For as long as they have been in print, the plight of Marvel’s mutants has stood as a metaphor for oppressed minorities dealing with prejudice, bigotry, and hatred. The Civil Rights Movement, the Stonewall riots, the current fight for LGBT rights. Parallels to these real-life events can be found sprinkled throughout the 50+ years of X-Men history.
The X-Men, themselves, are not without their own LGBT representation. A minority within a minority, if you will. Jean-Paul Beaubier (Northstar), Xi’an Coy Manh (Karma), Victor Borkowski (Anole), Roxy Washington (Bling!), Shatterstar, Cessily Kincaid (Mercury), and David Alleyne (Prodigy) are just a few.
Perhaps the most notable bisexual character on Marvel’s LGBT roster, Raven Darkholme (Mystique) made her debut within the pages of Ms. Marvel in the 1970s. From there, she would eventually go on to lead an incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and become one of the X-Men’s most infamous adversaries. Ever morally ambiguous, the shapeshifter would also rear an adopted daughter (the future X-Man, Rogue) with her lover, the blind precognitive, Irene Adler (Destiny).
Created by Chris Claremont in 1981 and first appearing in Uncanny X-Men #141, Destiny was intended, from the beginning, to be an intimate companion for Mystique. At that time, however, probibitions against gay/lesbian depictions in comic books were in place by the Comics Code Authority and the villains’ relationship had to be presented in a very subtle manner, often labeled only as “friends”. The original plans to have Nightcrawler be a biological child to both women (with Mystique shapeshifting into a man for the conception) had to be scrapped.
It wasn’t until long after Irene’s death on Muir Island, at the hands of Legion, that the true nature of her relationship with Mystique was fleshed out and fully awknowledged. At Northstar’s wedding, Rogue would even make it a point to wonder if her childhood would’ve been different had her mothers been allowed to marry.
To date, Mystique has appeared in five of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men films, portrayed by both Rebecca Romijn and Jennifer Lawrence. While her questionable allegiances and motives are fairly true to her comic book counterpart, her sexuality has barely been touched upon (it was implied that she and Magneto had been schtupping).
X-Men: Days of Future Past is Bryan Singer’s return to mutant cinematic universe. Loosely based on the two-part Uncanny X-Men story of the same name, the basic premise sees Wolverine time-traveling back to the 1970s to prevent the birth of the Sentinel program by stopping the assassination of Bolivar Trask at the hands of Mystique. A glaring difference between the two depictions is that, while Mystique works alone in her attempts to murder Trask in the film, her entire Brotherhood, including Destiny, aims for the target (Sen. Robert Kelly) in the original storyline. In fact, Irene is the last member of the team to make an attempt on the Senator’s life.
While this may not seem like an enormous deal to most viewers, some fans could be left questioning whether or not Fox just fumbled a perfect opportunity to include LGBT representation into the X-Men cinematic universe.
Mystique scatters Destiny’s ashes at sea. Destiny still gets the last word.
With the size of the cast already busting at the seams, it was quite clear that adding an entire Brotherhood of Evil Mutants was highly improbable from the start. Focusing on Mystique as an antagonist is not necessarily a bad idea. It helps establish a distinct development that was necessary to show how the character evolved, following the events of First Class, to become the woman we remember from X2.
With that in mind, including Irene Adler could still have easily worked in a different capacity and, with the amount of time that passed between First Class and Days of Future Past, the organic development of a relationship between Raven and Irene is not beyond the realm of plausibility. Not only would this have humanized the character of Mystique and allowed the audience to view her as more than just a mutant terrorist, it would have also added an extra layer to the motives behind her contentious actions throughout the series.
In essence, Days of Future Past, is a film about the “butterfly effect”. The slightest interactions by Wolverine and co. with the past can drastically and continuously alter the events of the future. The character of Destiny would have been an interesting liaison, of sorts, to the changes befalling the future timeline, randomly updating the characters as to their actions’ repercussions on the time stream.
Fox and the X-Men film franchise are not alone when it comes to lacking in LGBT representation. Despite a handful of gay/lesbian characters in its ranks, the Avengers have yet to really venture into that territory within their cinematic universe. Lesbian H.A.M.M.E.R./S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Victoria Hand, who was featured during Brian Michael Bendis’ tenure on Dark Avengers, appeared briefly in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series before being killed off after four episodes. Little development of the character was done before her subsequent demise and viewers would have no knowledge of her sexuality if they were unfamiliar with her comic book appearances.
With the number of LGBT comic book characters increasing, it seems, by the year, one can’t help but wonder how long it will be before the respective cinematic universes begin to follow suit. Including gay/lesbian diversity in these films is not a recipe for box office disaster and the throngs of queer fans at any number of comic book conventions can attest to that.