This post contains minor spoilers about one scene in Avengers: Endgame. Be warned.
Early on in Avengers: Endgame, the superhero film that shattered box office records over the weekend, there's a brief scene in which Captain America (Chris Evans) is in a support group. The group is for survivors of the finger snap by villain Thanos in last year's Avengers: Infinity War, the one that killed half of all living things, so that they can commiserate and grieve for their loved ones.
In the scene, a character played by co-director Joe Russo mentioned that he had recently gone on his first date following the deaths, and that the date was with another man. This is, per Deadline, the very first use of an out LGBTQ character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which consists of more than 20 films.
"Representation is really important," Joe Russo told Deadline in an interview. "It was important to us as we did four of these films, we wanted a gay character somewhere in them. We felt it was important that one of us play him, to ensure the integrity and show it is so important to the filmmakers that one of us is representing that." He added that diversity and inclusion is a big part of the plans for the MCU in its post-Avengers era.
Audiences have had varying opinions on the inclusion of the scene. Some have praised the film for that representation.
"They thought something was important to do, and they did it," a Twitter user tweeted in a discussion about the controversy. "As a gay man, I certainly wasn't looking for representation in the Avengers films, but the fact that they cared enough to try in a non-grandstanding way means SOMETHING."
In addition to those who disapprove of a gay character for traditionalist or bigoted reasons, others were underwhelmed by the first LGBTQ MCU character being a non-superhero, and indeed a character who's given no significant backstory or even a first name. He's a character who doesn't exactly stand out, in a film with dozens and dozens of characters, many of them played by huge movie stars."While the scene features a gay character in a casual, realistic way, it also feels tokenistic," The Daily Dot wrote of the scene. "After years of demands for LGBTQ representation, Marvel responded with a new character whose entire role is to be visibly gay for 90 seconds."
The controversy recalls the one in another Disney movie, the 2017 Beauty and the Beast remake, in which the character of LeFou (Josh Gad) was depicted as gay, both having a not-so-subtle crush on Gaston (Luke Evans) and dancing with another man in one of the later scenes. That effort, which was described by the director as a Disney movie's first "exclusively gay moment," was similarly praised by some and criticized as either inappropriate or inadequate by others.
Whatever the controversy, it hasn't stopped Avengers: Endgame from earning over $1 billion at the global box office in its opening weekend.