Why It Matters That Captain Marvel Is Monica Rambeau’s ‘Aunt Carol’
As a queer geek married to a woman, I understand wanting to read the MCU’s Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) as a member of the Rainbow Mafia. I’d love for Carol and Valkyrie to have a sexy history. And despite what my TMS colleague Kimberly Terasaki said about interpreting certain events in The Marvels “as Carol being bi and in an open relationship, though that reading appears to be less popular in the fandom,” I would like to say it’s very popular with this member of the fandom (who happens to be bi and in an open relationship) because that’s exactly how I read it! However, there’s an element of the criticism of Marvel’s mishandling of queerness that’s been rubbing me the wrong way.
It’s meaningful that “Aunt Carol” isn’t necessarily a euphemism
The stumbling block for many people in the handling of Carol Danvers’ sexuality is her relationship with Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) and her daughter Monica (Akira Akbar) in Captain Marvel. Reading the relationship between Carol and Maria as a romantic one is absolutely legitimate. This makes it so frustrating that Marvel seems content to have characters simply mention their attractions in passing or insinuate a relationship in the most bland, non-physical way possible.
The problem for me comes up when fans use the portrayal of Monica (played as an adult by Teyonah Parris) and Carol’s relationship in The Marvels as “more proof” that Carol is queer. It simply seems “less likely” that Monica would have such strong feelings about Carol being gone if she were just her mother’s friend and just her “aunt.”
I don’t currently have children, and not necessarily by choice. While I hope to be a parent someday, not having children of my own doesn’t mean that I don’t have important relationships with children in my life. My two siblings have two children each, so I am an actual Queer Aunt (or “Titi” in Puerto Rican) of four. In addition, I have four close friends who are my Chosen Family, who all have kids that I’ve been building relationships with for the past several years. They live on the East Coast and I live on the West Coast, so we sadly don’t have the proximity that Carol and Monica might have had in Monica’s youth. But they all know that they have someone in California who loves them desperately, and they know me as “Aunt Teresa.”
When I saw adult Monica’s hurt and anger toward Carol when she confronted her about disappearing for so long, I nearly teared up. I found myself thinking, “I hope that my positive impact on the kids in my life is such that if I stopped being in contact they would care this much.”
So, when I see some fans online talking about how the only way Monica’s response to Carol in The Marvels makes sense is if Carol was more her mom than her aunt? Gotta say, that hurts a bit.
SHOCKER: It’s possible for queer people to matter to kids without being their parents!
There’s a long tradition of the Gay Aunt/Uncle. Of queer folks who love kids, but aren’t necessarily parents themselves, having beautiful, nurturing relationships with other people’s kids, whether blood-related or through chosen family (or in my case, both!).
Carol Danvers doesn’t need to have been Monica’s “other mom” in order for her to matter so much to Monica. Carol can still be queer without having been queer with Maria in particular. I understand and share the frustration with Marvel Studios over being non-committal about LGBTQIA+ characters in the MCU, and people can tell whatever stories they want with these characters in fan fiction.
But to me, it’s much more meaningful and powerful to interpret Monica and Carol’s relationship as Monica having had a close, queer role model in her life who mattered to her. Not because the label on Carol’s relationship with her mother dictated it, but simply because she mattered to her. Monica loved Carol because Carol loved and was invested in Monica, regardless of the nature of her relationship with Maria. That’s a beautiful thing to depict.
As they say, it “takes a village” to raise a child. I am always here for portrayals of relationships between adults and children that show the importance of positive adult influences in children’s lives beyond parents, or even teachers. The network of friends and relatives that parents have around their children can be so important in creating the person that the child will eventually become. Superhero or not.
So, let’s hear it for the Aunties!
(featured image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
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