The film is an extended, confusing effort not to confront its own canon.
Oh this is very good. Hadn’t even hit me, the blatant lack of queer rep in these films — I was just glad to see another Black male lead for a superhero film. It’s probably true this is the best we can expect from mainstream filmmaking, and, like many others, I’ll take what I can get (especially when it’s so beautifully done; I’ll go to bat for 2D animation any day!).
But it’s the messaging that really suffers from the hand-tied ham-strung studios. Gosh do they work hard not to acknowledge the race in the room.
I’ve also gotten used to living off subtext for queer narratives, like the obvious closet metaphors of the spider-relationships, but you’re right that we shouldn’t have to. I’m still waiting for my canonically gay superhero protagonist!
I think (hope?) the third SPIDER-VERSE movie addresses the idea of Miles's "not belonging" head-on, and those who think he isn't "the right choice", and that he has to let his father die (because Dads in Refrigerators!) see they were all wrong about that. I know, waiting two movies to get that—is a choice....
While Marvel's tackled LGBTQ characters off and on, it's usually either "Hawt Lesbos!" (Mary Jane Watson in EXILES as an alternate-universe female Spidey who has an affair with Sunfire), "Kill Yer Gayz!" (also MJ and Sunfire, who dies in another universe, so they bring her back to MJ's reality rather than her family because MJ loved her as who she was, and her parents couldn't deal with either her super-powers or her queerness), or "Regressive 'Funny' Stereotype!" (short-lived flamingly gay superhero Freedom Ring, who dies on his first outing against a psycho version of Tony Stark, who literally penetrates him with his Spiky Armor—a plotline for which the writer Robert Kirkman apologized profusely for after it was explained why so many people hated it!).
There is a definite "locker room" straight male aura to Marvel's treatment of queer characters, which is why I'm really worried at just how the SPIDER-VERSE movies would tackle those themes.