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Kit Harington Wants to Know Why a Queer Actor Hasn’t Starred in a Marvel Movie

It's a fair question.

kit harington

Kit Harington is at the Toronto International Film Festival to promote his upcoming film The Death and Life of John F. Donovan. In the film, Harington plays a closeted actor and discussed his role on the press tour.

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Harington, who is straight, talked about how coming out can affect an actor’s career, saying “There’s a big problem with masculinity and homosexuality that they can’t somehow go hand in hand, that we can’t have someone in a Marvel movie who’s gay in real life and plays some superhero. I mean, when is that going to happen?”

Great question, Kit. As society moves en masse towards acceptance and tolerance of queerness, younger generations are quicker to come out and claim their identity. But while diversity in television has grown rapidly, film is still slow to follow. This is especially true of large tentpole films like those in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which are designed to appeal to as broad an audience as possible.

Big movies like these often hinge on big star power to sell them, and almost all the actors who reside on the coveted A-list are straight white men (mostly named Chris). But these actors get on the A-list because studios are hesitant to hire openly queer actors, which means they are often relegated to smaller roles or television. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy on the part of the studio system: not casting queer (or any marginalized group-take your pick) actors and then bemoaning that there are no queer bankable actors to cast.

Currently, there are a handful of queer actors playing superheroes in big studio films: Ezra Miller plays The Flash and Amber Heard, who plays Mera are both in the DCEU. Ellen Page came out in 2014, the same year that she reprised her role as Kitty Pryde in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The only out actor with a leading role in the MCU is Tessa Thompson (who came after the film’s release) as Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok.

colton haynes

(Colton Haynes as Arsenal on The CW’s Arrow image: The CW)

As for the small screen, queer actor Ruby Rose is set to play Batwoman on the CW, after producers stated that they wanted a queer actor to play the iconic queer character. Colton Haynes, who played Arsenal on Arrow, is also out. It also begs the question as to what has a bigger impact on queer representation: queer actors or queer characters? Does an out hero like Sara Lance or Alex Danvers matter more than a queer actor playing a straight role? And for that matter, how important is it to cast queer actors in queer roles?

Ideally we should live in a world where queer actors can be queer with no detriment to their career, and queer characters are prevalent across all platforms. Not surprisingly, these are changes that must come from the people in power. Greg Berlanti, an out gay man, is the producer behind the Arrowverse shows. He hires queer writers and producers, who then integrate queer characters into the narrative. Is it any surprise then, that there is queer representation on every single Arrowverse show?

Marvel, meanwhile, has struggled with queer representation both in their casting and in their characters. This is ironic, as the label has a deep bench of queer characters to pull from, like Iceman, America Chavez, and Northstar, to name a few. There were references to Valkyrie’s bisexuality in Thor: Ragnarok as well as Okoye’s queerness in Black Panther, both of which were not included in the final cut.

As for Marvel’s television presence, there are characters like Karolina Dean in The Runaways, Jeri Hogarth in Jessica Jones, and Joey Gutierrez in Agents of SHIELD, all of which are supporting roles.

But things are hopefully changing: Kevin Feige stated this summer that the MCU would be introducing queer characters, saying “Yes, yes, multiple — both ones you’ve seen and ones you haven’t seen.” With Marvel pursuing a more diverse agenda, here’s hoping we’ll get more queer characters and queer actors joining the MCU.

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.

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