Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige has promised to finally offer proper LGBTQ representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the upcoming “Eternals,” and now details of how that’s going to play out have been revealed.
Lebanese actor Haaz Sleiman, who played Jesus in the mini-series “Killing Jesus” and broke through alongside Richard Jenkins in the acclaimed “The Visitor,” tells NewNowNext that he plays the husband of Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) in the film:
“I just shot a Marvel film with the first openly gay superhero, ‘The Eternals’. I’m married to the gay superhero Phastos, played by Atlanta’s Brian Tyree Henry, and we represent a gay family and have a child.”
There’s also the obvious concern of queerbaiting and tokenism, something Disney has become infamous for in recent years. From “Beauty and the Beast” to “Thor: Ragnarok” to “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” there’s been pre-release discussion of including gay, lesbian or trans characters but the films themselves never show anything – characters are either background extras with little to no explanation, or merely hinted at with nothing ever made explicit (such as the villains of Warners’ “Birds of Prey”).
Marvel itself got into trouble when they tried to champion “Avengers: Endgame” for its inclusion of a gay character in one scene, a cameo that the film’s co-director Anthony Russo played for 10 seconds and which was met with backlash for such an ineffective and pandering way to deal with an issue the movies had previously avoided.
Sleiman, however, says Marvel Studios won’t shy away from the issue in “Eternals,” with the characters having not just more screen time but being an essential part of the narrative. The film will also feature a kiss between the two characters:
“Oh, yeah, absolutely, and it’s a beautiful, very moving kiss. Everyone cried on set. For me, it’s very important to show how loving and beautiful a queer family can be. Brian Tyree Henry is such a tremendous actor and brought so much beauty into this part, and at one point I saw a child in his eyes, and I think it’s important for the world to be reminded that we in the queer community were all children at one point. We forget that because we’re always depicted as sexual or rebellious. We forget to connect on that human part.”
Chloe Zhao helms “Eternals” which will open in cinemas on November 6th.