The MCU Should Let Carol Danvers Be Gay

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After the official spoiler ban for Avengers: Endgame lifted on Monday, commentators brought their hottest takes to the table. Among them raged a debate as to whether or not Carol Danvers’ (Brie Larson) haircut in the movie was super gay or just super out of touch. The debate is, in some ways, rather silly — the powers that be at Disney likely won’t ever give us a major queer storyline if it means their film won’t rake in cash in countries like China, where censorship of these stories is rampant. So, does it really matter what kind of effect Carol’s haircut has on an audience? Maybe not, but the fact remains: the MCU should absolutely let Carol Danvers be gay.
The evidence is already there. Carol’s relationship with Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) in Captain Marvel is billed as a best-friendship, but reads more like a domestic partnership. Even setting aside their incredible and obvious chemistry, Maria’s intense and lasting grief over losing Carol is heavy; that’s not to say that platonic love can’t bear that kind of weight, because it can. But as a lesbian viewer watching that film, I was stunned at how blatantly queer it is.
These women flirt in every possible circumstance, which we see in various flashbacks and in their current conversations. “Higher, further, faster, baby” comes to mind, as well as the two of them laughing and falling over each other at the bar. They also openly express affection for each other, in words and actions, though that affection is never explicitly romantic. Maria still has all of Carol’s belongings. Monica treats Carol like her second mom. Plus, there’s a point when Maria comments on Carol forcing her awake the morning that she “died” — and had Carol not mentioned banging down Maria’s door in order to make that happen, I would have assumed they were sharing the same bed from how the story was introduced.

In February, Larson told io9 of the Carol/Maria friendship, “What they’ve gone through together—going through military training, being the only women there, and then using each other to lean on each other for that support and a recognition of their experience is really special. Of course, I think they would have been friends outside of that experience. But I think that’s a really tight-knit bond that they have, and they’re family.”
She continued, “Without being too showboating about it, this is the love of the movie. This is the great love. This is the love lost, this is the love found again, this is the reason to continue fighting and to go to the ends of the Earth for the person that you love. And it’s her best friend and her best friend’s daughter which, to me, is so natural.”
We don’t see Maria in Avengers: Endgame, nor do we hear about her’s or Monica’s fates in the Snap, which is unfortunate. Carol’s main concern in Endgame is contacting Fury, with whom she forged a pretty strong bond in Captain Marvel—but that doesn’t hold a candle to her enduring love for the Rambeaus. Although many have commented on how the Steve and Bucky relationship was shafted in the film, possibly in response to the ardor of the ship’s fandom, fewer seem to have reflected on how Carol’s own queer-coded relationship was sidelined, all while her haircut seemingly spoke for her.
Meanwhile, Larson told Variety in April that she wants more LGBTQ representation in the MCU: “I don’t understand how you could think that a certain type of person isn’t allowed to be a superhero. So to me it’s like, we gotta move faster. But I’m always wanting to move faster with this stuff.”
Are you listening, Russos? Writing yourself in as a nameless gay character whose scene can be completely removed from the movie with no consequences to the plot isn’t positive LGBTQ representation; it’s lazy storytelling that panders to a homophobic international market. Promising future representation is nice, but only if it’s an actual step toward a more inclusive MCU. Allowing a core character to openly express affection toward another character that isn’t heterosexual in nature would be a massive step forward; it’s one that fans are clamoring for, yes, but also one that the actors — or at least Larson — would seemingly support full-stop.

On the one hand, Carol’s haircut in Endgame is just a haircut. Or, it’s a marker that she’s Speaking To The Manager wherever she goes in this new era of the world. It also makes her look more like her comics counterpart, which — for better or worse — is a nice nod to the source material. But there’s also an added layer of, “Look! We gave Carol short hair! Is she gay enough for you yet?” And frankly, that sucks.
Queer-coding a character this way without any intention of ever making her canonically queer isn’t representation. It’s queerbaiting. And it’s the kind of thing we see over and over, especially in major properties like the MCU. If the filmmakers want Carol to be read as queer, there’s an easy way to implement that. Give her a queer love interest. Let her be canonically in love with Maria Rambeau. If that won’t work in the current timeline, why not actually establish Valkyrie’s bisexuality and let Carol be in love with her?
There are so many choices, all of which would make the MCU more inclusive and would introduce an incredibly powerful superhero for LGBTQ kids to admire. Until these movies are driven by story rather than sales, that’s unlikely to occur, but luckily, there are plenty of fan works to admire while we wait for canon to catch up.

