.

  6. I’ll be honest; Thor L&T has become my favourite MCU entry and most of that is thanks to the continued dedication to bringing diversity to the MCU by Taika, by whoever decided to not question any references or scenes that made it to the final cut.

    Valkyrie piqued a lot of people’s interest since her first introduction and I still feel a swell of pride when I think of how snippets of Val’s past became woven into the overall story and that it wasn’t some big deal about Val having had a girlfriend or if she’d be open to ever loving again. It’s representation.

    And I will never not appreciate that!

  7. Even though this was a little gayer than most Marvel movies, they still feel so far behind where they should be. I partially blame myself for getting invested in the comments made before the movie when I should’ve known better, but still. I did ultimately mostly love this movie for just about everything else it did, but this distinct lack of gayness is certainly a frustrating point of contention. I can’t quite call it queerbaiting since we do now have canon queer Val, but this is still the bare minimum when they need to do a hell of a lot more

    One point here I will argue (only slightly) is that we did at least get a reason for Val sitting out the 3rd act due to her getting brutally stabbed by Gorr. Not that I agree w/ the decision to bench her at all, but at least the script does technically explain it (again, bare minimum)

    • Yes, I agree we did get a reason for Valkyrie sitting out. In my review I said “not suitably explained” — I don’t believe that a Valkyrie, a literal warrior who’s designed to live and die on a battlefield, would have sat out of such an important battle due to getting stabbed when she’s clearly well enough to walk and talk. (And since when does injury keep Marvel heroes out of battle? The entire excuse felt thin to me.)

  8. I can’t help but think the Eternals part is a disingenuous. It’s not a “link-and-you’ll-miss-it” moment. It’s the entire scene regarding Phastos’ family. Phastos talks about his love for his husband and family multiple times across the whole movie. Their suburban family life features in multiple scenes. His motivation for finding faith in humanity is directly stated to be his husband and son. Like sure you can say that Phastos is a side character among an ensemble of 10 characters so maybe it’s not as big a deal but it’s definitely not as small and insignificant as you are making it out to be.

    At best you would have to simply cut Phastos out of the story entirely in order to cut out his queerness and maybe that’s possible since a common refrain regarding that film was that there should have been fewer characters BUT that’s not what happened. He is there and his queerness is front and center

    Every other example you mentioned is true but let’s not forget that Eternals won a GLAAD award for a reason. It wasn’t a trivial and easily cut thing

  9. This is why no one should really ever take what actors say they want to happen with their character as fact. Tessa said she wanted Valkyrie to find her queen, and she is completely allowed to want that, but she’s also not the film writer. So if people hung their hats on her statement where I think she was mostly joking, that’s kind of on them. I only vaguely remember Taika saying Val’s bisexuality would be addressed, but I have a hard time believing that the dude who just wrote an entire show about queer pirates chose to take it all out as opposed to the usual culprit, the studio. But you never know. And maybe Natalie Portman was under the impression that Val stuff was still in the movie. I don’t know. But if Taika and Natalie were both lying, then they really are earning no favors from us. I’m tired of straight people saying their project is “so gay” and then it turns out to be just regular old boring as fuck straight. I just want Valkyrie to be happy, but it seems she’ll stay a depressed alcoholic for a while longer.

    • Taika Waititi didn’t write Our Flag Means Death. It’s easy to miss since he’s been so visible promoting it as one of the executive producers, but he’s not credited with any of the writing.

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