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    14 Queer Characters Who Got "Straightwashed" Into Heteronormativity By Hollywood

    Riverdale features aliens and organ-stealing cults, but somehow Jughead's asexuality was a bridge too far.

    Have you ever watched a TV show or movie and thought to yourself, "This would be better if it was gayer"? If so, you may be picking up on an unfortunate practice known as "straightwashing."

    Straightwashing is the "practice of portraying non-straight people or characters as straight." Similarly, "ciswashing" refers to portraying people who are canonically trans or non-binary as cisgender.

    Straightwashing can occur in advertising — for example, altering trailers, posters, or other promotional materials to make a movie about a gay relationship appear like it's about a straight one — or within the narrative itself.

    Hans Christian Anderson
    Stocksnapper / Getty Images

    The term can also apply to real life historical figures. Did you know that Hans Christian Andersen was bisexual? I didn't, and if I had, I probably would've enjoyed fairy tales way more.

    These 14 characters were queer in their original incarnations, but by the time they reached mainstream audiences, they'd become...suspiciously heterosexual.

    1. Jughead Jones — Riverdale

    The CW / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Back in 2016, Jughead Jones (the comic book character) was confirmed as asexual. Despite the fact that Cole Sprouse — the actor who plays Jughead in the TV adaptation Riverdaleadvocated for the character to remain asexual on the show, ultimately TV Jughead was written as allosexual (i.e., a person who experiences sexual attraction).

    2. Okoye and Ayo — Black Panther

    Marvel / Courtesy Everett Collection

    In the original comics, Ayo has a romantic relationship with a fellow female warrior, Aneka. Fans were looking forward to seeing a lesbian romance in a Marvel movie, but their hopes were dashed following rampant speculation about the meaning of a flirtatious look between Okoye and Ayo in the film's trailer. A Marvel spokeperson released a statement clarifying that, "The nature of the relationship between Danai Gurira’s Okoye and Florence Kasumba’s Ayo in Black Panther is not a romantic one.”

    3. Idgie and Ruth — Fried Green Tomatoes

    Idgie and Ruth in front of their cafe
    Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Despite this film's glaring absence of gay characters, it's still "a lesbian classic." In the original novel — Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg — the relationship between main characters Idgie and Ruth is explicitly romantic, but what was obvious in the novel became mere subtext in the film. However, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) still gave the movie its award for the film with the best lesbian content in 1992, even though the women's onscreen relationship is (technically) platonic. During his director's commentary, Jon Avnet referred to an iconic food fight scene between Idgie and Ruth as a "love scene."

    4. Mystique — X-Men Franchise

    Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique
    20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Despite the fact that she is bisexual in the comics, and is a part of a franchise that "love[s] to traffic in gay metaphors," there has never been a bisexual Mystique onscreen. Neither mention of Mystique's sexuality nor her long-term female partner Destiny has made it to the multiplex...yet.

    5. John Constantine/Hellblazer — Constantine

    the titular detective
    NBC / Courtesy Everett Collection

    In the DC comics, detective and occultist John Constantine (aka Hellblazer) is bisexual, but in this NBC series, he was rewritten as heterosexual. In 2014, executive producer Daniel Cerone "suggest[ed] his sexuality is not a crucial aspect of the character," and said that since most of Constantine's relationships had been with women, "maybe 20 years from now" is when they'd consider showing him romantically involved with a man. That timeframe was probably a little too generous, as the show lasted only one season before being cancelled in 2015.

    6. Deadpool — Deadpool

    20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Though actor Ryan Reynolds has praised the depiction of Deadpool's pansexuality in the comics, and said that he would be happy for the character to have an onscreen boyfriend, so far, the nods towards the anti-hero's attraction towards men have been "handled with a wink rather than occupying a major plot line." That being said, if you need more than a wink, there is a lesbian relationship in Deadpool 2, one which Wade heartily approves of.

    7. Celie — The Color Purple

    Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Celie, the main character of Alice Walker's 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, was based on Walker's grandmother, who following a lifetime of abuse "was not attracted to men." Director Steven Spielberg was criticized for significantly toning down Celie's love affair with her abusive husband's mistress in the 1985 film adaptation. By his own admission, Spielberg "took something that was extremely erotic and very intentional, and I reduced it to a simple kiss." In the same interview, Spielberg stated that he would not change this if he were to remake the film today.

