Thor: Ragnarok celebrated many firsts during its opening weekend, including becoming the highest grossing Thor film which earned $122 million at the domestic box office opening weekend, and was the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to include an LGBT character.
Valkyrie, portrayed by Tessa Thompson, is one of the famed Asgardian female warriors who once fought Hela (Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death, and failed. Now she has teamed up with Thor and friends in order to gain revenge against Hela for killing her fellow Valkyries. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Tessa Thompson shared her vision for Valkyrie’s bisexuality, describing a romantic relationship Valkyrie had in the comics with an anthropologist named Annabelle Riggs. However, besides being vaguely implied, Valkyrie’s bisexuality is never clearly depicted in Thor: Ragnarok.
According to the Rolling Stone interview, Thompson even persuaded the director Taika Waititi to create a scene that depicted Valkyrie’s sexuality more clearly. A scene was shot that showed a woman leaving Valkyrie’s bedroom, but unfortunately, the scene was cut because it supposedly “distracted from the scene’s vital exposition.” The fact that this scene never made it into the final film seems like a way for Marvel to gain the recognition of incorporating LGBT representation without putting the company at risk. Dancing around the commitment to Valkyrie’s sexual identity as well as excluding LGBT representation entirely from any of the Marvel and DC Comics’ superhero films has been very disappointing for the LGBT community, especially since many found refuge in comics growing up.
Joey Stern, the founder of Geeks OUT, a group with the mission to “celebrate our shared geekiness and to focus and promote our own unique LGBT voice within that community,” spoke with Slate in an interview highlighting why comic books are so important to him and the LGBT community. Stern stated, “When I was a kid I developed a passion for reading, and I loved the philosophical debates in comics like X-Men. I loved the message that you can be different, and special, but conflicted about that. Comic books gave me a way to see that in myself.”
The search for identity in comic books resonates with the LGBT community, and since they make up a vast portion of Marvel’s audience, it’s then understandable that these fans would search for representation in the Marvel film adaptations. So far, Marvel seems to be behind the times and only now is depicting more diversity in their films. There has not been a film with a person of color as the lead until Blank Panther, which will be released on February 16th, 2018. There has never been a female led Marvel film, but fans will soon be graced with Captain Marvel, which will be in theaters on March 6th, 2019. Regardless of the result, Valkyrie appears to be Marvel’s earnest attempt at resolving the lack of representation of non-heterosexual characters.
Most recently, one comic book character whose sexuality was disregarded in the film adaptation is Diana Prince, the Princess of Themyscira. Comic book fans have often wondered in the past if Wonder Woman is bisexual and the DC Comic’s writer Greg Rucka recently confirmed her bisexuality in an interview with Comicosity discussing his comic Wonder Woman #2. Rucka stated, “Nobody at DC has ever said, ‘She’s gotta be straight. Nobody. Ever. They’ve never blinked at this.”
In the interview, he also goes on to explain that it would be unlikely that Wonder Woman is strictly heterosexual, because she grew up on Themyscira, an island that’s occupied only by women. Themyscira is described as a paradise, and in paradise, you are ultimately happy, so it stands to reason that in order to find happiness, the women of Themyscira would look for partners in each other. It is then very likely that Wonder Woman had a female partner on Themyscira.
When the new Warner Bros. Wonder Woman film adaptation decided to depict Diana as heterosexual, Gianna Collier-Pitts, New York University’s campus ambassador for GLAAD, became so frustrated with the lack of LGBT representation in the media that she began a petition on Change.org to have Wonder Woman depicted as bisexual in the highly anticipated sequel.
In the petition, she stated, “The majority of the LGBTQ+ community identifies as bisexual or as having attraction to more than one gender, and yet it is the least understood of any identity. We are over-sexualized and underrepresented… We are made to feel invisible and in doing so we begin to see ourselves as invisible. Making Wonder Woman canonically bisexual on the big screen would make her the first openly LGBTQ superhero of any gender from either DC or Marvel’s cinematic universes, and would solidify her place as a true role model for women of all ages and identities.” The petition has gathered almost 10,000 signatures.
Overall, the lack of representation needs to change and Marvel may be heading in the right direction. Recently, in the case of Thor: Ragnarok and even Beauty and the Beast, Hollywood has been congratulating themselves for including queer representation while not actually going through with it, since Valkyrie and LeFou barely represented LGBT characters other than through subtle innuendoes. Clearly, fans are not asking that the film pause to have an LGBT character announce their sexuality, but if there is room in the plot for the audience to understand the sexuality of characters like Thor, Bruce Banner, and Black Widow, then there should certainly be a natural way to bring up Valkyrie’s personal life in the Thor sequel.