Will Runaways Have Marvel's First Onscreen Gay Superhero?
Will 'Runaways' Have Marvel's First Onscreen Gay Superhero?
With Karolina Dean, Marvel has a chance to finally bring their queer heroes to the screen!
Runaways isn’t your typical fare from Marvel. The romping, teen-drama adaption of the popular comic series, now several episodes in on Hulu, is finding its feet as it branches away from its source material.
Created for TV by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (no strangers to teen fare with shows like The O.C. and Gilmore Girls under their belts), the show is building up Marvel’s teen-drama brand, and while no adaption is going to be 100% faithful, Runaways has taken a unique approach in these days of slick leather cat suits and toned down color palettes by embracing the camp and dramatics of comic books head on.
Among the psychic dinosaurs and little girls punching through walls, Karolina Dean’s story line has its own special glow—literally and figuratively. Nothing but some foreshadowing has happened quite yet, but Karolina is gearing up to be one of the first Marvel TV characters to explore their queer identity. While Tessa Thomson’s Valkerie in this year’s Thor: Ragnarok is bisexual, the whole one scene showing it was notoriously cut from the final films’s run time. Had it been kept, it was little more than a wink and a nod, even if it would have been an important one.
Karolina Dean offers a much more in-depth chance to explore sexually identity, and especially how that crashes together with finding out you’re secretly a superhero in those already chaotic teen years. In the comics, Karolina discovers she’s a rainbow glowing alien around the same time she realizes she’s a lesbian crushing hard on her friend and fellow runaway Niko. Although that crush remains unfulfilled, eventually, Karolina finds love with a shapechanging alien named Xavin. While the story line has its issues, it still tackled both sexuality and gender identities head on.
Thus far, the show hasn’t dealt directly with Karolina’s sexuality, but with only seven episodes under its belt, it’s certainly built up to it. Virginia Gardner plays the privileged, blonde model discovering her life isn’t what she expected perfectly. Long soulful stares towards Nico take on a much more meaningful subtext with the knowledge of what canon has coming, as does a scene in episode one where she turns that soulful stare to two woman dancing together at a frat party. It doesn’t seem a coincidence that she discovered her true identity moments later when she removes the bracelet her overly religious parents forced on her, and immediately begins to glimmer in rainbow hues. (If only it was always that obvious in real life!)
The addition of Karolina’s parent’s participation in the cult-like Church of Gibborim is another interesting new wrinkle the TV show is bringing to the table. While a gay girl being framed by religion is nothing new, the Church of Gibborim certainly isn’t putting on your average Sunday service. Karolina’s fear for Destiny, an apparent victim of Gibborim, is tying everything together in different ways than this plotline might be expected to play out.
With only seven episodes available so far, there is still a lot to be seen about where this show is going, and if this is an issue they’ll tackle. As it stands now, it looks like canonical gay superheros aren’t far from being part of the Marvel universe!