Taika Waititi Has A Very Refreshing Approach To LGBTQ Characters

There are a precious few, fleeting moments of queerness in Taika Waititi's "Thor: Love and Thunder," out in theaters now. There is a brief moment when Valkyrie (Tess Thompson) kisses another woman's hand, and she has a conversation later in the film about having lost a girlfriend (unnamed and never seen). The conversation is with Korg (Waititi), who mentions that he has two fathers. In his species — a species of alien rock people — two males mate by melting their rock bodies together in a volcano. One might make the argument that Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) hooking up with Thor's ex-weapon (Mjölnir) has a queer ring to it, but overall, "Thor: Love and Thunder" is underwhelming when it comes to actual queer representation. Reports of the film's gayness have been greatly exaggerated. 

What "Love and Thunder" does possess is a healthy, incidental, unchallenged attitude about queerness that Waititi frequently includes in his work. In the TV series "What We Do in the Shadows," it's constantly mentioned that the male characters have had affairs with other men in the past, and the female lead seduces women. Moreso, the HBO Max pirate show "Our Flag Means Death" foregrounds a romantic relationship between its two male leads, in addition to multiple other queer characters. Waititi has always presented these queer relationships as unchallenged and natural parts of the worlds in which they take place. There is little queerness in "Love and Thunder," but it's merely accepted by all the characters. 

In an interview with IndieWire, Waititi elucidated on his open attitudes toward queerness, and his conscious effort to make queer representation look and feel as natural as possible. 

Queerness on the high seas

Waititi often takes advantage of an opportunity to include queer characters in his work, most notably in his genre TV shows. This is something he seems to take a small amount of pride in, happy to write worlds where queer people's relationships are not only not stigmatized, but are normal to the point of being incidental. No one cares who's gay or who's not in a Waititi project:

"What I love about [Our Flag Means Death] is that it's so normalized. No character ever says, 'I can't believe they're gay.' They can't believe those two characters got together, that's all. Who would've believed they'd get together? But it's just a given that there's queerness on the high seas. And in this film, more importantly, what we did with my character Korg — who talks about the relationships that the Kronans have — or Valkyrie, who's bi.

While there is a certain amount of open queer representation throughout media — queer indie films are made on the regular, "Queer as Folk" was just rebooted — queer representation has been slow to enter gigantic, mainstream, four-quadrant entertainments like the MCU movies. Very occasionally, a gentle kiss may be featured (One of the Eternals kissed his husband), but most of the characters in the MCU appear to be cisgender and heterosexual. With an ever-expanding universe that includes talking trees, gestating deities, interdimensional doppelgängers, and the like — potentially introducing the world to genders and sexualities heretofore unknown — perhaps outmoded notions of gender and sexuality need to be dramatically rethought. 

What young queer people will see

Waititi admits that the title character of "Thor: Love and Thunder" isn't one of the queer ones — indeed, that he represents the same kind of straight/white/male physical ideal that most 70-year-old superheroes do — but having queer characters in a film of this visibility is still something of a positive move. It seemed important to Waititi to have Thor himself be accepting of all genders and sexualities: 

"It's the idea that these things just are, in a Marvel film, in a mainstream film that young, queer people will see. They'll watch this film and be like, oh, it's a Thor film about a heterosexual, very Aryan-looking space Viking, but there are other characters in there and it's normalized. No one bats an eyelid and there's no monologue about it. Nobody ever stands up and says 'This is okay!' It just is okay. I think that's very important. It's the same thing with the first time people saw a female superhero. It's just so normal now. It's so cool because kids can see this stuff and feel like even in these tiny moments in a giant film like this, at least there's something that's making them feel seen."

So there will be no scenes of Thor kissing another man on the mouth in "Love and Thunder," and Valkyrie's ex-girlfriend will have to remain abstract for the time being, but even working with an enormous corporate machine like Disney still allows a relatively progressive filmmaker like Waititi to insert queer content around the margins.

It's not a huge part yet, but queerness is still a part of the MCU.