All the talk surrounding Marvel's superhero TV show New Warriors seems to revolve around Squirrel Girl and her rodent companions, but what about the relationships that new member Debrii shares with people of the same sex?
That's right, guys. While most people were too busy focusing on who could play #SquirrelGirl, or why Speedball's powers seem to have been downgraded, Marvel just slipped a black lesbian superhero into the New Warriors roster — one who is out and proud.
Who Is Deborah Fields AKA Debrii?
Speaking to USA Today, executive producer Kevin Biegel provided us with a breakdown of the New Warriors team chosen to star in Freeform's half-hour #Marvel action comedy. Among the likes of Night Thrasher and the surprise addition of Mister Immortal, Biegel also revealed that Deborah Fields has made the cut.
Fighting under the codename Debrii, Marvel's lesbian superhero is not only:
"A low-level telekinetic trickster who has experienced serious personal loss due to the actions of superheroes... [But] is also a proud, witty lesbian. “It’s not all about ‘Hey, I relate to the show because I want to have a squirrel tail,' but ‘Hey, this is the story about someone who’s out as a lesbian and maybe it’s not that easy,’"
Debuting in New Warriors Vol. 3 #4, Debrii's comic book counterpart proved herself to be an antagonistic member of the team, thrown into the reality show that they were filming as a way to stir up tension. However, executive producer Jeph Loeb described Marvel's TV version of the team as an "eager, hopeful-for-a-brighter-tomorrow group," suggesting that Deborah Fields and the rest of the New Warriors will present a more united front against whatever troubles plague them on the show.
Is Debrii The First Lesbian Character In The MCU?
Surprisingly, Debrii isn't the first #lesbian character that Marvel has depicted onscreen. That honor belongs to the gender-swapped Jeri Hogarth, a corporate lawyer who cheats on her wife with a female mistress in Season 1 of Jessica Jones. Carrie-Anne Moss plays the role perfectly, turning what could have been a rather unlikeable part into one of the most compelling characters on the show. At the end of the day though, Hogarth isn't a superhero, and isn't even always a nice person.
In some ways, it's rather admirable that Marvel used a lesbian character who delves into moral shades of grey. To portray Hogarth as pure and good simply wouldn't have been realistic, but to paint her out as a villain would have fallen into the typical stereotypes that plague portrayals of the #LGBTQ community.
On the hero front, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. did recently introduce a minor hero as gay: Joey Gutierrez, who became a member of Daisy Johnson's Secret Warriors. Aside from that though, LGBTQ representation in the #MCU continued to be almost non-existent up until now, despite a strong history of #gay characters in Marvel Comics.
Now is the perfect time to introduce a lesbian superhero, one who is flawed, yet provides a powerful role model for younger comic book fans. Fortunately, mention of the corporation Roxxon in the Cloak & Dagger trailer confirms that Freeform shows such as New Warriors will hold explicit links to the MCU, making Debrii the first canon lesbian superhero in that universe.
Why It's Important That Marvel Has Introduced The First Black Lesbian Superhero To The MCU
The idea of depicting gay heroes, lesbian heroes and everything in between on our screens is long overdue. The closest we've come to making this a reality before now was when Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige revealed that the company would probably consider featuring a LGBTQ superhero onscreen in the future. Collider reported that when he was asked whether this happen in the next decade, Feige replied:
"I would think so, for sure."
"Think so." Right. It doesn't get more non-committal than that now, does it folks?
That said, it's easy to see why Marvel are reluctant to include homosexuality in their films (and no, it's not even necessarily due to any ingrained prejudice). Feige and his team know exactly how important international box office figures are these days, to the point where a film's success may live or die depending on how it fares overseas.
Marvel risk alienating audiences in huge markets such as China and Russia if they do move forward with gay representation, potentially even leading to an all-out ban. The controversy surrounding Disney's decision to include a "gay moment" in Beauty & The Beast proved that this can be a factor.
Fortunately, TV is a far more flexible medium, enabling Marvel to test new ground and push boundaries with representations of diversity onscreen. Regardless of what critics might say, LGBTQ representation does matter and it's commendable that New Warriors will explore this on two fronts through the character of Debrii, a black and out lesbian.
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If Debrii is received well by fans, then her success on #NewWarriors could pave the way for characters like Karma, Northstar, Wiccan and even Iceman to be portrayed on the big screen as #gay. Sure, that might not matter to some of you, but isn't it time our heroes stopped hiding behind masks and provided us all with a mirror to our own lives, regardless of our skin color or who we fall in love with? Less time spent fixated on squirrels and more time spent celebrating kickass LGBTQ women of color please Marvel!