After 25 films, spanning more than a decade, the MCU finally decided to give the world an obviously queer character in Eternals. So, is Phastos a well-written queer superhero? Let’s talk about it.
Spoiler Warning: This article about the queer representation in Eternals contains a good amount of spoilers. Proceed with caution.
Even before the Eternals debuted, think pieces were released online about how the MCU was ready to introduce the franchise’s first obviously gay character. Not only that, the promo content shared that said gay character, Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), was going to be married to another man and the husbands would be raising a kid together. Of course, there were also hate pieces spewing the same bigoted points about how the MCU was pushing the ‘Gay Agenda’ and ruining society. Maybe get new material?
If you look at certain low ratings for Eternals, it won’t take you long to find a bunch of reviews that boil down to not liking the movie because “Ewwww!!! It has gay characters in it! They even kissed!”
If you’re thinking of watching Eternals, keep in mind that such homophobic reviews exist out there. And it’s always best to not take such reviews seriously. I’m not saying that Eternals doesn’t have flaws (because it sure does!). I’m just saying that the current review scores have been impacted by homophobes and bigots sharing their opinions.
This article isn’t about such homophobic reviews. This article is about how the MCU handled the queer representation in director Chloe Zhao‘s Eternals and if it deserves to be dragged.
I’m happy to report that, in my opinion, the MCU did well. While Phastos doesn’t come across as the main character, he’s important to the overall narrative, even though his role is more of the supporting kind.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but Phastos, basically being a Technopath, is currently the smartest character in the MCU. His powers allow him to create anything he thinks of. It can take time for Phastos to complete a project, but he will get it done. Phastos is the one who created the device needed to bond the Eternals together and save Earth during the finale. Not only that, I liked how he had a plan to stop Ikaris (Richard Madden), even if just for a bit.
Phastos’ narrative arc involved him losing faith in humanity because he blamed himself for giving them technology that later led to the creation of the atomic bomb. As far as the rest of the Eternals were concerned, Phastos had secluded himself from society. However, turns out, he regained his faith when he met and fell in love with his husband Ben (played by openly queer actor Haaz Sleiman). Phastos’ love for Ben and their kid Jack (Esai Daniel Cross) played a vital role in motivating him to join Sersi (Gemma Chan) and figure out a way to save the world.
I think the writers did a good job of showing Phastos’ healthy relationship with Ben. I liked how Ben wasn’t kept in the dark. Phastos told him the truth about being an Eternal and his true purpose. Ben also got a scene where he showed his support for Phastos’ mission.
As for the kiss scene between Phastos and Ben, it made narrative sense. Of course, married couples kiss each other goodbye when one of them is about to go on a dangerous mission. Having the two just hug each other wouldn’t have cut it.
After accomplishing the mission, we also got an entire scene showing some of the surviving Eternals hanging out at Phastos’ house and interacting with Ben and Jack. I want the writers to think of a way to give us a Disney+ miniseries about each Eternal babysitting Jack.
Another scene I liked involved Phastos standing up to Ikaris. The moment allowed Phastos to show how proud he was of his identity. It didn’t matter whether he was born or created by a Celestial, he was going to stay true to himself and reject the role that was forced upon him. I think the entire moment could be compared to a “coming out” scene, where a character denounces what’s expected of them and accepts their truth.
All in all, I liked how Eternals gave the world a queer superhero that had moments that couldn’t be edited out of the movie without messing up with the narrative. Unlike the MCU’s poor treatment of comic book canon queer characters like Loki and whatever the heck the “gay” moment in Avengers: Endgame was supposed to be, it was nice to see Phastos’ queer sexuality come across clearly on the big screen. A major theme in Eternals happened to be love. And Phastos’ love for his husband and son was never ignored by the narrative.
With rumors and confirmations about more queer characters coming to the MCU, I look forward to seeing how the multi-billion dollar franchise will continue to handle queer representation.
Released in the US on November 5, 2021, as of writing this, Eternals has collected more than $161 million at the global box office against a reported production budget of $200 million.
Have you watched Eternals? What did you think of Phastos?
Let us know.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.