“Eternals” features first openly gay superhero in Marvel Cinematic Universe

Brian Tyree Henry stars as the openly gay Phastos in “Eternals,” directed by Chloé Zhao.

The latest Marvel film, “Eternals” (opening November 5) is an enjoyable time-hopping, globetrotting action adventure that also spends considerable time developing its characters. What is more, Oscar-winning director/co-writer Chloé Zhao’s film features what may be the most diverse cast in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. The lead is Sersi (Gemma Chan), an Asian woman; among the other Eternals, there are two other Asians — Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani, who has a fun Bollywood dance number) and Gilgamesh (Ma Dong-seok) — as well as a deaf character, Makkari (Lauren Ridloff); a Latina, Ajak (Salma Hayek); and a gay Black man, Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry).

While the plot involves the Eternals’ quest to save humanity, what may be of note is that one of few kisses in the film is between Phastos and his Arab Muslim husband, Ben (out gay actor Haaz Sleiman). When Phastos is contacted to help save the world, he must leave his son Jack (Esai Daniel Cross) and Ben. Interestingly, they are the only established family in the film —  and first seen playing catch in the driveway.

And while Phastos’ superpower is all about developing technology to improve the world, this sensitive gay man feels powerless when events like Hiroshima occur. Phastos is motivated to protect his family, a theme that runs throughout the film as the Eternals also form a chosen family.

Via WhatsApp, Sleiman said that the first same-sex kiss in a Marvel film is important, “Because it can literally save the lives of young queer [people] who are constantly being bullied around the world to the point of suicidal ideation.

Moreover, he applauds director Zhao’s inclusion of queer and diverse characters in her film. “She is a magnificent artist. She managed to make us feel that we are all equally worthy of being [part] of the human race — no matter the color of your skin, gender, ethnicity, culture, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.”

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