We’re starting to see our idea of what superheroes look like change with films like Black Panther, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and Aquaman, but according to Kit Harington, the people who get to play them largely remains the same.
Harington, who was at the Toronto International Film Festival to promote The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, joined castmates Thandie Newton, Emily Hampshire, and director Xavier Dolan in a conversation about queer representation. In some of cinema’s biggest superhero and genre franchises, that representation is practically nonexistent, reduced to subtext expanded upon in the press tour, lessened, or left on the cutting room floor, but Harington highlighted another aspect of the conversation.
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“There’s a big problem, I think, with the idea of masculinity and homosexuality that they can’t somehow go hand in hand,” Harington explained. “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?”
It’s part of a much larger issue. Superhero and genre films are becoming more inclusive, but the perception remains: There’s a certain sameness to many of the male superheroes from their appeal to audiences to the fact that many of them even have the same name. We rarely see LGBTQ actors cast in superhero movies, and when they are cast, they can sometimes be ostracized for it. (Ruby Rose as Batwoman, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, and Ian McKellen as Magneto are exceptions.) The pushback will likely remain, but so does audiences’ desire to see themselves on-screen—and not just from the characters actors may portray.
Improvement is possible, and Newton highlighted how the conversation has changed among athletes who have openly identified as LGBTQ in recent years.
“It is changing, but we have to get behind those changes and keep pushing it,” she added.