29 COMMENTS

  1. Have to admit right out that I haven’t seen the film and much of the new coding for characters escapes me. Maybe some sort of list can be published? Still if a haircut has some sort of hidden message then I don’t think I’m the target audience anyway. Since I’m not a fan of Carol anymore since they made the character a fascist in the comics, and then removed most of her likable qualities, I’d have to say that if she were suddenly revealed to be gay -like Iceman- I wouldn’t object. If it’s a valid direction for the character in the movie to take, if it means something to the story they want to tell, then ok. Go in that direction. If they loose some over sea money so be it. Though I also have to admit I have no Disney stock to worry about.
    I remember “The Children’s Hour” and how it was received. The talent of the actors carried through and it was a good story, but that didn’t stop some places from not showing it. Courage changes that over time.
    Still… Coding? If you want to that route I’m sure you can find some stuff in “My Friend Irma”.

  2. What a horrible idea that would completely change the character and her relationships in the first film for the worse.
    Her buddy relationship with Fury goes from a refreshing does of non-sexual tension to a blasé blast of, of course they’re just friends she is always only a friend to all men.
    Her deep loving friendship with Maria goes from family bond to a sexual or romantic love. Fraternal love is so often portrayed for men but so often denied women in media. The Band of Brothers is rarely A Band of Sisters.
    Men need to see sisterhood on screen so they don’t default to women together as being romantic partners. Romantic bonds are often fickle while fraternal bonds familial bonds are seen as surviving any obstacle.
    Having Marvel be a lesbian would alter the view of character to the tropiest of tropes a hoo hum lesbian being tough in a man’s world because only a lesbian could resist those wiley make charms and only a lesbian could form strong mutually affirming bond with another woman.
    Captain Marvel as lesbian becomes boring.

  3. You know, I could sort of imagine someone putting this much thought and emotion into the subject back in the 1980s or 1970s or even the 1990s because that’s when the representation of gay folks and homosexuality in the media was rare and fraught with social dangers.
    But it’s 2019. Turn off the computer, get out of your house and find another hobby.
    On a side note, are comments going to be banned for this like they were that “Fat Thor” piece of garbage or is Heidi acknowledging that this post is within the bounds of reason but that one was so ridiculous the author had to be protected from their own inanity?
    Mike

  4. Man, sometimes I wonder why I go to this site. Sure it has the best news on indie comics but then it has articles like these. Also @MBunge, I was also wondering about the “Fat Thor” piece with comments being disabled. That article was terrible.

  5. A lot of people noticed that Carol had no romantic interest in “Captain Marvel” and found it … odd.
    As for that haircut, it looks cool in comics but ridiculous on film.

  6. Excellent point from the Other Bill:
    ‘But I don’t remember any think-pieces about Ant-Man that used terms like “incest-coding”’
    Hey, if it’s possible for one of the pieces here to claim that it’s “queerbaiting” when a movie doesn’t give you a romance between two men (even if the franchise promised nothing in any literal manner), then it should also be “incest-baiting” when there’s no hookup between Henry Pym’s real daughter and his symbolic son Darren Cross– right?

  7. ‘Are you listening Russos?’ – might add Marcus and McFeely to that. But we’re talking about production that borrowed heavily from the murder-sacrifice of Iphigenia by her father, Agamemnon – and then repeated the sacrifice with another woman’s death off the same cliff in the next movie!! If there’s anything to learn here, it’s that, if you want progression, you have to throw a woman under the bus!!! (c’mon; enlightened much? and wouldn’t expect much more from this production level
    I don’t mind sexual subtexts, if that’s the level Marvel Studios is playing at with Carol. It’ll be a pretty kid friendly, positive portrayal of a gay relationship if she does come out. Because the semiotics of anything else in a kids/all ages movie of this type would be very difficult. It’s fine; not going to set my teeth ablaze with anticipation worthy but, yeah

  8. Considering how little sex there is in the PG-13 Disney/Marvel universe, speculating on which character might be gay seems a bit silly.

