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.
Samantha Puc is an essayist and culture critic whose work has been featured on Bitch Media, The Mary Sue, Bustle, and elsewhere. She mostly writes intersectional pop culture analysis with a particular focus on representation of LGBTQ and fat characters in fiction. Samantha is the managing editor at The Beat, as well as the co-creator and editor-in-chief of Fatventure Mag, an outdoors zine for fat creators who are into being active, but not into toxic weight-loss culture. She lives in Montana with her partner and cats.