I feel legitimately bad that I did not ask Kevin Feige about LGBTQ representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe during the Ant-Man junket. I have been asking him about progressive representation in his movies for years now, and I dropped the ball here - especially considering this weekend was when the landmark Supreme Court ruling came down that made same sex marriage the law of the land.
I wish I had asked him because some other reporters did and got answers out of him that are so vague and wishy washy that I feel like there needs to be some follow-up. Collider and Slashfilm both asked him about this, and these are his answers:
FEIGE: Within the next decade?
FEIGE: I would think so, for sure.
The next decade? That's a crazy broad timeline. Just insane. This answer kind of irritates me, to be honest. His answer to Slashfilm is less irritating, but still vague:
“The answer is, there is no reason why that can’t happen any time soon. You know, we pull the characters from the comics, for the most part, and they’ve been forging new ground for decades in the comics. They’ve been very progressive in the comics. And even more recently in a very important and progressive way. And we keep track of all of those things and are inspired by all of those things, so I’d love it to find an organic, meaningful and natural way for that to happen at some point in the not so distant future.”
I'm going to give Feige the benefit of the doubt here and say that the question he is answering in his head is very specifically 'When we will get an LGBTQ lead hero?' Because if the answer to 'When will we get a supporting character who is LGBTQ?' is 'In a decade, maybe,' we have huge problems.
Honestly, Spider-Man is the place to attack diversity on all fronts. As someone from New York City, as someone who lived near Peter Parker's traditional stomping grounds, Parker would run into serious diversity at school every day. The supporting characters should be cast multi-culturally but, what's more, some of the characters should be reconceived as gay or lesbian. It's hard to imagine someone having an honest problem with taking high school Liz Allan and making her gay - hell, you could still have Parker pine for her, just as fruitlessly.
That's just the beginning. I hate when people get ahead of themselves with demanding perfect progressivism in their media - someone on Twitter reacted to the idea of casting Emily Blunt as Captain Marvel with "Ugh, another white person," and I was like, "Hey man, let's not take a female-led superero movie for granted just yet. This is still a big deal," and I believe that. Having Black Panther and Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman and (maybe, I really sort of wonder if it'll happen) Cyborg on the schedule shows that we're making progress. I don't want to poo poo that by saying "Well, why not an LGBTQ lead! And why not a Hispanic lead! And why not a..." etc etc etc. I want to appreciate those films and appreciate the movement, however slow, that has happened over the last few years.
But those are the leads! Give us supporting characters who represent a more diverse view of the world than comic book creators gave us in the 60s. How white and straight were comics in the 60s? The mostly Jewish creators of our favorite heroes created more or less absolutely zero Jewish characters! Ben Grimm, a rock monster, is the closest you get to someone who seems identifiably Jewish, and even then he's a vague Dead End Kids sort of "ethnic" - he probably has immigrant parents. That's how white comics were - the Jewish kids who invented a character to punch Adolph Hitler made him a blonde goy. And forget about being gay - it was still illegal at the time. We're locked into this all-white, all-straight, all-the-time shit from the Mad Men era when it comes to the main characters, but when it comes to the supporting characters? Use the leeway and get creative.
And you know how easy this is to do? Have a character who has a picture on their desk that depicts their same-gender spouse. Have a male character drop a throwaway reference to getting home to his husband. I don't even think we need a character whose sexuality is in any way front and center - we don't need to see two ladies going at it (especially since the largely chaste Marvel movies have more or less nobody going at it - the big romantic kiss in Thor: The Dark World is a fucking post-credits sting) - but we need a character who, at some point, acknowledges that they simply aren't straight.
Or, if Feige wants to pull directly from the comics, pull directly from the comics* - Young Avengers has characters of all sexualities, and as Spider-Man brings in a younger vibe to the MCU it would be great to see Hulkling or Wiccan show up. I suspect that adding characters like these to the mix would be not only politically responsible, it would be damn savvy business. I don't know that these characters could support a franchise on their own - their publishing history doesn't convince me of that - but I think they could be wildly popular supporting players who could graduate to bigger things in Phase Four.
Again, I don't want to downplay the strides being made in representation. Captain America: Civil War is very diverse, with three main black characters and three main female characters supporting ol' Aryan Steve Rogers. That's really cool, and we should be really happy about it and we should be supporting Marvel in their choices. We should be happy that the Justice League movie will have non-white actors, maybe even three non-white actors, in the main cast. That is awesome. That is a huge step forward for an genre that has historically kept black people offscreen and for a genre that has not allowed women to be anywhere near as tough and interesting as men.
So kudos to Marvel and Warner Bros. But come on... a decade to get a gay character in a Marvel movie at all? Give me a break.
* Marvel Studios has one big disadvantage if they insist on being sticklers to comic canon - most of the gay Marvel characters seem to exist in the X-books. Which is why they really can't get hung up on canon.