Avengers: Endgame, at long last, is here. As expected, it came with a number of huge reveals and there is a whole lot to talk about, from the nitty-gritty things that fans may have missed, to the big things that are right there on the surface that we all need at least a moment or two to process. This particular thing is some combination of the two, as it has huge implications, but wasn't treated as a big deal within the fabric of the movie. In any event, the MCU now has crossed a pretty big milestone.
Warning: spoilers ahead for Avengers: Endgame. Turn back now or read on where spoilers will be plentiful. During the first chunk of the movie, after the team kills Thanos, the world is left in ruins and everyone is trying to pick up the pieces. We cut to five years ahead where Steve Rogers is hosting a therapy group. During this therapy session, one of the men in attendance, played by co-director Joe Russo, is discussing his attempt to move on with his life after what Thanos did. He reveals he went on a date, his first one in five years. And it's made clear that this date was with another man. Thus, we have our first openly gay character in this universe. Joe Russo had this to say about it.
"Representation is really important. It was important to us as we did four of these films, we wanted a gay character somewhere in them. We felt it was important that one of us play him, to ensure the integrity and show it is so important to the filmmakers that one of us is representing that. It is a perfect time, because one of the things that is compelling about the Marvel Universe moving forward is its focus on diversity... We wanted it to be casual, with the fact that the character is gay tied into the fabric of the storytelling and representing what everyday life is. We're trying to represent everyone in everyday life. These are global movies that reach a lot of people. They are important to a lot of people and everyone has the right to see themselves on the screen and identify somewhere."
There have been some close calls with LGBTQ representation in the MCU previously. Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok was intended to be bisexual, but it wasn't explicitly made clear in the movie. There was also a scene that was cut from Black Panther that would have represented characters as explicitly LGBTQ. While it may not be a superhero, it actually may drive home a bigger point, since it's just a normal, everyday guy. Anthony Russo had this to say.
"The fact that the character is gay will get attention but it isn't where the scene started. When you have a story point that includes killing half of all humans on Earth, you're telling a bigger story than The Avengers. So that scene was important to us in telling the story of the larger world. We wanted to have a voice that was talking about the experience of people that went beyond The Avengers. That's why we felt we really needed it in the movie. Otherwise, it just became too hermetic and insular. That character that Joe is playing really came from that point of view, him being an everyman who has suffered from Thanos' act."
It's a small step, though it's one that could lead to big things in the future. There are rumors that The Eternals will have a gay lead character. That will, should it come to pass, be a slightly bigger deal in some ways. However, Avengers: Endgame, amongst its huge list of accomplishments, can now say that it was the movie that broke down this barrier in the MCU. This news was previously reported by Deadline.