Queerbaiting (hinting at, without depicting, a same-sex romance) was rampant in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (TFATWS), but Marvel’s newest Disney+ show, LOKI (2021-) finally gave the representation we needed.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was rampant with queerbating, something Loki thankfully avoided
Malcolm Spellman (Head Writer) of TFATWS queerbaited when speaking with NME saying that “I’m not diving down rabbit holes, but just keep watching” when asked about Bucky’s sexuality while knowing there would be no representation. Kari Skogland (director of TFATWS) did it by including a Tinder and tiger photos scene, only to dismiss any queer undertones.
Meanwhile, Loki has done more for queer representation than anything from the MCU yet. By Episode 3, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia di Martino) were confirmed as bisexual. Sylvie quizzed Loki on his past romances with “Must have been would-be-princesses. Or perhaps another prince?” to which he replied “A bit of both, I suspect the same as you”. And thus the MCU had its first openly LGBTQ+ main character.
It's a beautiful moment that director and executive producer Kate Herron was proud of and tweeted “[Bisexuality] is a part of who [Loki] is and who I am too. I know this is a small step but I’m happy, and heart is so full, to say that this is now canon”. What made the moment even better was that it wasn’t teased by the team behind Loki as they let the moment speak for itself.
But after Episode 3, there were complications for how good Loki's LGBTQ+ representation really was.
The brewing romance between Sylvie and Loki was interesting. Although Tom Hiddleston and Sophia di Martino were excellent and charismatic actors, the characters’ romance did raise the question –Was the MCU taking the easy option of pairing up their male and female-presenting characters? Yes, they're bisexual so their romance works, but Marvel's decision to pair up opposite-sex characters was too predictable.
Having multiple variants of Loki was also the series way of depicting Loki’s genderfluidity, which was canonically confirmed in a promo shot. It’s fantastic Loki confirmed their titular character as genderfluid, but they (arguably) almost undermined it by not presenting genderfluidity as simply a part of who Loki is, but with Loki’s female gender being a separate person entirely. Loki continued to change their internal logic over whether Sylvie is a variant of Loki or a firmly established separate character. Even if Sylvie wants to be known only as Sylvie, the show and most of the characters address her as a Loki. Either way, that isn’t really what genderfluidity means and it’s an awkward relationship to give the franchise’s only openly queer characters.
Overall, Loki’s confirmation as bisexual and genderfluid is an amazing step for on-screen LGBTQ+ representation. Loki was a brilliant offering by the MCU and a second season will hopefully further develop Loki’s queer identity.