"Loki" identifies the God of Mischief as gender-fluid in much-needed, MCU queer representation

Queer audiences deserve more meaningful representation than throwaway hints and glimpses

Published June 8, 2021 5:38PM (EDT)

Tom Hiddleston as Loki (Disney+/Marvel Studios)
Tom Hiddleston as Loki (Disney+/Marvel Studios)

Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) are no strangers to Easter eggs, and they found a particularly exciting one in a new "Loki" teaser, ahead of the Disney+ series' premiere on Wednesday. In the teaser, Loki's sex is marked as "fluid," all but confirming what many fans have been speculating about for years. Loki, after all, is a frequent shape-shifter, who has often assumed the form of women — including a female character called Lady Loki in the Marvel Comics.

The confirmation of a beloved MCU character's gender fluidity is exciting, but still barely counts as visibility. It's crucial for queer audiences to receive more meaningful representation than throwaway hints and glimpses. A real win would be Loki's identity actually playing a role in the story, not unlike how Sam Wilson's (Anthony Mackie) Blackness plays a decisive role in his experience becoming Captain America in "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier." Now that the MCU is increasingly embracing the inextricable power of identity in any superhero story, why stop at "Loki"?

"Loki" will follow the adventures of titular character Loki (Tom Hiddleston), God of Mischief and brother of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), in the aftermath of Loki's almost blink-and-you-miss-it storyline in "Avengers: Endgame." 

After being killed by Thanos within the opening minutes of "Avengers: Infinity War," the 2012 version of Loki escapes into the unknown when the Avengers travel back in time to the events of the first Avengers movie in pursuit of the infinity stones. While much of the storyline of "Loki" remains a mystery, Loki's character will finally be developed independent of his relationship with Thor and the others, while giving MCU fans their first glimpse into the ever-expanding multiverse unleashed by "Endgame."

Prior to this glimpse from the upcoming Disney+ series, the Marvel Comics have also alluded to Loki as gender fluid, and even pansexual. As Comicbook has reported, in "Original Sin 5.5" from 2014, Loki's father Odin speaks of his children — Thor, Angela and Loki — by referring to them as, "My children. My son and my daughter and my child who is both." In the graphic novel "Loki: Where Mischief Lies," Loki is confirmed as gender fluid and pansexual.

In other words, this reveal from the upcoming show might not exactly be news to fans who also read the comics upon which the MCU is based — but it's certainly an exciting departure from the MCU's long history of cis-heteronormativity. The extent to which Loki's gender and sexuality will play a role in the story of "Loki" remains unclear. After all, the form shown in the teaser could, in fact, really be just another Easter egg, which would be disappointing.

But some fans think Loki's confirmed gender fluidity could carry deeper meaning in the MCU — especially since, as Teen Vogue reported, the series creator and executive producer, Michael Waldron, "liked" a tweet that said, "MCU Loki finally being [canonically] under the trans umbrella makes me as a trans person feel so valid. This is why representation is so important. Loki being genderfluid is a big step in the right direction for positive LGBTQ+ representation in popular media."

The upcoming movie "Eternals" will also feature the MCU's first gay superhero, and even its first LGBTQ onscreen kiss, this November. All of this, of course, is long overdue, but certainly refreshing news during Pride Month this June. And hopefully, these steps toward representation of queer characters and storylines can begin to make it up to longtime MCU fans who believed the relationship between original Captain America Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) was actually a love story, until the very end — or, dare I say, "till the end of the line."

To his credit, Stan has expressed zero qualms about the idea of Barnes being gay or bisexual, as many fans have frequently proposed. In response to "Falcon and the Winter Soldier" fan theories that Barnes and Wilson had a romantic relationship, Stan told Variety last month, "I'm just happy that the relationship is embraced, and it should be embraced in whatever way or fashion that people desire and want it to be."

"Loki" premieres the first of six episodes Wednesday, June 9 on Disney+. The series promises to be a fun and mischievous thrill ride through time, space, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large.

By Kylie Cheung

Kylie Cheung is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She is also the author of "A Woman's Place," a collection of feminist essays. You can follow her work on Twitter @kylietcheung.

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