Spoilers for Thor: Love & Thunder and Ragnarok, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness, Avengers: Endgame
Surprise, surprise, Thor: Love and Thunder did not deliver on its vague promises of greater LGBTQ+ representation despite Natalie Portman telling us the film was “so gay” – compared to what, marriage? Nevertheless, cast and crew have come out to defend the film’s ‘choices’ and here I’ll spend a few minutes responding.
Since her arrival back in Thor: Ragnarok fans have been wondering if Tessa Thompson’s brilliant character Valkyrie is LGBTQ+. Love & Thunder answers that question by confirming that she did have a girlfriend, another Valkyrie, hurray! However, said girlfriend died saving our Valkyrie in a brief flashback in Ragnarok. The MCU gives and the MCU takes away, and now we have yet another dead queer in the MCU pantheon. Firstly, there was the gay guy at the start of Avengers: Endgame grieving the loss of his boyfriend in the Blip (when Thanos annihilated half the universe’s population). Of course, when the film ends and all the blipped people come back do we see the boyfriends united, do we sh*t, we see the straight superheroes reunited with their opposite sex partners. Meanwhile, the teen character America Chavez in the latest Doctor Strange film could be queer because she’s wearing a Pride Progress badge throughout the film or she could just be an ally…the script doesn’t bother to clarify. But in a brief flashback we do see her two mums, yay! Although within seconds they’re sucked into an interdimensional portal and presumably killed, boo! So it would appear there are three options for queer characters in the MCU – invisible, grieving or dead (or some combo of the three).
When discussing Valkyrie’s sexuality Thompson said it was important “not to hang the character’s hat solely on her sexual identity just because she’s a queer character. I think that’s one way of minimizing her humanity, actually, if that’s the only facet that you get to explore her in.” A similar argument has been applied to Elsa and Dumbledore, as if giving them any agency as queer characters somehow reduces their humanity. Curiously, this argument is never applied to straight characters but let me tell you this – in Love & Thunder Thor is 100% defined by his sexuality. When he’s not fighting people/monsters he’s falling back in love with Doctor Jane Foster as played by Natalie Portman. The film is a very silly romcom about two dysfunctional straight people having another go at being together. These characters’ hats are firmly hung on their super powerful hammers and they basically just exist to fall back in love. In this light, Thompson’s comments are interesting because I’d suggest that Thor and Mighty Thor (Dr Foster gets super powers in this film when she picks up Thor’s old hammer to see if it will help her fight stage four cancer) absolutely suffer from minimised humanity as characters. Thor does get a bit of a character arc though as Dr Foster encourages him to keep his heart open but to teach him this lesson she has to die. Yup. This film 100% betrays its new superpowerful female character by killing her. So, what’s the message for young girls – that you’ll either die of cancer or you’ll die trying to be as powerful as the male protagonist, great. Not forgetting Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness which told us that powerful women become unhinged psychopaths hellbent (literally) on having kids, despite all the nuance WandaVision tried to bring to the character of Wanda Maximoff.
Meanwhile, the film’s director Taika Waititi said he’d “love to see [Valyrkie] with a girlfriend in any movie” but in this one thought the “really interesting” think to do was show her as “someone who’s OK with being alone…she’s trying to learn how to love…herself. And I think that’s just a stronger message, no matter what your orientation.” So somehow Valkyrie drowning her grief in alcohol while watching Thor and Jane make out is meant to be read as her being OK with being alone? C’mon, that’s bad storytelling on the best of days and proves there’s a huge gap between what a creative team wants to portray and what actually ends up on screen. Why not give this arc to the relentlessly heterosexual leads? It’s clear these straight characters have zero ability being OK with being alone as they rush to define themselves via heterosexual romantic love…that is until the female partner dies. It’s almost as if straight people depend on problematic, monogamous relationships to facilitate some form of emotional growth…or at least these are the stories they like to tell (a lot).
I think it’s high time straight (and queer) people stopped making excuses for bad queer representation. Maybe instead they could focus on themselves and explore whether their humanity is minimised by heterosexuality (spoilers, it is). They could even take a closer look at heterosexuality itself and where it came from (clue, the word heterosexual didn’t exist until the 1860s and was originally an illness). Having said all that I did quite like Korg the Kronan rock guy revealing that his species is all male and make babies by holding hands over lava. And he gets a rock boyfriend at the end with a big moustache, cute.