"Eternals" Featured The First Queer MCU Superhero, And Kit Harington Said It's A "Big Reason" Why He Joined The Film After Previously Calling Out Marvel For Its Lack Of Inclusion

    "As a hardcore LGBTQ+ MCU fan, seeing them kiss on the big screen really meant a lot, and I couldn't stop crying."

    Spoiler alert: This post contains details about Eternals, so if you haven't seen it yet, proceed with caution!!!

    With Eternals now in theaters, Marvel has officially (and finally) introduced its first LGBTQ superhero in the franchise.

    Eternals characters standing in line

    The Chloé Zhao–directed film — which follows Earth's first immortal superhumans — features Eternal weapons-maker Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), along with his husband, Ben (Haaz Sleiman), and their son, Jack (Esai Daniel Cross). Eternals also includes a meaningful interaction and onscreen kiss between the couple, which many hailed as important and much-needed representation.

    Poster of Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos

    While the comics on which the MCU is based have been leagues ahead in terms of queer inclusion, "that content has often been minimized or entirely erased when it comes to adapting those stories for the big screen," according to GLAAD's director of entertainment research and analysis, Megan Townsend.

    Brian as Phastos in a bow tie and glasses

    Which brings us to why this is also a major achievement for the MCU: Despite making edits in previous movies that cut out queer storylines, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and other executives held firm to the inclusion of Phastos's family — even as the movie remains banned in countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar, where being LGBTQ is illegal.

    Kevin Feige, in an Eternals cap, on the Eternals red carpet

    After local censors in the Gulf countries requested that certain edits be made, Disney refused. Speaking to Variety, Haaz — who is gay and of Lebanese descent — said he was emotional at Disney's response to the ban. "They stood their ground and said, 'Nope, we are not going to compromise the integrity of our film.' It made these Arab countries look so ignorant and pathetic."

    Haaz Sleiman on the Eternals red carpet

    He continued, "I have no respect for those governments. They have displayed to the world that they are not only a disgrace to humanity but to God. Hopefully this will inspire the Saudi people, the Kuwaiti people, and the people in Qatar to fight back."

    Eternals characters including Phastos, Ben, and Jack standing on the grass outside a house

    Star Angelina Jolie also spoke out against the ban. "I’m sad for [those audiences]. And I’m proud of Marvel for refusing to cut those scenes out," she told Australian website News.com.au during a press junket Friday.

    Angelina Jolie on the red carpet with hands in pocket

    According to GLAAD's Studio Responsibility Index, only 10 theatrically released films from eight major studio distributors included LGBTQ characters in 2020, and only 22 of 118 in 2019 — a non-COVID year. Of these 22 films, more than half of the queer characters received less than three minutes of total screentime.

    Battle scene

    "Eternals marks a new path forward for Marvel — expanding the idea of who can be a hero in a way not yet seen in film, especially at the scale or budget of an MCU project," GLAAD said. Already, the franchise is set to increase its LGBTQ inclusion with the introduction of America Chavez, a Latina lesbian hero, in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and the confirmation of Valkyrie's bisexuality as the new ruler of Asgard in Thor: Love and Thunder.

    Deviant from Eternals

    In fact, Kit Harington — who plays Dane Whitman, aka the Black Knight — said Eternals' LGBTQ inclusion was a "big reason" he signed on to the movie. "I'm incredibly proud and happy. I've said before, I don't know why we haven't got LGBTQ+ representation in superhero movies and in this one we do, and that's just so important. I think it is such a moment, and all I can hope is that this is the start of many, many more."

    Kit and Gemma Chan, who plays Sersi, outdoors

    And fans are definitely here for the representation as well:

    The LGBTQ+ representation in #Eternals is unapologetically there front and center. It's not an implicit hint, it's shown and celebrated and there's no way to miss It. As a hardcore LGBTQ+ MCU fan seeing them kiss on the big screen really meant a lot and i couldn't stop crying.

    Marvel Studios / YouTube / Via Twitter: @Targ_Nation

    I’m overjoyed we got an openly gay character with a husband and child on screen AND he was a big part of saving the world. Plus Disney isn’t editing out their kiss and affection for the countries w/homophobic governments. This is a big win in LGBTQ+ in entertainment. #Eternals

    Marvel Studios / Via Twitter: @RodcommaThe

    Massive W from Chloé and Feige for valuing LGBTQ+ representation over money https://t.co/SzAAlU9vsQ

    @DiscussingFilm / Marvel Studios / Via Twitter: @starforcebinary

    Eternals is now playing in theaters!