Superhero movies have an unspoken “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Studios seem more than happy to recruit characters and narratives with queer subtext — or straight up queer text — but authentic, clear representation is practically nonexistent in the genre. Wonder Woman, a character with a history tied to queer culture, “can be bisexual,” Gal Gadot had said, but it’s nothing addressed in the film. Ryan Reynolds mentioned it “would be great” for Deadpool, a pansexual character in the comics, to have a boyfriend. But for 20th Century Fox’s most lucrative superhero property to date, we’re not holding out breath.
For better or worse, these comic book-based blockbusters have broken from their niche to become fuel for Hollywood. As such, directors and producers have felt the pressure to feature more inclusive characters from their diverse audiences. Fans cried out for more female superheroes and they finally got a Wonder Woman movie, soon to be followed by Captain Marvel. They cried out for a black superhero and are getting Black Panther as a result. On a similar note, Doctor Strange felt the burn after whitewashing a prominent Asian character, but the jury’s still out as to whether they will rectify this problem in the future.
But queer superheroes? That’s a different story. Every excuse for this abysmal lack of representation has been used — not just with superhero movies, but Hollywood releases in general. It’s a numbers game: queer characters are still seen as a liability when it comes to international ticket sales. Russia is a perfect example of a country that harshly discriminates against — and, in many cases, physically harms — LGBTQ citizens, but it makes up a significant portion of box office sales. So these characters remain largely invisible to appeal to moviegoers around the world, even if those moviegoers aren’t homophobic.
It’s becoming more and more frustrating, however, because now LGBTQ stories from the comics are the source material for these films and yet there’s no attribution beyond a wink to their roots. It’s especially true of some of these six films, which could’ve so easily fixed this longstanding injustice. In actuality, it wouldn’t be difficult at all to feature these characters in any superhero movie, but these choice titles have little excuse.