Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers for Eternals.
I am being completely genuine when I say I loved Eternals. I went in with low expectations, but the film captured a sense of cosmic majesty and depth that Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have never touched before. If Phase 4 of the MCU is letting the films get as weird as the comics, then Eternals displayed that beautifully.
But one of my favorite parts was seeing the MCU's first gay couple on the big screen.
Eternals is the latest theatrical installment in the MCU. The film follows the titular Eternals, a race of ageless beings with special abilities who came to Earth thousands of years ago and secretly helped humanity evolve and develop. While they eventually split up throughout the course of history, present day (and post-Blip life) sees them come together once more in the face of the resurgence of monsters known as Deviants, and the subsequent death of one of their own.
While its diverse ensemble cast already earns it points in my book, one of my favorite Eternals is Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), and witnessing the life he carves out for himself with his gay lover and the son they raise together is an enormous leap foward for LGBTQ+ representation.
Phastos makes MCU history as part of the first gay couple in the movies.
Phastos is the Eternals' tech expert. Millennia ago, he was tasked with providing humanity with the tools they needed to advance as a society. Even after the Eternals split up over conflicting ideologies about how best to help humans, he continued helping them develop new technology. However, he began to have his own doubts about helping humans evolve in the midst of their penchant for war, and they came to a head after his advancements led to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.
Since then, he left humanity to its own devices and refused to continue helping them. But despite having lost faith in humanity, he found it again after some time.
In present day, the Eternals enlist Phastos's help in stopping the Emergence, the process of birthing a new omnipotent Celestial that would result in Earth's destruction. In his absence, Phastos found a loving relationship with a man named Ben (Haaz Sleiman), and the two of them raise a son named Jack (Esai Daniel Cross).
This marks the first time that a big-screen MCU male hero is depicted in a romantic relationship with another man. After more than 12 years of cinematic storytelling and even amidst the divisive reaction to the film, Phastos's gay portrayal is an affirming and historical moment with regards to LGBTQ+ representation in one of the most popular film franchises in the world.
Surprisingly enough, Phastos isn't the first example of LGBTQ+ representation in the MCU at large. In the eponymously-named Disney Plus series, Loki, the MCU's Loki Laufeyson was confirmed to be bisexual in Season 1 Episode 3, "Lamentis." And in Marvel's Runaways on Hulu (Remember Runaways? No one does.), superpowered teens Nico Minoru (Lyrica Okano) and Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner) became involved in a romantic lesbian relationship during Season 2.
That being said, Phastos and Ben are the first gay couple in the MCU to appear on the big screen. In theaters everywhere (and to the tune of a $161.7 million opening weekend), the romance between two men was displayed with all the subtlety and nuance that LGBTQ+ characters deserve in a blockbuster superhero movie.
I clapped in the theater when they kissed. I was the only one who did. And I would do it again.