Over the years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a disappointing track record with its treatment of lesbian and bi women. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. teased a romance between its only two lesbian characters, who were both quickly killed off. Jessica Jones is no stranger to the Bury Your Gays trope either, and in Marvel’s movies, women who love women are nowhere to be found. But this month, there might be a chance to right the wrongs with the introduction of Karolina Dean, a lesbian superhero who will appear on Marvel’s upcoming show, Runaways.
Based on the 2003 comic book of the same name, Runaways will center six diverse teens who discover that their parents run a criminal organization. They unite together to atone for their parents’ crimes, and the kids discover their unique abilities along the way.
In the comics, Karolina was a hippie raised by retired celebrities, but the show will bring a slight change to her origin. Karolina is now the face of her parents’ cult-like organization, but she will find an eagerness to explore her identity outside of that shadow. Despite the change to her upbringing, Karolina’s extra-terrestrial heritage will remain intact. In alien form (which is kept hidden by a bracelet), her skin lights up like a giant, glowing rainbow, displaying just how gay she is.
We currently don’t know how her coming out will be depicted on the show, but she will have an obvious crush on spell-conjurer and fellow Runaway, Nico Minoru. Since Runaways is closely following the comics, expect Karolina to courageously make a move on Nico down the line (we’re rooting for you, girl).
Typically, lesbians on TV are mainly supporting characters who rarely get to lead the narrative. Not to mention, when those characters do receive their own storyline, that story often gets pushed aside. But thankfully, we won’t have to worry about that with Karolina. She’s a main character on equal footing with the rest of the team, and the discovery that she’s a lesbian is integral to her growth as a character. Her sexuality won’t define her though, as her compassion and fearlessness will make her a three-dimensional force to be reckoned with.
Not only is Karolina complex, but her characterization is refreshing, especially compared to the archetype of queer women that we constantly get in comic book-related media. Most of them are the typical badass, accompanied by a tough demeanor and tons of experience with weaponry. While there’s nothing wrong with that (and I’ll never get tired of it), it’s nice to finally see something new. There’s not just one type of lesbian character, and it’s about time for media to broaden them. Karolina is gentle, polite, and she doesn’t need a weapon to be empowering. She does have superpowers — such as the ability to manipulate solar light — but her true power is being herself, and refusing to hide who that person is. As the deep meaning of Karolina’s power connects to the realization that she’s gay, this character shouldn’t go unnoticed within our community.
As someone who relates to Karolina, I couldn’t be more excited for her inspiring journey to be told on Runaways. The first three episodes (out of ten) premiere on Hulu on November 21 ─ mark your calendars!