Released in 2021, Marvel Studios ‘Eternals’ introduced the MCU’s first gay superhero and featured a same-sex couple in a movie. Large parts of the queer community thought it was “its life-saving”, while homophobes left hate reviews and some countries banned the movie altogether.
Eternals is based on a comic of the same name and is a story about ten superpowered Eternals sent to earth around 7,000 years ago by the Celestial Arishem to eliminate the hostile Deviants. One of them is Phastos, who helps by guiding human civilization through his powers of invention. Seeing the war and hate crimes against humanity, he loses his faith in humanity, which then gets rediscovered when he finds Ben. He ends up getting married to Ben and starting a family with him.
Director Chloé Zhao in an interview, said that Phastos’ husband and family were already a part of the Marvel Studios’ concept when she started talking about the movie with the studio. This apparently helped her “see a way to walk the line between emotionally grounded storytelling and breaking long overdue LGBTQ representation.”
This movie, starring Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, and many other stars, was reportedly banned in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait due to the same-sex couple that was a part of the story. It is the first time a Marvel Studios movie has featured a same-sex couple and also one of the only times a superhero movie has included a queer person as the titular character. Homosexuality is still criminalised across the Gulf, and in Saudi Arabia, even though there are no written laws, LGBT activity is penalised by up to death. In 2020, the Pixar movie Onward was also banned across Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia as it had a single line referencing a lesbian relationship. Movies and pop culture have been hugely dominated by stories about superheroes over the last decade or so, and the global impact queer representation could have had is immense.
Apart from the official stance some countries have taken, MCU fans who were displeased by the gay character in the movie and that it was directed by a woman left harsh reviews even before the release of the movie. IMDb was forced to remove negative reviews and low rankings given out by these homophobic and sexist movie watchers.
Chloé Zhao, the director, who has previously made The Rider and 2020’s multiple Oscar-winning Nomadland, was also hailed for casting an actual deaf actor for the role of Makkari, who is a deaf eternal. The MCU movie’s ensemble cast includes Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie. Eternals is a part of Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is currently streaming on Hotstar in India.