Recently, Marvel made history (and headlines) announcing the first ever same-sex wedding between two gay superheroes. The storyline will feature in the next instalment of the much-lauded Empyre series. Released in 2020 it sees the Avengers and the Fantastic Four alongside various other heroes of the Marvel ilk- coming together to fight a common evil.
While it is true that same sex weddings have previously featured in Marvel comics, this is the first time two superheroes will tie the knot. This might not come as much of a surprise to fans, the relationship between Hulkling and Wiccan was revealed in past comics, to people like me (non-fans) the news comes as a welcome surprise. Though thinking back, I can’t help but wonder what difference it might have made to me growing up–seeing greater queer representation by the likes of Marvel.
Seeing a part of ourselves represented in books or on screen, in roles big or small, is vital. To have heroes you can look up to and aspire to be. To let us feel comfortable with who we are because there are role models out there. And while characters such as Iceman, North Star and Colossus have featured as queer in Marvel comics for about a decade, similar representation in Marvel films has been lacking, beside the obvious exception of characters Teenage Warhead and Yukio in 2016’s Deadpool.
Disney has been claiming new territory and, arguably cannibalising its competition for some time now. The company purchased Marvel Entertainment in August of 2009, to the tune of $4 billion. Yet, it was only in March this year that Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced “an increased commitment” to diversity in its output.
Why has it taken Disney so long to commit to greater diversity when they have an apparently long history of supporting the LGBTQI community. A friend pointed out that since the first Saturday in June of 1991 the Gay and Lesbian Day at the Magic Kingdom, as it was then know, continues to this day to draw 1000’s of gays and lesbians to Disneyland once a year.
What began as a loosely organised event has now grown into a multi-day celebration of ‘gay pride’ hosted at the company’s theme park. I mean sure, it’s great to have public displays of ‘gay pride’, but I’d still like to know how much of a profit this ‘celebration’ turns the company each year.
Cynicism aside, the future of queer representation on page and on screen is perhaps looking bright. With Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recently confirming that a character in the studio’s upcoming film The Eternals will be gay, making him the first with an LGBTQI storyline in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Feige while also addressing a New York Film Academy audience said that Marvel tries to encourage diversity behind the camera as well saying that, “it makes for better stories, when you’re sitting at a table… if everybody looks like you, you’re in trouble. You’re not going to get the best story out of that.”
We can only hope, that as queerness becomes more openly accepted by society as a whole, that corporations so too will move with the times, joining the fight for liberation and unity lest they fade away into irrelevance. Mind you, I think it might be some time yet before we’ll be seeing Dr Frank-N-Furter make an appearance at Disneyland.