There has been a definitive shift in the way MCU heroes embrace casual or monogamous intimacy towards sterile ambiguity, but has Eternals changed that?
WARNING: the Following contains spoilers for Eternals, playing exclusively in theaters now.
There has been a lot of conversation and controversy regarding a scene in Eternals where Sersi and Ikaris make love onscreen, something that has never happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While there was a time when some of the Marvel TV shows were quite comfortable in this area, it is an area that the films have noticeably avoided, which raises many questions regarding its inclusion in this most important entry. recent and the hyper-connected network of stories he can influence given his critical and commercial success.
The privacy displayed in Eternals suggest a new openness to portraying sex as part of the human experience, and therefore superhuman, or was the choice just one-off specific to the history goals of Earth’s oldest protectors? There are strong reasons for arguing that instead of shying away from this most natural part of human existence, there are productive narrative elements to tap into by taking a more practical approach to on-screen sexual intimacy.
The Eternals aren’t human, nor are they biologically responsible in the sense that they exist outside of what the MCU considers “life.” The moment Sersi learns from Arishem that none of them were born, but that they were created for a purpose, his world is shattered. Although they appear to be composed of organic matter, they lack a crucial spark that natural sentient life possesses. Once this aspect of their origins is known, it tests all public assumptions about the nature of the Eternals’ relationship with Earth and humanity. It’s fair to wonder how much of their affection for people is part of the lineup, and how emotionally authentic it is.
With this in mind, the sex scene between Sersi and Ikaris can serve as a retroactive consideration when confronting these questions. The film makes it clear that these characters care deeply for each other, as there are semi-romantic relationships in abundance among the Eternals. These include Sprite’s unrequited love for Ikaris, the endless slow burn of Druig and Makkari, and perhaps the purest example of unconditional love in a superhero movie through the demonstrated loyalty between Thena. and Gilgamesh. Outside of their group, Phastos loves her human husband and child with deep sincerity, Druig is clearly uncomfortable allowing humanity to harm each other without intervening, and Sersi is the first to speak out about his love. for the inhabitants of the Earth.
All of these examples, however, can be viewed as preordained neural routines to engender the team to one another and to foster optimal growth among the native population by attaching the Eternals to easily manipulated emotional issues. This argument is a little less convincing in the case of sex as a means of pleasure or a sign of intimacy for itself. Most organic species have an inherent primary need to reproduce, and all kinds of environmental and behavioral adaptations support this function, but in the case of intercourse between Eternals, this compulsion is not persuasive as they are unable to produce offspring. Therefore, if it does not serve any biological purpose, it is more likely that it was born out of a desire to touch and be touched, which would speak to a mature emotional core that lives outside of pre-instincts or instructions. -packaged.
After the film steals the brotherhood of the Eternals with humanity, it reestablishes it in a certain way by making it clear that despite their nature, they are beings capable of love and affection for themselves and relinquish the responsibility of guess their motives. If this is true, then this departure into the MCU’s discomfort of displaying their heroes as explicitly sexual may not indicate long-term political decisions regarding the movies or shows, but may simply have served a purpose in Eternals this might not be necessary for other properties.
The Marvel shows that existed on ABC and especially Netflix were much more outspoken in their approach to sexual encounters, even in a distant era when they were considered canonical. Steamy sex scenes between Daredevil and Elektra with bloody fights as foreplay, healthy and destructive powerful sex involving Luke Cage and Jessica Jones where the physicality is sportingly competitive and the awkward sex between Iron Fist and Colleen Wing have all served as markers for their personalities respective and drives the story. In some cases, these were one-night stands that extended into fuzzy boundaries, and in other cases, they were the result of a season of flirtation and innuendo that culminated in an attempt to monogamy and commitment, and for some blind Catholic lawyers, it served as a source of guilt.
However, the lines have always been clear in that the MCU movies could either mention sex or involve it directly, but the act itself still happened offscreen. This could be for purely commercial reasons, securing the coveted PG or PG-13 rating so that theaters can accommodate as many paying consumers as possible. After all, American cinema has always considered unbridled violence to be more acceptable to the general public than consensual sexual behavior. It could also be the branding that the Disney company has worked so hard to cultivate over generations as a studio, where content expectations mean something very specific. Considering, however, that Chloe Zhao, the Oscar-winning director of Eternals, said in an interview that the scene existed on the page before she joined the project and that there had never been any denials from the studio about her inclusion, perhaps executives taking these decisions awaited the appropriate circumstances to provide a test case.
Adopting a demarcated gender identity can help communicate character traits and a narrative engine without dialogue and clarify otherwise ambiguous relationships. One of Shang-ChiKaty and Shang-Chi’s weaknesses were blurred by what at times seemed like a deliberate attempt to obscure their connection. In contrast, Gilgamesh and Thena didn’t appear to have a romantic relationship, but their love for each other was clearly communicated and juxtaposed with other on-screen examples. The tones of the two films are very different, and you could argue that Katy and Shang-Chi’s relationship was meant to be more cartoonish in comparison. Nonetheless, removing healthy sexual expression from adult characters creates a barrier to creating relatable, powerful, and grounded impacts in a universe of gods, synthezoids, and superhumans accessing their humanity.
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