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Avengers: Endgame Features MCU's First Openly Gay Character

Contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame

Over 11 years and 21 films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe experienced a lot of firsts. Black Panther was the first Marvel film to center on a black superhero, Captain Marvel was the first Marvel movie to put a female superhero at the forefront, The Avengers was the first MCU entry to feature the Infinity Stones and a mid-credits scene, and Guardians of the Galaxy was the first flick that took the Marvel film canon to space. With Avengers: Endgame, the 22nd MCU film and the culmination of the installments that preceded it, one would be forgiven to assume that there's no more room left for firsts. However, they'd be dead wrong: Avengers: Endgame has made history by featuring the MCU's first openly gay character. 

First thing's first, the character isn't a superhero, but rather a normal guy struggling with immense grief after Thanos (Josh Brolin) snapped his fingers and killed half of all life in the universe at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. Secondly, it isn't just any ol' dude who portrays him — it's Avengers: Endgame co-director Joe Russo. 

He appears during the scene early on in Endgame where Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is leading a survivors' support group. The character speaks openly about going on his first date in five years, after he lost his male partner in the Decimation. It's a simple moment, nothing showy or dramatic. It likely took viewers a minute to pick up on the fact that the character Russo plays is gay — that's how subtle it was. 

Russo spoke with Deadline about the inclusive moment and how it came to be. 

"Representation is really important," the director said. "It was important to us as we did four of these films, we wanted a gay character somewhere in them. 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."

He continued, explaining that it was crucial to him and his filmmaking sibling Anthony Russo to "have a voice that was talking about the experience of people that went beyond the Avengers" to make the fallout of Avengers: Infinity War that Avengers: Endgame explores feel more authentic and less "hermetic and insular." Russo detailed, "We wanted it to be casual, with the fact that the character is gay tied into the fabric of the storytelling and representing what everyday life is. We're trying to represent everyone in everyday life. These are global movies that reach a lot of people. They are important to a lot of people and everyone has the right to see themselves on the screen and identify somewhere."

Added Anthony Russo, "We've seen it now even in countries where people countries where homosexuality isn't as free as it is here. It's actually one of those elements of these movies that I think resonates in challenged places in the world as well." Joe agreed, saying, "As filmmakers of a massive franchise we're saying, we support you."

The inclusion of an openly, canonically gay character in the MCU has been a long time coming. In the past, the franchise has skirted around the subject of LGBTQ+ representation in certain cases and brushed it under the rug in others. Guardians of the Galaxy franchise director James Gunn once told The Guardian that there are "probably ... gay characters in the Marvel Universe" but we "just don't know who they are yet," as there are "a lot of characters in the MCU and very few of them that we've delved into what their sexuality is." Many felt Gunn's comments were disappointing and argued that, as Inverse put it, "invisible queer characters in the MCU aren't enough."

Viewers almost met the first openly queer character in a Marvel movie in Thor: Ragnarok, since the Taika Waititi-directed film originally had a scene that confirmed Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is bisexual. That moment ended up on the cutting room floor, clipped from the theatrical version of the pic. This again stirred the pot and caused fans to think that Marvel might never follow through with LGBTQ+ representation, only ever teasing the possibility of it without having to do the work of actually displaying it. Even Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington raised a flag against Marvel over this, asking in September of last year when the world would ever see "someone in a Marvel movie who's gay in real life" play a gay superhero.

Not saying that the gay character in Avengers: Endgame is suddenly the mouthpiece of all queer characters in the MCU or that he makes up for Marvel's past errors when it comes to inclusion, but he does feel like the first step toward proper queer representation — albeit a very small one. 

Marvel Studios present Kevin Feige has indicated that at least two LGBTQ+ characters — "both ones you've seen and ones you haven't seen" — are coming to the MCU soon. Earlier this year, Marvel Studios' physical production executive vice president Victoria Alonso said that "the world is ready" for a gay superhero in a Marvel movie, and noted that the big focus for the MCU moving forward is diversity. She said, "If we don't put pedal to the metal on the diversity and the inclusivity, we will not have continued success. Our determination is to have that for all of the people out there watching our movies."

Marvel may already have plans in place to introduce the first openly gay superhero to the MCU, as past reports claim that The Eternals is looking for a gay actor to portray a canonically gay hero who will lead the film. However, considering the company is keeping quiet about its five-year plan post-Spider-Man: Far From Home, there's no saying how accurate those claims are or what Marvel really has cooking up behind the scenes. 

If Feige's comments, Alonso's remarks, and Russo's mention of diversity being a core focus of the MCU from here on out are true, fans of all sorts can look forward to seeing themselves better represented in MCU and the beloved franchise getting a little more inclusive.