A brief summary of why – even though I love Marvel and its Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) – it’s becoming harder and harder to enjoy the movies. A quick discourse in heteronormativity.
Attention: This article will definitely contain spoilers and I will NOT take care of anybody not having seen some of the Marvel movies before. If you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame or Spiderman: Far From Home yet, get out of here, take a ride to the next movie theatre and fill your gaps. Or stay here. But then, don’t complain afterwards! You have been warned!
Far From Home
The MCU has reached a new level. After Avengers: Endgame, things cannot be the same as before. A huge story arch, starting with Avengers 1 and finally coming to an end not just with the destruction of Thanos, but also with the death or loss of several beloved heroes, cannot just be replaced with the flick of one’s finger.
Having that said, it was pretty obvious that Spiderman: Far From Home would have a tough stand against some movies so exceptionally outstanding. And even though Tom Holland is performing in a most fantastic way, the movie falls flat compared to its predecessors. But that’s okay. The whole MCU feels like a living organism, slowly breathing, sometimes with some ups, and other times with some downs. It’s a living rollercoaster, and I (used to) enjoy every single second of it.
A Man Needs His Girl
Well, as I said, I used to enjoy it. But during Spiderman: Far From Home, I realised how cruel these superhero movies by Marvel actually are. Who wouldn’t admire those fantastic heroes, willing or at least being forced to put their very own lives at risk in order to rescue mankind? Gosh, Chris Evans aka Steve Rogers aka Captain America may have ruined my personal private life for the rest of ages – who could ever live up to his standards? It’s hard not to admire these characters. But, as with all fine illusions – and isn’t that fitting to Far From Home? – at some point, you wake up and see the real picture.
So when Spiderman finally got to kiss his MJ, it was like glass shattering inside of my brain and I started thinking: why is it that all those superheroes always have to get the girl in the end? Will none of them ever be able to focus on their earth protection mission? And what is going on with that super obvious heteronormativity?
They All Got One At Home
Just out of fun, let’s make a quick list of all the superhero couples.
- Captain America + Peggy Carter
- Spiderman + Mary Jane
- Hulk + Black Widow
- Hawkeye + family
- Thor + Jane
- Ironman + Pepper Potts
- Black Panther + his female partner (forgot the name)
- Vision + Scarlett
- Starlord + Gamora
- Bobby (Iceman) + Rogue
- Logan + Jean + Scott
- Doctor Strange + his old flame
Something tells me the list is not exhaustive. In fact, almost all super characters on-screen so far have been in a relationship somehow. And all of these relationships fulfil some criteria:
- they are, to some extent, complicated
For example Captain America, who meets the love of his life in the 30s, but then skips several decades on ice, thus failing to live his life with her. Or Spiderman, who is torn between loving the one girl, but also not revealing his true identity. What about Iceman, who deeply loves Rogue but cannot touch her, as she would kill him? Logan, who loves Jean, who loves Scott but feels attracted to Logan at the same time? Hawkeye, who has a cute family but doesn’t want to endanger them. Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) who kind of falls for a big green monster. Ironman, where – as an exception – the biggest problem is not his relationship to Pepper, but his own ego. Vision, who is not even human and technically shouldn’t be strolling around with Scarlett.
So it is obvious that a superhero’s love life cannot be easy. It’s a tough business, and either you lose the loved ones on the way or you have to maintain your distance.
But wait, have you noticed? There is something else to it:
- they are all heteronormative
There is not one gay relationship in this whole setup. As if being LGBT somehow disqualifies for being a superhero. Which is just outrageous, considering that we are living in 2019 and eveb Disney themselves are tremendously opening towards LGBT stories.
Relationships Define Characters
To me, there are two aspects to the representation – or in this case: missing representation – of homosexual characters and the introduction or impact of relationships in general over a whole bunch of movies.
First, it seems that superheroes do have to have love affairs, otherwise they don’t work. Take Captain America as an example. Poor Steve Rogers is being woken up from the ice and comes back into a world which has never been his. And Chris Evans did an awesome job in showing the mental problems – the former soldier feels lost, alone, and definitely useless in a world he doesn’t understand. However, one of the first things his best buddy Black Widow does: she tries to hook him up with some bitchy girls. The whole “Hey, we need to find you a date, what kind of girl do you like? Have you tried the one across the floor?” thing doesn’t add anything to his story, his plot. Nothing at all. Sharon Carter? Just some character to add some sexual tension on-screen while, at the same time, demystifying the Captain. It’s a shame.
