*Caution: Spoilers for today’s all-new Runaways episode ahead.*
Marvel’s Runaways is now nine episodes in and it has finally given viewers that lesbian kiss they’ve been itching for.
The Hulu show based on the comic book series of the same name follows six teenagers with varying powers in their journey to avenge “runaway” children who fell victim to the crimes of their parents. One member of the super-squad is Karolina Dean, a lesbian superhero, one of few in the Marvel canon.
Though Runaways has flirted with a storyline about her sexuality, today’s episode was Karolina’s first major queer momentand Marvel’s second on-screen queer kiss everand it waslackluster.
Runaways is the first Marvel show to prominently feature a queer character and storyline, so I had high hopes for it. We’ve seen every white, male superhero under the Marvel sun land their own origin movie, but female superheroes, people of color, and queer superheroes have barely scratched the surface in film or TV. In 2015, Agent Peggy Carter of Agent Carter had a short (and unwanted) girl-on-girl kiss, but it was inconsequential. And unfortunately, Karolina Dean’s journey is just another uninspiring, superficial coming out story.
In the first episode of Runaways, Karolina has a bit of a self-coming out moment, or at least a revelation. In all her teenage angst, she sneaks out of her parents’ house and attends a party as an act of rebellion. She’s the goody two shoes, preacher’s daughter type (albeit, her mother leads a Scientology-like cult). At the party, Karolina watches two girls make out on the dance floor and her eyes light upit’s sweet and innocent, and a moment every queer girl can relate to.
Unfortunately, this moment still remains as Karolina’s most heartfelt and transformative queer moment.
A few episodes later, Karolina blindly latches on to one of her close female friends, Nico, who has a fling with one of the male protagonists. At this point in the show, we can assume Nico is straight based on her dating history (and lack of interest in women). Karolina isn’t gifted with many sexuality-defining moments, even though the pilot implied that her struggle with sexuality was a main driving point for her character. So, when we initially see her first spark of interest in Nico, it feels arbitrarythere was no unbreakable sexual tension, no painful, exciting or complicated hand-holding.
Basically, there wasn’t a series of romantic moments that would’ve sent #Kiko shippers reeling. We were just left to infer that Karolina was going to whimsically develop feelings for Nico, without any actual reasons as to why. Nico and her are comfortable together and are definitely strengthening their bond as friends, but outside of that, literally nothing led up to this transformative moment, exploding out of the closet moment for Karolina.
In the ninth episode, “Doomsday,” Karolina boldly goes where no baby-gay has ever gone beforeat a fundraiser, she seizes a moment alone with Nico, grabs her, and kisses her out of nowhere.
Nico initially looks shocked, and kisses her back for a second, but it’s short-lived. I didn’t want to write Nico offI was hoping for a storyline in which Nico explores bisexuality. Unfortunately, according to the Marvel canon, Nico ends up turning down Karolina, but they remain friends.
As a former baby-gay, the moment was totally cringe-worthynot only was it too soon, but it was also wildly misplaced, as if Karolina had projected romantic feelings on to the first girl she could get her hands on. That didn’t feel like a realistic portrayal of the very confusing, traumatic, and life-changing psyche of someone who was just beginning to grapple with their own queerness. I was disappointed to see Karolina’s character treated with so little care, when something as fraught as sexual discovery should be treated with the utmost of delicacy.
Plus, while Karolina wasn’t outwardly predatory, one could argue that the story aligns with the trope of predatory lesbians, like the queer character in Pitch Perfect who is constantly making moves on her straight friends.
There’s no shortage of coming out stories on TV, so if Runaways wanted to tackle coming out, they could have at least found a nuanced and innovative way to do soespecially with something as fun and exciting as TV’s first lesbian superhero. With that being said, there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with the way they did itmany queer girls definitely misplace their first crushes (and many more crushes) on straight friends. So for some, this is a very real experience. But it wasn’t special or monumental; it was vanilla.
Queer superheroes and villains haven’t gotten their due time yet, but they’re out there: DC’s Batwoman is a lesbian, Catwoman was recently revealed to be bisexual, and tons more. Marvel first dipped their toes in queerness in 2015 with the release of Jessica Jones.Jeri Hogarthwho is actually gender-swapped from the original character, Jerynis a powerful lesbian lawyer who hires the titular Jessica. But as of yet, Karolina is Marvel’s first real stride to place LGBTQ characters at the forefront of their storytelling.
On film, Marvel has never featured a queer character or outwardly acknowledged a queer character’s sexuality. The closest they’ve come is a Blu-Ray-only short feature in which Sam Rockwell’s Iron Man 2 character alludes to prison sex. So generous! Thank you, Marvel, for your bravery.
Hopefully, in the future, we’ll see more inventive storylines for our baby-gay superhero Karolina, andI know this is completely earth-shatteringMarvel will give queer superheroes ample screen time in film, especially queer women of color. At this point, anything would be an improvement.