Looking to mainstream media for meaningful queer representation is a great way to set yourself up for disappointment. Sure, I believe large companies should be helping marginalised people rather than hindering them, but I don’t think they’re going to do anything that hurts their profits by getting all ‘political’.
I understand the desire to celebrate small victories like the lesbian kiss in Star Wars, Loki saying he likes “princes and princesses”, and Eternals’ openly gay character that caused the film to be banned in some countries. As TheGamer’s editor-in-chief Stacey Henley has written, conversations around queer characters in Disney films and other mainstream media rarely gets beyond ‘is X gay?’
Consider this your warning for mild gay spoilers ahead. It’s the spoilers that are mild, I mean - the gayness is spicy.
Let There Be Carnage sets up a queer relationship issue, building upon the bromance present in the first film - Venom wants to be allowed to flourish, while Eddie is embarrassed by them and keeps them hidden away. It’s a metaphorical parallel to one gay man being out while the other remains closeted.
Venom’s queer-coding is exacerbated in Let There Be Carnage by the continuous jokes that Eddie and the symbiote need couples therapy - even their domestic life is reminiscent of slapstick sitcoms. They’re a modern day Peg and Al Bundy, only with slightly fewer sex jokes.
Being queer can be messy - it’s not all pride and rainbows, and the creatives behind Let There Be Carnage clearly recognise this. It’s why people crave representation and stories about self-acceptance. For some fans, to quote Stacey Henley again, “queer acceptance on the screen is queer acceptance of themselves in their lives.” One scene in the new film absolutely nails Venom’s journey of self-discovery that mirrors that of many queer people.
Venom and Eddie get into an argument due to the human’s insistence that Venom subdues part of their nature - eating brains. Apparently, Venom requires a substance found only in grey matter and chocolate in order to survive. They’ve come to a compromise - Venom can eat chickens from a nearby farm while the duo rely on regular shipments of chocolate. Venom decides they’re sick of being hidden and leaves Eddie, storming off into the night.
As Venom sulks through the city, they stumble upon an underground costume rave. Since everyone is dressed up there’s no need for Venom to hide, so they promptly reveal their true form - which everyone assumes is a terrific costume.
This is the first time in both films that Venom has been able to just walk around without having anybody trying to kill them - it’s freeing. When we next see Venom at the party, they have fluorescent bands hanging around their neck, adding bright pops of colour to their otherwise dark figure and showing they’ve immersed themselves in the rave.
The Venom films have always been funny, but this scene slows down to allow Venom to talk about their feelings for a moment. In front of the huge crowd, Venom talks about self-love, and how Eddie tried to keep them hidden away. The crowd boo this, and cheer when Venom expresses how happy they are to not need his approval anymore.
It’s a fantastic moment of self-acceptance that, due to Venom’s queer-coding and the presentation of the duo’s relationship as more than just a friendship, takes on an inherently queer meaning. Even the rave setting of this scene has a long history of being queer-coded. Venom is out. They will no longer stand being hidden by Eddie, they’ve had a taste of what it’s like to express themselves. Not everyone will accept you for who you are, so it’s important to find your people. For Venom, those people are costumed ravers.
To me, as a queer man, this message is as in your face as Carnage’s roar, but I understand not everyone will read it that way. Is this a defining moment in queer cinema? Absolutely not. But it’s meaningful subtext that goes beyond subtly implying a character is bi and moving on. While I would love for there to be many more loudly queer characters, this is the loudest subtext I’ve ever seen in a superhero movie, and that feels like a win.
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