What about Black Widow herself? While she is eager to set up Captain Rogers, she has always been portrayed as a woman who isn’t able to feel love at all – thanks, Russians special programmes! However, it had to be her to kind of get a connection to the Hulk. I like that at least the green guy doesn’t follow the obligatory script, but seriously? Are we talking Marvel or are we talking a soap opera?
These heteronormative relationships have been so dominant over the movies that Captain Marvel managed to clearly stand out. This woman, as powerful as she is, has no partner at all. She is kind of connected to Nick Fury, yes, but not in any romantic way. She is independent, strong, and extremely powerful. And for God’s sake, I have loved that movie – because for once that permanent sexual/romantic tension was gone. Of course, Captain Marvel is an exceptional character and thus will most likely not appear anymore on-screen (or only very seldom).
So one of my aspects comes from the inside: heroes seem to be defined by their love interests, and they definitely need to have some. Otherwise, it seems, they are not complete.
Relationships and the Audience
The second aspect is the audience’s perspective. I don’t know about you guys, but to me, every new Marvel movie is like a stab into my heart. It’s not much of a secret that I have a huge crush on the character of Steve Rogers – this guy embodies everything I’d love to see in a man. And part of it has always been his tragic love story, with the love of his life being very old/dead, but him still griefing and clinging onto old times. It was kind of perfect and gave him some urgently needed depth (because otherwise, Captain America is not that much of a *character* so to speak). He’s a soldier. But what happens next? Marvel’s “genius” screenwriters develop time travel – and let him go back in time to finally get the love of his life. Are you fucking kidding me? Sorry Steve, language, I know.
It’s not just that this character was kind of robbed, both from screen time and kind of cheated into the arms of his (ex) lover. This is also like a huge sign on the screen screaming “no homo, hombre!”.
The only homosexual reference I can think of right now is in Endgame, where Steve Rogers has his support group and one of the guys admits he had been on a date with another guy. Well, guess what – the only gay in the MCU fails, because he starts crying during the date. For a good reason, to be honest, because losing 50% of the world’s population is a traumatic experience. But at the same time it feels like a) gays are represented just for the sake of representation, b) they are only allowed in super minor roles, and c) they are losers.
How Spiderman Could Have Ended
Before watching Spiderman: Far From Home, I’ve read somewhere that Tom Holland – such an adorable and brilliant British actor – would love the idea of Spiderman being gay. Or at least accept it. I cannot remember quite well. Anyway, this kind of lifted my hopes. We’ve had this super boring Spiderman story three times now, and Tom Holland has by far presented the most authentic and fantastic version of it. I love his Peter Parker, this absolutely brilliant mixture of being a young teenager, trying to be a superhero, but also being absolutely overwhelmed. This Spiderman just feels so… right, you know?
At the end, when MJ/Zendaya and Spiderman/Tom Holland meet within the ruins of the Tower Bridge, the screenwriters missed a huge chance to surprise the audience. I mean, how much surprise effect is in a love story everybody has watched two times before? And again, MJ confirms that she kind of liked Peter, Peter liked her anyway, so they kiss and hey: another heterosexual couple has been born. Wohoo! Great!
Now, what if they wouldn’t have done that? What if MJ really just would have watched Peter all the time because she was suspicious? Because she believed him to be Spiderman? What if, in the end, Peter’s feelings would have been hurt by her asking him to be best buddies? To me, this would have been such a perfect ending. It would have stressed the teenager problems of Peter Parker – rejection is a constant part of love. It would have changed Peter’s story and added a new layer to his character. Plus, it would have opened new ways for his ongoing journey. I don’t need him to be a gay character, don’t get me wrong. But does it really have to be the same old story over and over and over again?
Gays – Assemble!
It is 2019. At least in the Western hemisphere, we live in a more or less tolerant, liberal, progressive world. People are no longer condemned, judged, killed for loving anything other than the typical heteronormative standard.
Something most people ignore or don’t understand – and to be honest, I think it’s very hard to understand as long as you don’t feel it yourself – representation matters so much. Representation in a sensitive way. I kind of fear that one day we will have a gay superhero – but what will he be like? A pink cliche? Some 4th-row minor hero? How could he even live up to huge names of the merchandise?
To me, superhero movies have always been like an inspiration, they motivated me to grow, to surprise everybody and myself, and make myself a better human being. These days, I feel like they have lost me. I don’t exist in such worlds. I feel ignored and even neglected by such worlds. And it hurts. A lot.
Last but definitely not least: this is never about the actors. I know that people like Chris Evans or Tom Holland are super supportive. They keep me watching those movies. Thank you guys for being so awesome. Thanks.