Why Is Captain Marvel’s Sexuality a Mystery?

Is it erasure or irrelevant?

If you’re a superhero movie fan, you might have noticed that in every origin story, the main superhero gets a love interest and/or a backstory that reveals a past love interest—except for Captain Marvel.

As played by Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson in the blockbuster film Captain Marvel, military air pilot Carol “Vers” Danvers becomes the energy-generating superhero Captain Marvel after a freak accident, and she’s a no-nonsense warrior who shows her greatest passion in her fight scenes. But in the film, there’s not even a hint of what her romantic interests are in the past or present, which might have people wondering what her true sexuality is.

Is Captain Marvel’s mysterious sexuality fascinating because it’s open to interpretation, or is it annoying because her sexual identity is erased?

You might remember how Avengers: Age of Ultron writer/director Joss Whedon got dragged on the Internet for how he handled a potential romance between Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson) and the Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo). In the movie, the Hulk/Bruce Banner nixed her idea that they get romantically involved because the Hulk was concerned about biological issues in starting a family. The Black Widow/Hulk relationship in Avengers: Age of Ultron sparked intense debates about feminist power in sexuality and how it should be portrayed in superhero movies. It seems like Marvel Studios didn’t want to take any chances in repeating this controversy with Captain Marvel, the studio’s first movie centered on a female superhero.

Marvel Studios

Captain Marvel was directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who both co-wrote the screenplay with Geneva Robertson-Dworet. The Captain Marvel character will be in several movies—the next is Avengers: Endgame—so if you’re wondering how Captain Marvel’s sexuality might play out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, here’s some background info to ponder:

Comic-Book Origins

In many ways, Captain Marvel is the polar opposite of Wonder Woman, the biggest female superhero for DC Comics. The Wonder Woman comic-book character, which first appeared in 1941, was inspired by the real-life, BDSM three-way relationship that Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston (aka Charles Marston) had with his wife and their female lover. (The 2017 dramatic film Professor Marston and the Wonder Women told that story.)

Marvel Comics’ Captain Marvel (not to be confused with Fawcett Comics’ Captain Marvel) was created in 1967 by writer Stan Lee and artist Gene Colan. Throughout the years in Marvel Comics, the Captain Marvel title has been held by several male and female characters, including an openly gay male. Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel debuted in 2012 from writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Dexter Soy.

Clothes matter in telling who a character is. In the movies and in the comics, Wonder Woman’s superhero costume shows her cleavage and bare legs. Her superhero bracelets and lariat are Marston’s homage to the BDSM lifestyle that he had with his queer female lovers. When Wonder Woman (who’s played in the movies by Gal Gadot) is not dressed as a superhero, she’s Diana Prince, who’s usually dolled up as a seductive-looking spy.

Captain Marvel’s superhero costume is also skin-tight, but she’s fully covered up, and she wears her costume like a suit of armor. When she’s not in her superhero outfit, she prefers wearing jeans and T-shirts of bands like Guns N’Roses and Nine Inch Nails.

Marvel Studios

Social Circle and Leisure Activities
In Captain Marvel, which is set in the 1990s, Carol Danvers can’t remember most of her past, but she gets some flashbacks. We see that Carol likes to do karaoke and hang out in bars with her best friend and fellow pilot Maria Rambeau (played by Lashana Lynch). Carol’s other close relationship is with colleague/mentor Supreme Intelligence, also known as Mar-Vell (played by Annette Bening).

When it comes to dating or showing an interest in romance, Carol can’t be bothered, at least in the Captain Marvel origin movie. In the parking lot of a strip mall, a scruffy guy on a motorcycle flirts with her, and she tries to ignore him. When he goes in a store, she ends up stealing his motorcycle. Her relationships are strictly professional with almost all the supporting characters in the movie, including Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson) and Yon-Rogg (played by Jude Law).

The only adult whom Carol is openly affectionate with is best friend Maria, a single mom of a pre-teen daughter named Monica. (The kid calls Carol an “aunt.”) Are the loving glances that Carol and Maria exchange in the movie just friendship or something more? And should Carol Danvers’ sexual identity be revealed in the movies?

If you see Captain Marvel, out now, you can draw your own conclusions.

Writer and editor whose work has appeared in AXS.com, Examiner.com, Lifetime, People, and Billboard.