Is Venom the LGBTQ+ hero we didn’t deserve, but the one we needed?
Venom: Let There Be Carnage (hereafter called Venom 2 because that is a garbage title and I have enough trouble keeping to a word count as it is) genuinely surprised me. I walked into the cinema feeling nothing, asking for nothing and expecting nothing. I walked out having been presented with a question that I hadn’t ever asked before, yet a pursuit of its answer became my sole quest for just over 90 minutes, and lingered long in my mind afterwards: is Venom gay?
‘Gay’ is a fairly reductive summary of the nuances of Venom’s personality, gender identity and sexual preference, but it’s a punchy thing to open an article with, so I’m leaving it as it is. Truly, for such a short film, the writers really managed to cram a lot of back and forth on the question, before settling on a very definitive answer. Destiel and Hannigram, legendary amongst gay ships as they are, fall behind Venom and Eddie (Symbrock, apparently) in efficiency.
Oh, what’s that? You’re wondering if the movie is good? I mean, it’s Venom 2. What did you think it would be? It’s a campy, rushed superhero flick full of hammy acting, endless jokes, and an overly long CGI climax. In other words, exactly what you expected. If you want to watch it, your money is yours to do with as you wish. If you’re not interested in watching it, I’m definitely not going to try and convince you otherwise.
The usual technical questions of movie criticism are irrelevant in the space that Venom and Venom 2 occupy. Citizens, both present and future, will give less than a third of a shit about Naomie Harris’ accent or if the movie was effectively paced, so criticising its obvious on-paper flaws is about as useful as a hog roast at a bar mitzvah. Pointing out that a lot of people like Tom Hardy, jokes, and lots of polygons punching each other is an earth-shattering statement on the level of “water is wet”.
All that matters in this space is lore, and the potential for more, different polygons to punch each other, hence the majority of discourse about the film being “WILL VENOM BE IN SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME?” or “HOW STRONG IS VENOM NOW THAT HE DID THE THING?” So I’m going to engage in the same way, just aiming that passion in a slightly different direction – the one about Venom being queer.
Venom 2 is a rom-com depicting the breakup and reconciliation of investigative journalist Eddie Brock and the alien parasite Venom. The romantic undertones of their relationship came to light near the end of the first film, with Venom citing Eddie as the reason he wanted to live on earth peacefully, and Anne revealing it was Venom’s idea to kiss Eddie. This lit a spark amongst the speculative in the LGBTQ+ community (and wherever Tumblr users went) which has now undoubtedly blossomed into an inferno.
By the time of Venom 2, they speak to each other as if they’re lovers in the middle of a domestic. Eddie is now finding new success thanks in part to Venom’s enhanced senses and deductions, yet on account of Venom being an alien, they have to keep their relationship a secret. Venom feels stifled by this, complaining “I need to be free”, and the two separate.
This subtext all but screams out at you later in the film when Venom shows up at a costumed rave, where everyone embraces him, thinking that he’s a human wearing a costume. He feels liberated amongst all the “weirdos”, proclaiming that he’s “out of the Eddie closet”. He’s later shown covered from head to toe in glow sticks, delivering a speech encouraging everyone to live together peacefully, “free to be who we’ve been”.
So he’s definitely coded queer, that much is beyond question. But let’s dig way too deep into this, like any good comic book movie nerd. People in the film refer to Venom as ‘he’, which Venom never corrects, so we can assume that he identifies as such. Yet it’s never confirmed if that’s only on account of his host being a man, a question raised when he took on more classically feminine features such as a higher voice, boobs and curves when he possessed Anne in Venom, despite the fact that he’s a mutable blob that can make any shape he wants.
Despite his love for Eddie, he shares Eddie’s desire to be back together with Anne. To Venom, it’s not “you” should be with Anne, it’s “we” should be with Anne. The “we” is that of a couple, not of multiple personalities. From this, we can conclude that Venom is polyamorous and at least bisexual, with potential to be gender-flexible and pansexual.
Does any of this matter? Possibly! While I – a basically straight man – am only speculating about this in an attempt to extract as much joy out of a bland, generic movie as I can, I hope that some superhero fan out there finds this empowering, and the people running the show double-down on Venom’s coming out. I can’t pretend there aren’t better role models out there, but sometimes you’ve got to take what you can get. In all of the multiverse, I never expected Venom to be the LGBTQ+ icon of the MCU. But now that it’s a possibility, I’m all for it.