SPOILERS FOR THE LOKI SERIES UP TO EPISODE 4!
Just a few weeks ago, I wrote an article about searching for queer representation while I was growing up and how difficult it was to find LGBTQA+ characters to look up to. I added some examples, both good and bad, but there was someone that didn’t make the cut because their story was too complex to be restricted to a passing mention. Now, with the Loki series only two episodes from ending, I think it’s time to talk about them.
When I was about twenty years old and still figuring out my sexuality, the Harry Potter series came to an end and, immediately after, Albus Dumbledore was shoved out of the closet. At the time, Harry Potter was my favorite book series, and seeing one of the most beloved characters from the series come out as gay was a big deal for little baby bisexual me. It showed me that we were everywhere and that we weren’t just the butt of the joke.
Of course, in retrospect, it wasn’t the pinnacle of representation some people made it out to be. Now that I have much better representation available to me, I look at Dumbledore’s sexuality and the Harry Potter series as a whole with a more critical eye. Still, I can’t deny that it mattered to me when it happened. It was the early 2000s and that had to be a sign that things were changing for the better, right?
Some fifteen years later, I wish we had made more of a stride, but companies and creators still seem to believe they can get away with doing the bare minimum and give themselves a pat on the back for it. Many of them seem to be stuck in the early 2000s, when we were struggling to be taken just as seriously as straight, cis-gendered people. However, while it’s not nearly enough, representation is more prevalent now and the characters that we have nowadays have elevated the standard.
The most recent case of a character being shoved out of the closet for the sake of media attention is Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston. In the Loki series, the titular character was baited to us as not only bisexual but also non-binary. Pictures of his profile leaked with “fluid” as their gender and, like we always do, the community leaped at the chance of seeing one of their favorite characters canonized as queer - after all, that was already canon in the comic books. It was only fair.
That bit of information did what it was supposed to do: it generated controversy, got people angry and excited, and resulted in massive amounts of publicity. We waited, holding our breaths, for the moment it became official and, in episode 3, Loki came out as bisexual.
Sylvie: How about you? You’re a prince. Must’ve been would-be princesses. Or perhaps another prince.
Loki: A bit of both. I suspect the same as you. But nothing ever…
We rejoiced and celebrated. Just like Dumbledore, it wasn’t a lot, but it meant so much to so many people. Not only that, the heart of the series is all about self-love as well as standing up to an authority that tries to fit you into the mold of the “perfect” timeline, the path that is expected of you. It is well-written, well-directed, well-acted, and it has so much potential.
We weren’t even halfway done with episode 4 when Mobius (Owen Wilson) revealed that Loki had fallen in love with Sylvie (Sophia di Martino). Loki, the narcissist villain whose entire arc had been about familial love and who’d just been confirmed bisexual, had fallen in love with the female version of himself. Their love was so Incredibly Powerful and Incredibly Destructive that they could destroy the Sacred Timeline - and probably bring about the multiverse by the time Dr. Strange’s second movie comes out.
Everything indicates that the self-love journey of the Loki series will probably end in a True Love’s Kiss of Chaos. But that’s speculation on my part. People are still coming up with elaborate and non-romantic explanations for this and all of them are quite possible. I don’t like to hate a series based on speculation alone, so I won't do it.
Instead, let’s focus on why I’m mad this week.
As a bisexual woman, I don’t want to imply that a bi character or person is only valid when they’re romantically involved with someone of the opposite gender. There’s a lot of biphobia out there and that only results in people struggling to accept themselves and finding a place in the community. Biphobic discourse has definitely infiltrated discussions about Loki’s sexuality and we need to be careful when criticizing the character and his romantic plot.
It seems to me, though, that we are all focusing our anger in the wrong place. Loki’s bisexuality matters and Loki’s female love interest is valid and does not contract what is now canon. However, holding Disney and Marvel accountable for taking the easy way out is also valid.
If his sexuality had been well established from the beginning, I’d give the creators a lot more leeway to experiment with it. If there had been a reference to it in the first Thor (2011) movie, and if that had been brought up again in Thor: The Dark World (2013) so that Loki could later make it clear he was sleeping with Jeff Goldblum in Thor: Ragnarok (2017), I might not even bat an eye at Loki having a female love interest.
This is not the case. Disney and Marvel don’t want to commit to the representation they claim to be in favor of. They will sneak a quick line here and there, they will play two straight men off of each other like a love story, and they will queer code the hell out of some characters, but that’s as far as they’ll go. Considering the quick cameo of a queer man at the beginning of Endgame (2019), the message seems clear: we see you, but we don’t want to tell your stories.
On a side note that deserves an article of its own, a cinematic series that has struggled with getting its footing on female characters has finally - finally! - come up with a complex, compelling woman that could lead a movie series of her own, only to possibly renegade her to the position of Loki’s True Love. We deserved better, yes, but so did Sylvie. And, to be honest, so did Loki.
Media that has such a large reach needs to stop being cowardly with its queer characters, and stop giving themselves pats on the back every time they take the tiniest step forward. Yes, small steps matter, and people can benefit from small steps. However, we’re no longer starving for representation. We deserve big studios and billion-dollar franchises to actually put in the work and earn our attention. They need to put their wallet where their publicity stunts are and give us what we want instead of dangling crumbs in our faces and waiting for us to take the queerbait.
I hope the show makes me eat my words. I hope they’re more open about gender identity and sexuality and that the series leads us somewhere better than star-crossed lovers trying to reach for each other across the Sacred Timeline. Right now, though, I’m not holding my breath.
About the Creator
Writer of queer stories and creator of queer content.
Adapted to The No Sleep Podcast, season 14, episode 21, “The Climb”.
I believe that representation matters and that our community has many stories to tell.