No, “Thor: Love and Thunder” is not “So Gay”
by Ian Carlos Crawford
It’s early 2019, COVID has yet to become a global pandemic, we’re all suffering from the trauma of the 2016 election, and Marvel has promised we will see our first on-screen LGBTQ character in their upcoming movie Avengers: Endgame.
And while that was not a lie, said gay character was a nameless one in Captain America’s group therapy that was played by one of the directors. He mentions his husband in the session. End of on-screen gayness. It’s a moment that would’ve been so much nicer had the directors not been tripping over themselves to congratulate them for the first on-screen gay character.
It’s the summer of 2022, COVID is still here, we’re all still suffering from the trauma of the 2016 election, and during the press tour for Marvel’s newest movie Thor: Love and Thunder the stars labeled it “so gay.”
And while that was most definitely a lie, it’s probably one of their queerest movies to date. The Eternals, no matter what you think of the movie itself, is still the only Marvel movie to-date that has a main character who is both gay and actually kisses his husband! In Thor: Love and Thunder, we got quite a few queer or queer coded characters. But the only on-screen gayness we got was when rock creature Korg (played by director and writer of the film, Taiki Waititi) holds hands with another, presumably male, rock creature.
Two rock creatures holding hands is not “so gay!” So why do we keep getting all this gay hype for things that are not, in fact, so gay?
I know for folks like Natalie Portman and Taika Waititi it comes from a good place — they want their new superhero movie to finally be “so gay,” and I’m sure if Waititi had his way it would’ve been. What We Do in the Shadows and Our Flag Means Death are his two big shows right now that are both, indeed, very gay. But the higher ups at Disney are only allowing a sprinkle of gay content, nothing focused on a main character and nothing too explicit like making out.
To this movie’s credit, we do finally get on-screen confirmation of Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie being queer. Korg mentions Valkyrie’s former girlfriend, and Valkyrie kisses the hand of a women later on in the film. She is a badass character who is also queer! We love to see it!
But she doesn’t get enough to do or do anything too explicitly queer. She even sits out the final battle! We also were given her and Portman’s Thor, but these two characters with incredible chemistry get sidelined for the gorgeous Hemsworth’s Thor and his muscles. Which, let’s be real, I’m not complaining –the movie showed us the actor in all his godhood glory, but a naked Chris Hemsworth is not inherently queer.
Marvel is part of Disney which is, of course, a giant money making corporation. Corporations don’t actually care about you or I or queer representation. They look at everything as a business move. So, is it in their best interests to show queer characters? Morally, yes. Businesswise? I guess? Maybe not? I don’t know — but conservatives are always loud (and wrong), and a lot of Marvel’s new projects have been getting pushback because conservatives can’t stand us queers existing, let alone existing in a superhero movie — even if its just as a no-name side character.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness wasn’t screened some places overseas just because the movie contained a scene with America Chavez’s two moms. It’s maybe a 5-minute scene, yet just that was enough for folks to be angry. How dare two lesbian mothers exist in a movie where people can be from space or a different universe!
It’s kind of lose-lose with Disney, but I shed no tears for a corporation with more money than most of us will ever know. I just want more queer characters that are actually queer on screen, not off screen. If Hulk and Black Widow can have a romance than so can freakin’ Valkyrie!
I also want folks on Marvel press tours to stop hyping something as gay when it’s more like a hint of gay. I also think there’s a longer conversation to be had about what it means for a movie to be “queer” — for me, it’s not just characters being whacky. But that seems to be what a lot of folks think it is? On Twitter, reporter Zack Budryck pointed out how often the discourse around Taika Waititi “seems to operate from the premise that queerness is when straight people are silly little guys.” If I could, I’d send this tweet to every straight person claiming something is queer. Which isn’t to say Waititi himself isn’t queer or bi or whatever, but it can be frustrating to see all the back patting about making queer content when it’s mostly straight (Our Flag Means Death being the explicitly queer exception).
All queer folks want is to see more representation on screen. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Waititi even said, “It’s where we should have been probably 1000 years ago. It’s 2022 and we’re still having this conversation. It’s insane.” And I agree. I shouldn’t have to even be writing articles about this! Yet here we are.
It’s 2022. LGBTQ+ books are being banned, Roe v Wade has been overturned, queer representation in big blockbuster movies is relegated to side characters, homophobia is making a huge comeback, and everything is terrible.
So, again, I don’t blame Waititi — he probably was only allowed to have the rock creatures be gay on screen by holding hands. I’m sure they would’ve never allowed him to have Thor kiss a man or Valkyrie have a girlfriend or wife. I can’t imagine it’s easy trying to bring The Gay Agenda™ into movies where shareholders and high up executives have their say in every aspect of the production you’re doing.
I hope we can get more directors and writers who push for queer characters, even if writers like me are grumpy about the Go Girl Give Us Nothing energy of a lot of these recent queer characters.
About the Author:
Ian Carlos Crawford grew up in southern New Jersey and has an MFA in non-fiction writing. His writing has appeared on sites like BuzzFeed, NewNowNext, Junkee, and other random corners of the internet. He currently hosts a queer Buffy and Marvel focused pop culture podcast called Slayerfest 98 and co-hosts a horror podcast called My Bloody Judy. Follow him on Twitter @ianxcarlos!