When Robert Downey Jr. debuted as Tony Stark in the first Iron Man film, his reputation at the time painted him as an almost washed-up actor desperate for a second chance. Today, many A-listers want to get a Marvel movie to round-out their superstar portfolios. Over the decade since the MCU debuted, superhero movies became a path to major celebrity. In the early days of Catwoman and Daredevil, superhero films were where actors went to shoot their careers in the foot. Superfan directors and producers like Joss Whedon, Kevin Feige, and Zach Snyder helped right the ship that conventional Hollywood leaders crashed into the rocky shores repeatedly. It’s with all this context in mind that we turn to a new interview with Twilight sensation and actor Kristen Stewart.
In the world of celebrity profile, the “romance” angle gets a lot of focus. Stewart dated both men and women. Writers on the sex-gossip beat remain befuddled by this, especially since the actor didn’t make a statement declaring herself to be straight, gay, bi, or pansexual. That it’s no one’s business, really, didn’t seem to enter into anyone’s minds. While discussing this with the UK Harper’s Bazaar, she made a revelation about how her relationships affected those meant to advise her career.
From Harpers Bazaar UK:
“She accepts that she has become a sort of standard-bearer for that ambiguity. But she doesn’t mind. If she can make the conversation about sexuality easier for anyone, she’s happy. She also couldn’t care less about the impact any of this might have on her career. In the past, she says, ‘I have fully been told, ‘If you just like do yourself a favour, and don’t go out holding your girlfriend’s hand in public, you might get a Marvel movie.‘‘ She looks almost amused at the memory. ‘I don’t want to work with people like that.’”
Naturally, many fans took to social media to express outrage at Marvel for such a pronouncement.
Did Marvel Really Not Want to Hire Out LGBT People?
Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr
While there certainly is no directive saying LGBT actors can’t get a Marvel movie role. They certainly took their time putting LGBT characters on screen, however. It wasn’t until Avengers: Endgame that an explicitly LGBT character appeared in the film. (And it was a cameo from director Joe Russo, who happens to be straight.) Tessa Thompson, who personally identifies as bisexual, is (retroactively) playing Marvel’s first LGBT character, and other actors in subsequent movies and forthcoming ones also identify somewhere on the LGBT+ spectrum. Again, there are probably more but it’s really none of our damn business.
The question at hand, however, is if this is some sort of unspoken rule about superhero movies. Perhaps whoever told this to Stewart just happened to be caught up in outdated thinking about the perception of LGBT actors in the business. These are the same people who thought superheroes were just for children and adults with arrested development. Yet, it’s possible that some people who thought that way happened to work for Disney or the MCU. That anyone said this to Stewart is a sad reflection of prevailing cultural attitudes about someone’s personal life. Yet, even if this does represent a systemic problem, it’s one Marvel’s actively trying to fix.
The Future Diversity of Marvel Movies
Image by Bago Games via Flickr
Many superhero characters have an advantage at the box office. Many existed so long in the comics that entire generations grew up with these characters. Yet, that also means that the artists who created these characters worked in a time when all of the characters almost had to be Caucasian. Sure there were outliers, like Black Panther, but the vast majority of the marquee names are historically portrayed as white. (Though, since they are fictional and magic, there is no reason there couldn’t be a black Batman or black Superman, etc.) Still, now that they are the pop culture powerhouse of the moment, Marvel is able to take bigger risks on unknown characters or by recasting them. Marvel Studios’ executive vice-president of production Victoria Alonso recently said that increasing diversity is a major priority for the studio.
Yes, there is the cynical business angle. Both Captain Marvel and Black Panther made nearly two-and-a-half billion dollars combined. This proves audiences will pay to see movies starring someone other than a white male. However, the company also seems to understand that people want superhero characters who “look like” them. Kids who grew up knowing the struggle of blond boys always getting to play Luke Skywalker understand it plenty.
Still, what do you think? Did her relationships prevent Kristen Stewart from getting a Marvel movie? Tell us in the comments below or by sharing the article on social media.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.