The superhero world is steeped in heteronormative stereotypes, with some exceptions. But if studios are going to continue to pump out blockbusters based on these stories, it's time they started to at least try and reflect contemporary culture. In the second big push this month from the Twitter-verse to bring same-sex relationships to the big screen, Marvel fans say they want execs to #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend already, proving that audiences are ready for a change that's long overdue.
Earlier this month, there was a similar campaign to give Elsa, the Frozen heroine, a girl to crush on instead of a prince. While the petition was met with some backlash, for the most part, fans seem enthusiastic. Even actress Idina Menzel, who voices Elsa, is on board.
Elsa, as fans argue, could easily have a girlfriend. Although there's been no official response from Disney, it's not totally dumb to hope that execs will hear how much fans want or need some LGBT characters to adore. (Menzel noted that she'd let the studio "contend" with the issue in a comment to reporters on Sunday.)
On Tuesday, Marvel fans similarly begged the Avengers franchise to give them some same-sex heroes to look up to. And they have a point. One user tweeted that in a land of aliens and people flying, for goodness sake, the fact that a man would love another man isn't exactly the most unrealistic thing ever. Also, according to fans, Captain America already has a man crush (or two). So it should be an easy transition.
I don't want to sound like a cynic and I would love to watch the next Frozen with my two, tiny, female cousins and watch them grow up in a world where one of their favorite Disney characters falls in love with an equally strong woman. But I'm not convinced that either Elsa or Captain America is getting a same-sex love affair anytime soon. We're talking Hollywood, people, a land where bottom lines rule every decision. It might take years for a studio to go all-in on fans' wishes where all love of all kinds rules the world. That there are major Twitter campaigns, and even a star like Menzel, who seems to like the idea publicly, helps. But it's not everything.
Hollywood is also a world where gender and racial stereotypes persist in the most insidious ways. Women don't even get paid the same salary as men. Think about James Bond. When Idris Elba, the sexiest man in the entire world, was reportedly in the running to play the original Most Interesting Man In The World, it was kind of a big deal. Then Anthony Horowitz, the author of the most recent novel, called him "too street" for the role. Go ahead and take a minute to throw up in your mouth.
Women like Gillian Anderson and Priyanka Chopra have also thrown their metaphorical hats into the ring to play Bond, too. Some love the idea. Some hate it. If women or even black men can't play sexy spies, how is Captain America supposed to make out out with another man on screen? (God, I would give everything to watch an Idris Elba James Bond and like, Ryan Gosling villain love affair. But I digress...)
Earlier this month, an all-female Harley Quinn film, based off of the Suicide Squad, was green-lit. Much of the social conversation centered around the idea that Harley and Poison Ivy might finally take their "do-they, don't they" love affair from the comic book pages to the big screen. That is much more likely. Two beautiful, live-action women being romantically involved is a whole lot more probable (in part because it's written into the story already and in part because heterosexual men like to watch two girls get it on in leather bodysuits) than an animated Disney princess or an all-"American" hero falling in love with someone of the same gender.
For some reason, girl-on-girl is a lot more palatable to the America public, even in Disney-land. Television has come around to this notion, in no small way due to Shonda Rhimes taking over ABC, which Disney also oversees, writing some great LGBT characters in, whether it's Grey's Anatomy's lesbian couples or How To Get Away With Murder's HIV plotlines. When it comes to the patriarchal norms of film and TV, we're more likely to get lesbians and multi-racial gay males. If I had to take a bet, the very large part of America (let's not forget that Donald Trump is a Republican frontrunner) would put an end to to Captain America getting all sappy in love with longtime friend Bucky, or fellow Avenger Tony.
It's possible that some of the pushback about a female or black James Bond, or a gay Captain America, has less to do with bigotry than it does a longing to see adaptations stick to the script. I'm a huge "book to movie" geek: The only novel I love that I've seen turned successfully into a film was Fight Club. Don't even get me started on Stanley Kubrick's Clockwork Orange after a few glasses of wine and the right crowd. If comic fans, and I am not one, don't want to see Captain America all of a sudden be gay (although, from minor research, it looks like he could be) or James Bond be female, I could maybe be coerced into seeing that side of things.
But maybe the bigger issue is that we keep watching films based on decades-old stories. Disney has a really good chance with Elsa, since Frozen is a completely new franchise. Or take a leap and commission some new, diverse characters. If the #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend shows anything, it's that most audiences are ready for a change.