‘Captain Marvel’ Is Extremely Gay, It’s Basic Physics
Last week, Marvel executive Victoria Alonso said the world was “ready” for an LGBTIQ superhero to lead an MCU film, amid rumours that upcoming film Eternals will centre a gay lead.
It was a whatever comment for several reasons. We’re not patting you on the back until we see it happen, and it better not be half-arsed either: none of this ad-hoc ‘Dumbledoreing’ business or director’s cut bullshit, à la Tessa Thompson’s character in Thor: Ragnarok. Most of all, it was an odd comment because Alonso said it at the red carpet of Captain Marvel, a film which exudes BDE: Big Dyke Energy.
I actually just saw a Marvel movie with a gay love story and it was called Captain Marvel. https://t.co/CaqQ7aea7w
— Heather Hogan (@theheatherhogan) March 8, 2019
Captain Marvel drips with sapphic tension — ask any queer who has seen the film, and they’ll tell you that Carol Danvers and her ‘best friend’ Maria have something going on. The chemistry may not be canon, but it’s undeniable: and while we’re not giving the film props for these undertones, we simply must let you know that Carol Danvers and Maria have fucked, and will fuck again.
Captain Marvel Has Topped Wonder Woman At the Box Office — And Maria, Probably
— ʌᴉɥS is in love with captain marvel (@iron_widow) March 8, 2019
Let’s be clear here: Captain Marvel is not explicitly about a queer woman. There is no explicit queer intimacy in this film — there are no gay kisses on the battlefield, two women spitting into each other’s mouths or any sort of scene involving fucking a peach or even some light cum-guzzling. But you know what Captain Marvel is overwhelmingly submerged within? Subtext, famously the gayest of all texts.
In short, Captain Marvel is an origin story about how US air force pilot Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) rediscovers herself after gaining superpowers during a flight gone wrong. We won’t spoil anything more, as we’re here purely to discuss her Very Close Friendship with fellow pilot Maria (Lashana Lynch).
just got back from captain marvel. time to get to work, gays!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/GEIIDOLJBd
— ✨ɯɐɥɓuıuunɔ uıɹǝʞ✨ ECCC Q9 (@KerinCunningham) March 8, 2019
Maria has long thought Carol dead, and when she rocks up at her house in Louisiana, Maria and her daughter Monica (Akira Akbar) freak out with excitement, confusion and love.
Which, by itself, sure: Carol is back from the dead, let’s celebrate that. But there’s a few things here that stand out — firstly, Monica calls her “Aunty Carol”, and has kept “all her stuff” she left at the house, including photos, notes and clothing.
the phrase “Auntie Carol” being lobbed at brie larson in ‘captain marvel’ was a glitch in the gay matrix. reality as we know it in the lesbian extended cinematic universe has been fractured
— Jill Gutowitz (@jillboard) March 9, 2019
It’s clear that Aunty Carol spent a fair bit of time visiting Louisiana — and why wouldn’t you? What a beautiful house Maria has, in a stunning part of the US, a respite to forget that their labour emboldens their nation’s imperialist grip on the globe and directly contributes to innocent deaths. If I was them, I’d want a peach ice-tea by the bayou too.
But she wasn’t just visiting: it’s alluded to that Carol lived there in stints because she “didn’t get along with her family”.
And what does Carol do when she’s not there, helping raise Maria’s child and creating a chosen family? Well, she goes to work on air planes in military uniform with Annette Benning, who she literally views as the most powerful and intimidating presence in the world.
— Momo 모모 もも ○○ (@momotozakis) March 8, 2019
There’s a lot of chemistry between Carol and Maria, and yes, working together closely and dancing in bars together while wearing leather jackets will do that to two people. But there’s just too much there for it to be purely platonic — the bond is so bloody intense that Maria goes on a reckless adventure into space for Carol, abandoning her daughter.
— megan ❉ (@blankspaace) March 9, 2019
Larson knows what’s up, too. In a recent press circuit, she said that Maria and Carol hold the “love of the movie” in a film that has no standard b-plot romantic interest.
“What they’ve gone through together — going through military training, being the only women there, and then using each other to lean on each other for that support and a recognition of their experience is really special,” she said (via Gizmodo). “Of course, I think they would have been friends outside of that experience. But I think that’s a really tight-knit bond that they have, and they’re family.”
“Without being too showboating about it, this is the love of the movie. This is the great love. This is the love lost, this is the love found again, this is the reason to continue fighting and to go to the ends of the Earth for the person that you love. And it’s her best friend and her best friend’s daughter which, to me, is so natural.”
Friendship is a powerful force, but these characters are clearly coded: the BDE and chemistry of both of them is potent. And we haven’t even mentioned that Carol is literally referred to as ‘Vers’ for half the film — or that Carol is followed by a cat for the whole adventure, and refuses to question it even once.
Maria keeping Carol’s leather jacket is essentially Ennis holding onto Jack’s flannel in Brokeback Mountain: their relationship is spelled out in terms all too familiar to LGBTIQ audiences. If it feels like a stretch, then stretch us out to dry.
There’s a difference between celebrating a film on a representational level and finding something within it that speaks to your identity. On the former, Captain Marvel fails, though it is not even trying — and no one associated with it is claiming it’s a queer film.
I saw captain marvel. It was great. I would rate it: gay undertones for sure. pic.twitter.com/L4W2M4lwmp
— Ashly Perez (@itsashlyperez) March 11, 2019
But in the latter, it speaks to a long history of LGBTIQ audiences reading against the grain and finding refuge in-between the words on a page. Not to get too academic, but non-normative readings are queer by definition, and there is a lot of power in digging deep and obsessing over undertones, of creating space where there was none.
It’s not representation, necessarily — not in the way that we have come to demand it — but it is a part of queer culture. And honestly, Carol and Maria probably connect with queer audiences much more than whatever gay lead the MCU has lined up for us: with the weight of expectation, we’ll be deflated by how it turns out, either too flippant or too ham-fisted.
The sapphic vibe of Captain Marvel isn’t revolutionary. It isn’t why it’s worth watching, by any means. But it is something that queer audiences can enjoy, and make a whole lot of memes out of.
Essentially, we want more gay memes.
Captain Marvel is in cinemas now.
Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and co-host of Sleepless In Sydney on FBi Radio. Call him by his @jrdjms.