• How do you feel about the #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend movement? (AAP)Source: AAP
LGBTQI representation in mainstream film is something that needs addressing, but can flooding the news cycle with less and less likely campaigns have a damaging affect on the ones that might actually be possible?
By
Bianca Soldani

27 May 2016 - 10:12 AM  UPDATED 27 May 2016 - 10:13 AM

Campaigns for LGBTQI representation are important. The growing discussion and support they are receiving in public forums is fantastic, but is there a point at which the increasing trivialisation of fan-based campaigns diminishes the importance of them? 

A lot of attention has been given to #GiveElsaAGirlfriend of late as fans petition Disney to introduce their first gay princess in the much anticipated Frozen sequel.

It’s backed by the firm belief that the representation of LGBTQI characters in mainstream children’s entertainment will have a positive impact on young people who feel like they don’t conform to what is being shown to them as “normal”.

Many Twitter users who have perpetuated the idea have done so by sharing their own personal experiences of wanting to look up to someone like themselves.

In their 2016 Studio Responsibility report, GLAAD (the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) found that Disney - along with Paramount - was the worst performing movie studio in terms of LGBTQI representation with absolutely none of the mouse house's 11 films in 2015 involving any LGBTQI content.  

Even the actress who plays Elsa, Idina Menzel, got behind the movement saying, "I think it’s great. Disney’s just gotta contend with that. I’ll let them figure that out".

Meanwhile this week, there's been a push to #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend which is perhaps more tongue-in-cheek than the Elsa campaign and focuses on the character’s long time bromance with BFF Bucky Barnes that surfaces in the latest Civil War film.

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While there clearly is a lot of love between the pair, the issue with this is that unlike Elsa – who’s sexuality hasn’t been explored at all – the Captain America comics and the first film establish him as heterosexual when he falls in love with a woman.

This idea is further advanced when the character is transplanted decades into the future and forms a romantic attachment to the original woman’s niece.

Frankly, Captain America revealing that he was in fact bisexual or in-the-closet this whole time would have been an easier and probably more believable option than the weird, almost incestual love triangle he now finds himself in, but what’s done is done.

Chris Evans, who plays the fictional war hero, has largely skirted around the matter, but says that a love story between his character and Barnes "wouldn’t be so bad" but “it’s just never been part of my approach to the character".

"My subtext didn’t involve that dynamic," he goes on, "I think even with the first Captain America film you see how drawn he is to Peggy Carter. I think in that final scene when I’m putting that plane in the water, he’s far more concerned with not getting to see her again than he is to give his own life."

This isn't a deciding factor for GLAAD however. It says that Marvel "really do have an opportunity... for established characters to have backstories built out that we weren’t aware of."

A more organic option one Twitter user suggests is to introduce a new LGBTQI character. This would give creators every opportunity to include diversity without making it seem forced.

Representation is something that absolutely needs to be addressed and LGBTQI characters should most definitely be introduced into our superhero films, but can flooding the news cycle with less and less likely campaigns have a damaging affect on the ones that might actually be possible?

Shortly after the #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend, another #GiveIronManABoyfriend started which sadly spored the reactionary #StopGayingAllThings which is, predictably, spewing out hate.

On the other hand, social media moves on quickly, and Captain America fans are already turning their focus to the completely unrelated #SayNoToHYDRA movement.

For the benefit of those of you who aren’t already across it, HYDRA is a former Nazi global criminal organisation intent on establishing a totalitarian world order, and in a highly polarising move, Marvel comics have revealed that Captain America is in fact one of their undercover agents - perhaps proving GLAAD's point about unbeknown backstories.

As social media continues to unite like-minded people with such power and vigour, it will hardly come as a surprise when some of these fan-started campaigns start to exert actual influence over film-makers and producers.

#GiveElsaAGirlfriend got so much traction it convinced the show’s lead star to get on board, while elsewhere the nominations for a female 007 agent in the next James Bond installment has called potential candidate Gillian Anderson to arms.

It’s already happened in the case of supernatural medical drama Saving Hope, where writers and producers last month signed a pledge acknowledging the harmful nature of the common lesbian death trope that sees queer characters continually get killed off.

It was sparked by fan backlash in the wake of the death of a character on sci-fi series The 100, that follows on from a spate of similar recent incidents.

In their pledge, Saving Hope say they are "shocked, perplexed and distressed by the epidemic of LGBTQI television characters' deaths" and believe that "every writing room can learn something from this extraordinary and revolutionary moment".

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They add, "We recognise that the LGBTQ community is underrepresented on television, and... that the deaths of queer characters [have] deep psychosocial ramifications.

"We have heard your frustrations, your fears, and your call for meaningful change. And we intend to honour that call."

So it's happened before and there's no reason it can't happen again. It's clear that LGBTQI characters are still getting shut out of our major blockbuster films and that needs to be addressed - my eyes will be firmly on Disney when they finally release Frozen 2 in 2017.

But as for Captain America? Not so much.