Friday marks the official release of Thor: Ragnarok in theaters everywhere. It’s the third sequel following Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013). While fans of the superhero franchise don’t need much convincing to go see the latest movie release from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, many people were specifically excited about witnessing the portrayal of the MCU’s first openly bisexual character, Valkyrie. However, moviegoers should prepare to be let down. In a Rolling Stone interview published on Tuesday, Tessa Thompson, who plays Valkyrie, revealed that the only scene that confirmed the female superhero’s sexuality was cut from the film. The decision to scrap this scene begs the question: do we need proof of someone’s sexuality on camera in order for it to be true?
One of the things that annoys me to no end is when LGBTQ characters are written to make constant references about their sexuality in their respective films and televisions. From Emily (Shay Mitchell) on Pretty Little Liars to Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) on True Blood, it's as if writers think viewers will forget that openly gay and bisexual characters aren’t straight unless we can see or hear the specific details of their love lives. No such effort is ever required of straight characters. Fans of Fearless Defenders, the comic book series where Valkyrie is one of the main characters, know that she is bisexual. She had a fling with Dr. Annabelle Riggs. This, in addition to Thompson’s confirmation the film version of the character is also queer, should be enough to quantify Valkyrie as an openly LGBTQ character.
However, representation matters. And we do ourselves a disservice when we think that it’s a fight won in visibility alone. Not only do we need to be able to account for marginalized people on screen — especially in action/sci-fi genre — we need to see marginalized experiences on screen as well. This is why the scene that was cut from Ragnarok — according to Thompson, it showed a woman leaving Valkyrie’s bedroom — is important. It normalizes sexual relationships between people of the same gender and slashes through the heteronormativity inherent in the genre.
Thompson says she fought for the scene that ultimately had to be cut because it served as a “distraction” from an essential plotline. Ironically, the rationale for excluding the scene is exactly why it was so necessary. That queer romance is still treated as an occurrence that requires explanations, time, and attention is all the more reason to put more of those relationship dynamics on screen. Straightness is often communicated with a passing glance, a single phrase, a wardrobe choice, or some other inconspicuous device. The same can be true for queer relationships. Thor: Ragnarok doesn’t have to prove Valkyrie’s sexuality to its viewers. But they should validate it as an important part of who she is as a character.