  9. Haven’t seen CM myself yet but the closest in tv superhero fiction to CM, I imagine, would be Danvers in Supergirl. That’s alright. I like White Canary more as a character, but that’s because she has the more of the appetites of Mick Rory with none of the dumb. Living large, as a primary dimension to her character. But there are appreciable qualities in Danvers, too.
    Willow and Tara get to explore negatives of relationships in S6 of Buffy; therefore, more dimensional. And I’ve only watched some Xena. Again, subtext is good and can be strung along for a whole while, and Xena shows that. To move beyond, make explicit is not bad but different complexities on how to represent (in a mimesis sense) them. Boring? Good? Dimensionality? Could be any or all, and not necessarily a particular one of those qualities. Didactic? just avoid that
    Well, that’s my rambling on gay hero characters in pop culture. Leave it others that have seen CM as to where Carol fits in that.

  10. I guess one question that has to be asked is: is it a good idea to take an established character and completely change their sexual identity? Because that is essentially what would be happening.

  11. I have no problem with a superhero being gay. But I’d prefer that Marvel (and DC etc.) create new gay characters, instead of taking established characters and making them suddenly gay.
    I know that creating new characters is risky, because the aging fan base only wants to read about “legacy” characters that have been around for many decades. And writers have little incentive to create characters that Marvel or DC would own. Just the same, I’d like to see some entirely new characters — not just gay, female or minority versions of established characters.

  12. I actually disagree, Mark and George, and we’re just going to have to disagree.
    Whatever works for the benefit of the movie –
    which has to be its own piece of art, to work well – has to take priority over faithfulness. Movies are a completely different medium, with different visual languages, and audiences, expectations, etc. It makes no sense to be faithful if you diminish any of those qualities. And Film is like, and should be like, a pinacle of storytelling. Room aplenty between adapting to the two mediums.
    I’ll just use Venom as an example that I’ve seen recently. That Sony film’s version of Eddie Brock is the best I’ve seen, and I really like him. To have Eddie be a good writer that’s hit a bad stretch and so he uses his partner’s privileged information for a story, is inspired. I love it! Pathos, relatability, and he’s still a good person -just complex (in a way I completely relate to, or at least in a ‘what if I just did this…’). Fucking great!! In contrast, what I can’t relate to is Brock having an enduring grievance against Parker because he ruined his life. That’s petty, it’s comic-book, camp, and it doesn’t withstand translation to the medium well (just look at the camp Spiderman 3, for that).
    I won’t say that characters’ sexualities should be changed willy-nilly. But if it makes sense to the workings of a film, consistent with a character created, and the film has really believable pathos – if the film can be better and, maybe, character is far, far better – in this new medium; I say, ‘why not?’ Comic books can leave many characters as unexplored canvases, after all. GOTG kind of demonstrates that well too (and I love Zack Snyder’s DCEU movies, but I know I can’t convince either of you on that.
    From my perspective, I truly do not want the film medium to be unerringly faithful to comic books. That’s a horrible notion. Blah! Lots of room in adaptation, and interesting adaptation that elevates the material in a filmic medium, at that. My two cents.

  13. Smollow hell. Hollow Shell. The latter, I remark. Rage on, hollow shell. Rage on, declarations… middling? (I’ll work on it

  14. ‘I hear thee, Hollow Shell.’ echo echo echo echo echo…. echo echo echo echo echo…. echo echo echo echo echo….. echo echo echo echo echo……………. (tumbeweed)

  15. No. No, no, emphatic no! Strong female characters do not have to be gay. And yet, that stereotype persists in media. I am happy for LGBT inclusion. But not at the expense of: feminine characters must be straight and strong female characters must be gay!!! As a strong straight female myself I have rarely seen that reflected on screen. Because some writer always decides she must be gay. Please, let me have this one thing!!!

  16. “I actually disagree, Mark and George, and we’re just going to have to disagree.”
    I was referring to the characters in the comic books, Kaleb. The movie versions are essentially blank slates for a mass audience that doesn’t read comics. I’m fine with the filmmakers making changes from the comics, because a movie has to appeal to a much, much larger audience.

