Every Thursday night from Jan. 14 until March 5, I had a ritual.
At 11:59 p.m., I’d lock the door to prevent any potential disturbance, get comfy in my bed and refresh Disney+ until the newest episode of “WandaVision” appeared. I’d hastily click the play button and watch every second as Wanda, or Scarlet Witch, used her magic to create her own reality. This little routine lasted until the series finale. Safe to say, I’m going as Scarlet Witch for Halloween.
I’m a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or the MCU. So, of course, I had to view the newest entry in the series, “WandaVision.” I, along with millions of other fans, gobbled up every episode, discussing it in fan groups online. Together, we’d theorize how the show would end and hope our predictions would come true. “WandaVision” tweets and TikToks flooded my timeline, and you can bet I shared them with my friends.
Over time, I noticed that the LGBTQ+ community, including myself, loved Wanda. I mean, she is a badass with magic powers, so of course I was obsessed. But there is more to her character than that: She embodies the queer experience.
Although Wanda is straight, her character arc mirrors those of many in the LGBTQ+ community. She has unique powers, she’s a witch without a coven and she loses her entire family to the talons of death — similar to the isolation a queer person experiences living in a dominantly heterosexual world.
LGBTQ+ people initially do not understand their identity, and Wanda, too, doesn’t seem to fully understand her powers. She also escapes her reality through the mode of fiction, something I did in my youth. Wanda tries her best to deal with her trauma and depression, a story all too familiar for the LGBTQ+ community.
Why did I feel represented by Scarlet Witch out of all of the characters in the MCU? Why not Iron Man or Black Widow?
As I pondered these questions, it hit me: There was such a lack of queer representation in these superhero franchises that I could only relate to a character’s grief and agony. I was grasping at straws to find the faintest connection between my life and that of a hero.
Out of all of the Marvel films and television series, there are no LGBTQ+ main characters. In the comics, characters such as Valkyrie, Okoye, Deadpool and Iceman are confirmed to be queer, yet the films either never mention this or straight-up change their identities. Not only is this erasure unfaithful to the source material, but it gives the impression that LGBTQ+ people cannot exist in any universe.
These films literally cast a talking racoon, a sentient tree creature and a space Viking god. I’m pretty sure it would be believable to have a gay main character or two.
But the exclusion of LGBTQ+ people in these comic book flicks isn’t limited to the MCU.
Ever since “The Dark Night” and “Iron Man” made superheroes cool, there have been no out queer main characters in the shows and movies. There are hundreds of films but no representation of the LGBTQ+ community. In “Avengers: Endgame”, a very minor character was revealed to be gay, but he was only in the film for one minute and then never seen again. It seemed as if it was a very rushed attempt at representation to prevent backlash.
Marvel will always have a devoted audience, and a lot of them would eat up the first queer superhero. Many fans have already shipped Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, and all “Gay Twitter” can talk about are MCU movies and shows. LGBTQ+ viewers would be running to see a queer main character.
What the MCU also fails to recognize is that a huge chunk of its audience is children. Superheroes are supposed to be role models, representing all of the goodness in the world. The first queer superhero movie would mean so much to struggling LGBTQ+ kids, proving a person just like them can save the day.
Looking back, 10-year-old me would’ve probably accepted myself if a gay man with superpowers flew into my life. My “super depression” would have been defeated by someone in rainbow tights.
Today, “WandaVision” gives me a lot of hope. The series introduces Wanda’s children, Wiccan and Speed, who are canonically queer in the comics. I’m cautiously optimistic, but I think Wiccan and Speed will be some of the first queer heroes on-screen. Although I relate to Wanda, Wiccan and Speed’s story will be more powerful for the LGBTQ+ community because it goes beyond agony and pain. Their queerness is tied to their superhero powers as they struggle to understand themselves and find a place in a world of “normal” humans. Their inclusion in “WandaVision” shows a bright future for LGBTQ+ representation.
As much as I wanted “super-queer-oes” in my youth, I’m glad the film industry is listening to us and a future generation of kids will have representation.
In the meantime, I’ll be rewatching “WandaVision” — and sewing my Scarlet Witch get-up for this October.
Nicholas Clark writes the Monday column on LGBTQ+ issues in media and politics. Contact him at [email protected]