A Brief History of the MCU’s LGBTQ Promises and Problems

As "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" hits theaters worldwide, yet another queer storyline falls flat, despite other representational strides. How did we get here?
Marvel gay superheroes

Editor’s note: This gallery was originally posted on May 6, 2022, and has been been updated.

There may be endless timelines in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but, back in the real world, some countries are far behind on any sort of forward movement and evolution.

Disney and Marvel held firm for the release of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” in May, which features a brief moment in which newbie character America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) mentions her two moms and flashes back to a childhood moment with them. As the studio has refused to make the requested changes to the film, the newest MCU title was released in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

Two months later, Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Love and Thunder” arrived and, with it, the answer to years of chatter about the romantic relationships of leading lady Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). Many anticipated the release of the film and its long-promised bisexual representation for a fan favorite, but the proof is in the pudding: it’s not really there.

Marvel parent company Disney has weathered plenty of censorship battles over LGBTQ content in its films, which began with the overhyped “exclusively gay moment” in its live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast” in 2017, but the resistance to giving into the demands this time around perhaps signals an important sea change.

Since the “Beauty and the Beast” kerfuffle, Disney has faced both backlash and praise for a lesbian character in Pixar’s “Onward,” a non-binary character in “West Side Story,” and a gay romance in Marvel’s “Eternals.” Behind the scenes, the studio has also faced accusations that it toned down or cut LGBTQ references, including romantic storylines in “Luca,” “Black Panther,” and “Turning Red.” The studio is responding to the outspoken criticism, reportedly restoring a previously-cut gay kiss in Pixar’s “Lightyear.”

So far, Marvel seems to be where Disney is taking its biggest risks, as the superhero tentpoles are gradually introducing more LGBTQ characters (and, in some cases, apparently starting to stand by them).

How did we get here?

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