When will we see an LGBT hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Representation for non-straight, non-cisgender individuals means that, as a baseline, we just want to be acknowledged as being alive. Viewers want to recognize themselves on television, and people struggling with their identity would greatly benefit from seeing a positive portrayal of an LGBT character on a super hero show. On a show like "Orange Is the New Black," where diversity and representation for bisexual, lesbian, and trans characters of all ethnicities is the norm, every character is allowed to be defined by traits other than their sexuality or gender identity. That series shows that these types of characters can be more than just a sidekick, plot point, or joke. Now Victoria Hand is dead, and I bet a lot of lesbian fans of the show never even knew that the highest ranked S.H.I.E.L.D. officer we saw on the reg played for their team. It's probably best if they never find out, too, because the dead lesbian trope is a rightfully reviled one.
To Marvel's great credit, I'm only slightly saddened at the loss of a female character pulled from the comics. An alive Victoria Hand, one elevated to a series regular position where we might have gotten a glimpse into her personal life, does infinitely more for representation than a dead one. But even with Hand dead, the MCU still has Black Widow, Sharon Carter, Maria Hill, Melinda May, Jemma Simmons, and Skye representing for the female forces of good -- and that's just counting S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Well, former agents, really. Compared to the men, most of whom have been revealed as traitors and killed, the women are faring a lot better. However big of a setback Hand's death is for female representation, it torpedoes all the hopes I had for getting a gay character in the MCU -- and one that's treated seriously, not like Justin Hammer's prison behavior in the "All Hail the King" one-shot. And I'm not arguing that gay characters should be exempt from bad things happening to them just because they're gay. That's not equality. That's not fairness. But it's also not fair or representative of the population and movie-going audience to have nine movies and seventeen episodes of television populated with hundreds of individuals and not have one notable lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans character.
The source material isn't particularly helpful, as the Avengers are nowhere near as LGBT friendly as the Fox-owned X-Men. Fox isn't doing anything with that, by the way, as the bisexual Mystique has yet to be shown as such onscreen. Of the characters Marvel could bring to life, Phyla-Vell and Moondragon weren’t included in "Guardians of the Galaxy," Karolina Dean and Xavin are part of the constantly languishing "Runaways," and Living Lightning might be too minor of a character to get ever get adapted. Wiccan, Hulkling, Miss America, and a lot of other teen characters have come out of the closet, but Marvel's live-action aspirations seem to be with the adult heroes. To make matters worse, none of those characters are non-magical trans humans (most trans characters in comics are such because of spells or because they're an alien), which means that the MCU could actually outpace the source material should they include a trans person.
Marvel can fix this, though, and they have a solid track record with diversity that can only get better through branching out to the LGBT community. Phyla-Vell and Moondragon can show up in the cosmic films. Hercules can pop up in a "Thor" sequel or on Netflix's "Defenders," and he can be portrayed as bisexual. And so what if there are no trans individuals in the Marvel comics? There was no Phil Coulson, Darcy Lewis, or the entire cast of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." either. There isn't one? Then make one. An ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. scientist, a renegade Extremis patient, a visiting Norse god -- if you've seen "Orange Is the New Black," then you know Laverne Cox would kill in any of these roles. There are twenty-two hours of television a year that needs to be populated with characters; this can be fixed and I firmly believe that it will be fixed.
This being "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," I have a little bit of hope that Hand's demise isn't exactly what it seems to be. There are life model decoys and blue tube guys out there that can bring Agent Hand back into the fold just like they did Coulson and Skye. I really want this entire piece to be negated in a few episodes. I want to be embarrassed by my kneejerk response because there's a fully realized, out lesbian Victoria Hand making tough calls and commanding strike units on television every week. Please, Marvel, embarrass me.
Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He co-hosts the podcast Matt & Brett Love Comics and is a writer for the comedy podcast Left Handed Radio. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).
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