Captain America doesn't need a boyfriend. These queer superheroes need their own movies.


If there’s one thing I love more than comic book movies, it’s reading into the not-so-subtle queer subtext that basically makes male superhero dynamics tick. Batman and Superman may pretend that they hate each other, but they’re getting it in. Finn and Poe may be busy saving a galaxy far, far, away, but they are also getting it in in space.

Captain America and Bucky (or Sam or Tony)? They’re…well, they’re men with complex homosocial friendships that people wish were getting it in. Earlier this week, in the wake of the #GiveElsaAGirlfriend hashtag, thousands of Captain America fans flooded Twitter with #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend, a campaign that should be plenty self-explanatory.

The idea’s simple enough. Consummate good guy Steve Rogers deserves to find true love in a world that’s pretty regularly left him bruised and beaten. Who better to be that love than his decades-old friend Bucky, the only person left alive who truly understands him? Bonus: Giving Cap a boyfriend would be a big step forward in terms of the representation of queer characters in big-budget action movies, which, generally speaking, do a piss-poor job of acknowledging the LGBT community.

The thing about #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend that doesn’t really work, though, is that unlike #GiveElsaAGirlfriend, it wouldn’t actually be progressive.

As solid a movie as Frozen was, it wasn’t without some problematic ideas concerning love and relationships. On a surface level, Frozen set out to redefine the “true love” resolutions Disney’s famous for by substituting the sisterly love between Anna and Elsa in place of the more traditional romantic love seen in most of its movies. That idea is somewhat complicated, though, by the romantic subplot between Anna and Kristoff and that weird makeover moment where Elsa becomes magically sexualized near the end of “Let It Go.”

By the end of the movie, Anna and Elsa have strengthened their sisterly bond, but Anna’s also found herself a boyfriend, a happily-ever-after much more in line with the Disney brand. Sure, Elsa’s become the ice queen of Arendelle, but Frozen implicitly chips away at the notion that Elsa, too, will be truly happy by going out of its way to make sure we know her sister’s gone the “normal” route.

That contradictory messaging is exactly what makes #GiveElsaAGirlfriend so interesting, because it challenges us to read Elsa’s post-Frozen singleness in a new way. It’s not that she’s somehow failed to capture the heart of a man—she simply hasn’t found the right woman yet.

That logic doesn’t really apply to Captain America. It isn’t that Steve hasn’t found true love yet (he has!), it’s just that he’s outlived basically everyone he knew from his life in the 1940s. They’re all dead. Moreover, Cap’s had two other modern lady love interests across the numerous Marvel movies he’s appeared in.

Not only does Steve pretty much have a few boyfriends already (see: Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes, and Tony Stark), but he’s also pretty much guaranteed to keep chasing after lady spies for the foreseeable future.

At the end of the day, #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend is a very well-meaning attempt to convince Marvel Studios to make Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan kiss on camera. That’s well and good, but a much more worthwhile cause would be to push the studio to incorporate some of Marvel’s canonically LGBT characters into its films. The publisher’s comics are full of queer characters who have played central roles in some of their most interesting stories lately.

The Dora Milaje Ayo and Aneka

In the new Black Panther comic book series, Ayo and Aneka, two of the Dora Milaje—the Panther’s elite, all-female squad of bodyguards—are revealed to be in a relationship with one another. Rather than sitting back and watching as their country plunges into chaos in the king’s absence, the couple become outlaws, exacting justice that the Panther cannot. Marvel’s Black Panther solo film is set to premiere in 2018. That would be the perfect opportunity to bring them to the big screen.

The Young Avengers Wiccan and Hulkling

Billy Kaplan (Wiccan) and Teddy Altman (Hulkling) are two members of the Young Avengers, a team of younger super-powered people who are tapped to become the next generation of heroes in the event that the older Avengers should be destroyed.

Over the course of their past few story arcs, the pair have become one of Marvel’s higher-profile LGBT couples, participating in major events like Civil War and Avengers vs. X-Men. Their inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe would mean that the movies would need to start focusing more on aliens and magic…which, as luck would have it, Marvel plans to do anyway, with the upcoming Dr. Strange movie and the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Runaways Karolina Dean and Xavin

Speaking of young, queer aliens, Karolina Dean and Xavin of Runaways are two of the most interesting explorations of gender and sexuality that Marvel has ever created.

Karolina, a Majesdanian with the ability to absorb solar energy, lives her life as a regular teenage superhero who also happens to be a lesbian. One day, however, she is ambushed by Xavin, the shapeshifting Skrull whom Karolina’s parents had promised her to. Rather than trying to force Karolina into their arranged marriage, Xavin begins courting Karolina and learning about human gender dynamics in the process.

When Karolina explains what it means to be gay, Xavin, who typically presents as a human male, willingly shifts their form to one that resembles a woman’s in order to make Karolina more comfortable. While the two eventually break up, Xavin’s interactions with Karolina prompt them to question the nature of human gender in a way that would allow for excellent character development over the course of the television series that fans have been asking for.

The future of Marvel’s movies is already becoming more melanin-rich and featuring more lead roles for women. It’s only a matter of time before they have to start reflecting a broader range of genders and sexualities. Rather than shining a light on yet another White Guy Named Chris, though, why not branch out a little and truly move forward?

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