  17. Cool, George, I wasn’t entirely sure and I kind of agree with you on the comics -side. It’s just, I grew up reading Rhane Sinclair and Iceman as heterosexual, and I still like that reading. And I see why some readers have gender -identifying readings with Rhane, and that Bendis, for whatever metatext reason or reading of his powers (I forget), made a version of Bobby Drake gay. Those affectations to character don’t interest me much. But for readers that want to identify with Rhane… I don’t care.
    Was it literal that Rhane identified as another gender? (I honestly don’t know). And a young time-plucked Bobby Drake being gay is a bit weird, because it can’t be the same timeline, obviously (because Bobby wasn’t and isn’t gay). So, multiversal versions where anything and everything is possible ??? (that’s fairly weak)
    I don’t know. They’re not doing it a lot of it, IMO. I could only think of Rhane (and only because of The Beat’s recent headline) and the young Bobby Drake. So, I do agree with you George, that probably new characters are better (except that identifying readings of characters are present, subtextually; and Marvel might choose to make it literal, except Rhane’s dead now, and young Bobby’s gone (?) Current Iceman isn’t gay is he (?) I don’t know). I agree that the X-Men are a repressed minority to begin with, and available to identify with, anyway.
    I would like to mention Leonard Snert from the Universe X parrallel universe in the WB Crisis on Earth X as being gay and in a relationship with The Ray (who is gay in the comics), though. That seemed like a bit of championing to me, and a bit obvious, or boring in timing, but, okay. It’s fine. But what was interesting that Snert and Ray had an initial full-on, passionate kiss, which the camera paused on and filled its frame with. Then, in the last episode, Snert and Ray kissed a second time, this in goodbye, and it was very different. A 3/4 shot with faces largely obscured by that choice, and much less of a kiss than the first. I can only guess that someone had been instructed to tone it down a little, or that it was a different director who didn’t have the same push in sensibilities. I found the treatment a bit interesting anyway.

  18. when you think about it, its kind of a catch 22 situation. If they take an existing character like Carol and change her traditional orientation they’ll anger a few fans, get some new fans who will look scornfully on the old fans and get some press attention. If they create a new character from scratch with no legacy connection to anyone at all, they’ll have a reaction that they are creating a gay character just to pander to a target audience.
    The criticism is going to come at them from one way or another. Either they decide to gamble and go with it, or they don’t. How and why they decide is a black box; we’ll never know the how and why, only the result.
    I don’t have any objection to movie characters based on comic book characters being a blank slate for the writers. It is as has been noted a completely different character in most cases, just with the same name.

  19. I have to agree with the author regarding Joe Russo’s gay civilian character. Was he front and center in the story? No, of course not. But romance largely wasn’t front and center, even for main characters like Tony and Steve. Would it be nice to have a gay superhero, either one who is already gay in the comics or a re-imagined one? Yes. But don’t let “good” be the enemy of “perfect”. Some representation, namely Joe’s unnamed guy, is better than none representation, which is where the MCU was until now.

  20. Umm, why not just have the hulk and Thor finally express their love for each other. We always knew they were close only because they were gay?
    I think this has been repeated but gay characters need to be developed from the ground up. I don’t think the communities would have it any other way.

  21. No, Thanks. She’s fine as she is. Except for the stupid haircut in Avengers Endgame.

  22. I wonder what they’d make of that period in the ’50s and ’60s, when leading men of the ’30s and ’40s were still stars and were paired with women young enough to be their daughters — or granddaughters.
    Audrey Hepburn (born in 1929) was paired romantically with Fred Astaire (born 1899), Humphrey Bogart (also 1899), Gary Cooper (born 1901) and Cary Grant (born 1904). From what I’ve heard, it’s older people (middle-aged and elderly) who have a problem with this today. Younger people don’t seem to mind.

  23. And news of Doris Day’s death reminds me: Day co-starred with Clark Gable in 1958’s “Teachers’s Pet,” made when Day was 36 and Gable was 57.
    (Elizabeth Olsen is 30 and Paul Bettany is 47.)

  24. “Just as long as senior citizen Maria still has short hair, so it’s absolutely 100% clear she’s a lesbian.”
    Thanks for your input, Mr. Incel. Or is it Mr. Russian Bot?

  25. Well it looks like the boys are not exactly for it. Color me shocked lol
    Disney-Marvel is getting there but slowly. First they just happen to edit out the Valkyrie is a lesbian scene in Ragnarok, just to be able to say they have a LGBT character but not to actually have to show it. Then they have random support group guy kinda be the first MCU character to acknowledge the MCU is not all straight.
    Now they have a strong female character with no love interest (which is a big thing considering the DCU counterpart effort folded to the pressure and made sure that Wonder Woman wouldn’t be too threatening to the boys by having her literally follow her insta-love interest around for her whole movie, also making sure she wasn’t gay) and they also made her only significant relationship a woman so it’s progress.
    I doubt they’ll ever get there with Cap Marvel but at least she’s not been paired with some random dude, or Yon Rogg (ugh) so there is hope that she’ll remain open at least, if nothing else.

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