A different role for Marvel’s ‘Eternals’

Marvel Studios is releasing their new movie “Eternals” on Nov. 5. The film will feature something never done before in their past movies. For the first time, Marvel will feature an openly gay superhero named Phastos played by Brian Tyree Henry.

“What I really loved the most about Phastos is that through all of that, him being eternal, him never being able to die, he still chose love,” Henry said. “He still decided to have a family, even though he may have to watch them perish. He still tried to find a way to bring heart and love to everything he did, even though his genius was used against him.”

Henry, mostly known for his role in F/X’s Atlanta as Paper Boi, expressed how this role has empowered him. Going as far to say that the movie actually has instilled him again despite how Black men were seen the past year.

With Henry’s character, it is Marvel’s first time having a superhero as openly gay. Henry’s role also has him depicted in a gay relationship as well. MCU President Kevin Feige commented on the sexuality of Henry’s character.

 His sexuality is “just part of who he is,” said Feige.

However, it is important to note that Phastos comic book representation does not depict the character as gay. It is a change only shown in the upcoming film, due to the character being minor enough in the comics.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 18: (L-R) Brian Tyree Henry, Don Lee, and Lia McHugh arrives at the Premiere of Marvel Studios’ Eternals on October 18, 2021 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)”

Marvel coming out and making Phastos the first openly gay character in the MU is huge. Superhero movies have become extremely popular in filmmaking in recent years. It draws in an enormous amount of financial profit as well as many fans. These films have a significant impact on people and have had an influence on pop culture. 

The actor playing the husband of Phastos is Haaz Sleiman, who came out as gay several years before the filming of the Eternals, could not be happier with the characters in the film.

During the premiere, Sleiman expressed his happiness in being in the first same-sex couple in a Marvel film.

“I wish I had that when I was a kid to see this,” Sleiman said. “My God, I wish! Can you imagine how many lives this is going to be saving — kids, young queer folk, who are being bullied, committing suicide, and not seeing themselves being represented? And now they get to see this — it’s above and beyond.”

Despite this important aspect that the Eternals film is doing, it is important for it to feel natural. The characters and the relationship portrayal are important but filmmakers did not want the role nor the relationship that Henry is in to feel like it’s forced.

The director of the film, Chole Zhao, wanted the relationship between Phastos and his husband to be as authentic as possible.

Filmmakers gather at the Premiere of Marvel Studios’ Eternals in Hollywood, CA on Monday, October 18, 2021(Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)

“I think finding authenticity in moments like that is crucial for me, so it doesn’t feel forced, so you could actually relate to them,” Zhao said. “That’s the most important thing. It’s not just about being the first. It’s about do you actually feel for them, whether you’re gay or straight or whatever.”  

The human connection to these characters is what the primary focus is on. Rather than focusing on them as gay men and forcing the idea that this is an openly gay relationship, the main goal is to create empathy. Forcing this could only create resentment or negative feedback.

As part of the Eternals cast, Henry has been raved about by the cast and director about his performance. Henry has taken on the role and faces the pressure and the reviews of how this will play out. No matter what the reviews or commentary is, Marvel as well as Henry have taken a chance on a big issue with a major platform.

“Brian was exceptionally brave. I know it was scary. It was not easy. But he knows how important it was…I’m just — I’m happy for Brian,” said Zhao.

Featured Image Caption: Brian Tyree Henry, Director/Screenwriter Chloé Zhao and Angelina Jolie pose at the Premiere of Marvel Studios’ Eternals in Hollywood, CA on Monday, October 18, 2021(Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)