Why we don’t need a gay Marvel superhero

We the gay people have finally reached the Everest of equality. No, I’m not talking about the legalization of gay marriage in 2015, or Mayor Pete Buttigieg becoming the first serious openly gay presidential candidate. And I certainly don’t mean the recent election of Chicago’s first openly gay mayor, Lori Lightfoot. No, all of that was merely an amuse bouche to this windfall of justice.

The big news is that “Avengers: Endgame” directors Anthony and Joe Russo revealed Wednesday that a Marvel superhero or two will soon come out of the closet. Pop the cork! Set off the fireworks! Call up RuPaul for comment! Now the world will learn that a gay hero can lift a car, make a quip and be as emotionally vague as any straight superhero can. That’s real progress!

Is it, though? Seems to me like more empty pandering for my money.

For some reason, the Disney-owned, multibillion-dollar-earning Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the scrappy banner-carrier of equality and representation. “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel” were ballyhooed as if they were human rights victories as much as films, because who needs, I dunno, actual legal and societal achievements when you’ve got pretty lip service from Hollywood?

According to Gallup, we gays make up just 4.5 percent of the American population. Must we be in everything, regardless of quality? And with a gay character, especially, such a move wouldn’t constitute a groundbreaking “Ellen Show” moment anyway — it would be a targeted, social media-appeasing ploy. The kind of shallow gimmickry we see over and over again.

Remember in 2007 when J.K. Rowling announced that Professor Dumbledore had been gay in “Harry Potter” the whole time? Or when Disney promised an “exclusively gay” moment in its remake of “Beauty and the Beast” that amounted to little more than LeFou batting his eyelashes at Gaston at the pub? The most recent bait-and-switch actually came from Marvel.

When “Endgame” was released in March, we were told that it featured the MCU’s first openly gay character. “Huh,” I thought. “Perhaps my glasses prescription isn’t strong enough.” The millions of people around the world who have seen that movie probably also didn’t spot it, because it was the unnamed guy in the “Five Years Later” group therapy session who talks for 30 seconds about going on a date. To whom should we address our “thank you” cards?

“Representation is really important,” Joe Russo told Deadline of the scene. “It was important to us as we did four of these films, we wanted a gay character somewhere in them … It is a perfect time, because one of the things that is compelling about the Marvel Universe moving forward is its focus on diversity.”

Tell ya what — instead of focusing on bowing to the whims of Twitter and Medium.com with a head-scratching cameo, or trying to pry salty tears out of my eyes with a single scene of gay flirting, just focus on making a good movie. We’ll buy a ticket if it’s good.

And, while we’re at it, June marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Rather than obsessing over whether Carol Danvers or Dr. Strange is gonna come out of the Sling Ring, familiarize yourself with some actual gay superheroes, like Larry Kramer and the founders of ACT UP. What they did is a real marvel.

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