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I can see both sides here, but I think Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige makes some good points.
Kevin Feige has made it clear that the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be welcoming some prominent LGBT heroes in the future. However, there's some debate on how the MCU handled introducing Marvel's first openly gay character. It was a subtle reference in Avengers: Endgame. Co-director Joe Russo himself played a character that wasn't named but just referred to as Grieving Man. He's in grief counseling with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), talking about the man he loved and lost in The Decimation.
It was a very casual mention, the kind of thing you could miss if you weren't listening closely. The fact that the man's sexuality was treated as an afterthought was applauded by some, but seen as disappointing by others. This was Marvel's first openly gay character? The disappointed fans saw a frustrating missed opportunity. They weren't happy when the Russos did a post-Endgame interview with Deadline talking about how "Representation is really important" to them, and since they did four MCU films, "we wanted a gay character somewhere in them." That was it -- an unnamed man with a cameo?
Kevin Feige addressed the fans who came away disappointed, emphasizing to io9 that the Grieving Man wasn't intended to be seen as such a big deal for the MCU:
That was never meant to be our first focused character. That was just meant to be a matter of fact and a matter of life and a matter of truth. And I liked it that our hero, Steve Rogers, doesn’t blink an eye at that fact. It is just truth and is heartbreaking for his loss and for the life he’s trying to put back together. It was never meant to be looked at as our first hero. I guess it’s the first reference so it does, of course, get a lot of attention. We haven’t been shy about saying that that’s coming and that there’s much more prominent LGBT heroes in the future.
Yes, back in that Deadline article with the Russos, Joe Russo explained why they made the choice they made with the Grieving Man, and how it was intended to help point the way forward:
We felt it was important that one of us play him, to ensure the integrity and show it is so important to the filmmakers that one of us is representing that. It is a perfect time, because one of the things that is compelling about the Marvel Universe moving forward is its focus on diversity.
"Diversity" is one of those loaded words that tends to get strong reactions, especially from people who are already being represented by race/sexuality/gender, and it's darn-near impossible to please everyone. But I definitely appreciate Marvel using its platform around the world to try and represent millions of people who haven't seen themselves on screen as heroes. There's a big world out there, and it means so much to people to see a hero on the big screen they can relate to, in addition to the heroes they already admire.
I can see both sides of this Grieving Man disappointment, and I don't represent or speak for anyone but myself, but I really liked the way they handled the scene in Endgame. I love that Joe Russo took on the role himself, and I love that they had Captain America -- as old school as they get! -- there next to him. Steve only cared that the man was hurting for lost loved ones, just like him.
Avengers: Endgame is on track to be the biggest movie in history, watched by millions of people of all ages, and it treated sexuality as just one small part of one's life, not that big a deal. I personally liked that normalizing message. But I can see how having THAT be the first openly gay character after more than 10 years and 20 films might be a letdown.
There's been talk that The Eternals might have an openly gay character, and also talk of Valkyrie maybe being the MCU's first openly gay hero, unless it's one of these folks. It's not like Marvel movies would suddenly spend a lot of time on romance over action, but two gay characters could certainly get a Tony and Pepper or Star-Lord and Gamora love story. Why not? Keep up with everything ahead in the MCU with our guide.