    8. Lou Mazzuchelli — Rise

    NBC / Via

    This musical drama only lasted one season on NBC, but it managed to attract controversy in its brief existence for the straightwashing of its protagonist, high school theater director Lou Mazzuchelli. Rise was based on a nonfiction book by Michael Sokolove called Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater. Lou Volpe, the real-life director at the center of the story, is a gay man who was closeted for much of his life, but in Rise, his character became "definitively straight." You can read an interview with Volpe here.

    9. Harley Quinn — Suicide Squad

    Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Harley was technically confirmed in Birds of Prey as bisexual — just like she is the comics, and can I just say, kudos to comic book artists and writers! They're really ahead of the representation curve here — but the moment was so brief that it was more of a mere whisper of bisexuality rather than, you know, an actual aspect of her life and identity. (In an animated montage about her early life, Harley references previous heartbreaks, and one of the three exes is a woman.) But in Suicide Squad, Harley is wholly characterized through her relationship with the male Joker. Like all these comic book properties, it's possible that in her next appearance, queer audiences will get more than scraps...but so far, so little. That being said, the animated series Harley Quinn features a critically acclaimed romance between Harley and Poison Ivy!

    10. Achilles and Patroclus — Troy

    Brad Pitt as Achilles
    Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Though the romantic relationship between Greek heroes Achilles and Patroclus was "one subject to much speculation through the ages," this film is so eager to discount that interpretation that it makes the pair cousins. In a review in The Guardian, historian Alex von Tunzelmann writes, "No gods and no gay men. You've got to wonder why they bothered making a film about ancient Greece in the first place."

    11. Most of the cast — Pride

    Pride movie posts
    CBS Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Pride (2014) tells a true story of activism and solidarity: In Thatcher-era Britain, miners from across the country went on strike, and they found a surprising source of support in Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, an organization led by gay activist Mark Ashton. Even though the vast majority of the characters are queer, it was somehow straightwashed anyways. On the covers of the U.S. DVDs, all references to the LGBTQ+ community were erased, with a banner proclaiming the group's name removed and the blurb edited to describe the "queer agitators" as “simply a group of London-based activists.” Given that pride is quite literally at the thematic center of the film, people were unimpressed.

    12. The Real Leaders of the Stonewall Riots — Stonewall

    Roadside Attractions / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Stonewall, a historical drama about the pivotal moment in the American LGBTQ+ rights movement, got trashed by critics and viewers alike from the moment its first trailer dropped. While the real 1969 riots were "largely incited by drag queens and trans women of color and lesbians," Stonewall invented a white cisgender hero to place at the center of its story, and portrayed real-life leader Marsha P. Johnson as "comic relief." The movie currently has a 9% score on Rotten Tomatoes, with the critics consensus reading, in part, "it's offensively bad."

    13. Paul — Breakfast at Tiffany's

    Paul and Holly enjoy a drink and a cigarette together
    Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    In Truman Capote's 1958 novella, the unnamed narrator — Paul in the 1961 movie — is "very much a reflection of Capote himself" and his relationship with alluring party girl Holly Golightly is "decidedly platonic." In keeping with the censorship standards of Hollywood at the time, the Motion Picture Production Code, screenwriter George Axelrod "made homosexual Paul into a heterosexual kept man."

    14. Valkyrie — Thor: Ragnarok

    Marvel / Courtesy Everett Collection

    This is an interesting case, in that a scene referencing Valkyrie's bisexuality was filmed, but ultimately cut from the final film. It involved a woman walking out of Valkyrie's bedroom, and was left out because it "distracted from the scene's vital exposition," according to director Taika Waititi. That being said, Valkyrie actress Tessa Thompson was adamant about incorporating the character's bisexuality, and in 2019, Marvel Studios confirmed that Valkyrie would have a LGBTQ+ storyline in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. (Apparently, she needs to "find her queen.") This announcement made Valkyrie the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first LGBTQ+ hero.