By Hannah Olesen
In 2021 the LGBTQ community was happy to see the first on-screen gay couple making headway in the Marvel movie titled, Eternals. Contrary to popular belief, this is not the first time a gay character has been introduced into the marvel universe. At the end of Avengers Endgame, there was a support group meeting after the snap or blip, and that included a man talking about his partner and how they’ve been dealing with the loss. They have put out statements apologizing for their lack of diversity in the past, and I think they are going to do a better job at it in the coming future.
That being said, the character, Phastos played by Brian Tyree Henry, had very little screen time compared to other characters and even less with his partner. It is still a major milestone for the LGBTQ community to have its first openly gay superhero, but I was expecting there to be more of a focus on his character. Instead, it almost felt like Marvel wanted to put all their eggs in one basket, so to speak, as far as diversity goes, and thus was unable to give enough screen time to all the new superheroes.
I regrettably have to agree with the scathing critique reviews. Eternals had one too many cast members and couldn’t put the focus on each of them the way they deserved. However, I do not agree with some statements made that Marvel “tried too hard to be inclusive.” I felt that people may not be used to the level of representation in Eternals, which clouded some of the judgment from the critiques. Still, there was a lot to unpack in a short amount of time, in regards to the storyline, which is where I think the movie fell short. I felt that if the movie were cut in two, then more attention and representation could have been made, and the plotline could have had a chance to grow as well as character arcs and storylines.
What I thought was well done about Phasto’s partner Ben was his benefit to the plotline. Similar to Dan, who was the token heterosexual love interest, Ben was Phasto’s connection to the human world, but differently from Dan, Ben changed Phasto’s mind about humans. In a flashback, we are taken to a scene in Hiroshima where an atomic bomb has destroyed the city, an invention Phasto’s technology helped build. Phastos after this no longer believes in humanity and thinks of the humans as, “Not worth saving,” but Ben changes that, and Phastos builds a family with him. This inciting action allows the team to recruit Phastos in saving the human race and Earth. I would say that is an important piece of the plot, which is why I wish I saw more of Phastos and his family. Witnessing that change in him from the love he had with Ben could’ve been an integral part of his character arc that was grossly overlooked. One could even argue that it is due to Marvel not wanting to give too much attention to his love interest. They did however include a kiss scene so Marvel gets points for that.
I thought Phastos’ character, although underdeveloped like the others, was still an interesting character that was way more than his label. Marvel made sure not to play into any stereotypes, and even with his short screen time, he battled complex moral beliefs surrounding family and was beloved by the other members of the team. Phasto’s was the team’s brain and even at times brawn. He used his amazing mind to build technology that was ultimately the reason Earth was saved, making him a pretty important character by the end.
I am impressed with the inclusivity Marvel has begun to show in their upcoming movies. My hope is that this is not the end but just the very beginning of a long line of superheroes who not only defend everyone equally but represent them as such.