Many films and television series are based on either books or historical events, which means that there is already a blueprint for many of the characters we see on-screen. With that being said, over the past century filmmakers have made, what they consider to be, "important" changes to some of these characters in order to make them more "relatable" to an audience. "Straightwashing" has been an ongoing issue in the film and television industries ever since they first began production. "Straightwashing" is when characters who are part of the LGBTQ+ community are portrayed as heterosexual individuals. There are probably many more characters than just the ones on this list, whose true selves have been compromised for the benefit of a culture that, until recently, was not ready to accept the realities of the world. With that being said, let's have a look at 40 LGBTQ+ literary and historical figures who have been "straightwashed" by Hollywood.
1. "We All Feel Like An Alien Sometimes"
"The Martian Child" is a 1995 novel written by David Gerrold, that was later adapted for the big screen. The film was loosely based on what Gerrold went through as a gay man going through the adoption process.
In an interview, Gerrold admitted that, due to pressure from the Mormon financiers of the film, the lead role, played by John Cusack and based on Gerrold's himself, would be converted into a straight widower.
2. "One Fluid Motion"
In the Marvel comic book canon, Thor's mischievous brother Loki is written as a bisexual gender fluid character. Due to his gender fluidity, the "trickster god" Loki is able to use his shapeshifting ability to its full advantage. In the comics, Odin even acknowledges Loki's fluidity when he refers to Loki as his "child who is both (a son and a daughter)".
The MCU touches on Loki's shapeshifting ability, however, Loki comes across as a little flamboyant at best, but nothing more. Perhaps the Loki spinoff will explore the "trickster's" full potential.
3. "Who? Me?"
In Marvel's comic books Deadpool's quick wit and sarcastic tone seem to be working for him. The comic book Deadpool has been known to have both male and female partners.
There is no one better to play Wade Wilson (Deadpool) in the films than the man who is currently doing so. Ryan Reynolds captures Deadpool's tone perfectly. Up until now, we have only seen the cinematic version of Deadpool partake in a relationship with Wade Wilson's wife Vanessa. The way things are progressing, it's only a matter of time before the cinematic Marvel universe "un-straightwashes" Deadpool.
4. "Thunder And Love"
In "The Fearless Defenders" comic book canon, Valkyrie and Annabelle Riggs are openly in a bisexual relationship. In reference to Valkyrie, the character she portrays in the MCU, Tessa Thompson, has gone on record saying "yeah, she's bisexual. You see her with both men and women, so that was my intention in playing her."
The closest the MCU came to being true to Valkyrie's character was in 2017, however, due to some last minute changes, a scene was taken out of the third installment in the Thor franchise, "Thor" Ragnarok", in which a woman was seen exiting Valkyrie's bedroom. It has been announced that in "Thor: Love and Thunder" Valkyrie's "straightwashing" will be coming to an end, and her bisexuality will become more apparent.
5. "Feeling A Little Blue"
In the X-Men film series, Raven Darkholme, or Mystique as most people know her, comes across as heartless and a little bit incapable of love. The Comic books show a different side of Raven.
In the Marvel comic book canon, Mystique's gender is as fluid as her power to shapeshift. She has romantic relationships with both men and women.
6. "Part Of Your World"
Hans Christian Andersen is responsible for writing some of the most well-known fairy tales that have been written. Stories written by Andersen include "The Ugly Duckling", "The Little Mermaid" (that's right, Disney didn't create the story), and "Thumbelina". Each one of these fairytales incorporates the common theme that it's not a bad thing to be different.
It wasn't until recently that Andersen's bisexuality became widely known. His stories have always been great, but they have a whole new meaning once the truth about Hans' life is known.
7. "Just A Taste"
In her Vampire Chronicles, Anna Rice makes it clear as day, that throughout his life, Lestat has had sexual relationships with both men and women.
In the 1994 film adaptation of "Interview With The Vampire", Lestat and Louis, played by Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, are not involved romantically, in fact, contrary to the literary version of himself, Lestat does not appear to have any male lovers in the film.
8. "To Be Or Not To Be..."
Known for writing some of the world's most famous stories, William Shakespeare's sexuality has always been somewhat of a mystery. Although there is some evidence to the contrary, in the 1998 film, "Shakespeare In Love", Bill has been portrayed as a straight man.
Many of his sonnets were written to someone known as "Fair Lord" and have been interpreted as having been written about the desires that Shakespeare had felt for a younger man. It will never be known for sure whether the "Fair Lord" was a real or fictional character, however, many Shakespeare scholars back up the notion that the man, who wrote the world's most famous love story, was in fact bisexual.
Carol Danvers hasn't been the only woman to bear the name "Captain Marvel", in fact, she didn't even become Captain until 2012. Prior to Danvers, there were a few other versions of Marvel, one of whom was Phyla-Vell.
In the canon where Phyla-Vell is Captain Marvel, one of the most important parts of her story's arc is the love story between Vell and Moondragon, otherwise known as Heather Douglas. Although the MCU has gone with Danvers's rendition of Captain Marvel so far, future versions of Bri Larson's Marvel will be a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
10. "Lines Were Crossed"
James Jones' classic WWII novel, "The Thin Red Line", depicts the loneliness of war and the comfort that soldiers would sometimes find in each other's beds. In the novel, these soldiers are Jeffrey Fife and Edward Bead.
Too worried about showing the world the reality of homosexuality in the military, the 1998 film adaptation by Terrence Malick, neglected to include this aspect of Fife's life in Adrien Brody's performance.
11. "Come On In, The Water's Great"
There was a scene in the 1960 film, "Spartacus", that was cut from the original theatrical version due to its homosexual innuendo. The scene is actually rather pivotal, as it further explains why Antoninus (played by the late legend of the silver screen, Tony Curtis) runs off to join Spartacus' rebellion.
When the film was remastered and released in 1991, the scene, in which Antoninus is bathing Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Olivier) was out back in. In this scene, Crassus insinuates to Antoninus (who is his slave) that he would like to have sexual relations with him. It wasn't even a graphic scene, but the innuendo was enough to have it removed from the original.
12. "Keeping Warm"
Jennifer Lawrence first got a taste of what it was like to be nominated for an Academy Award in 2010, when she landed the leading role of Ree Dolly in the film adaptation of Daniel Woodrell's novel, "Winter's Bone".
A powerful performance in a powerful film could have been even more captivating, had the screen production portrayed the full extent of Ree and her best friend Gai's relationship. In the novel, there is clearly something more than friendship between the two.
13. "Batter Up"
DC comics have long portrayed Harley Quinn as a very sexual character. Quinn's loyalty and affection for Mr. J are legendary in the DC universe and come across quite clearly in "Suicide Squad". However, thus far, the cinematic universe hasn't shown all the faces of this sultry clown fatale.
According to the comic book canon, Harley is bisexual. We all know about her relationship with The Joker, but what many people don't know is that she and Poison Ivy were canoodling as well. Maybe the reboot of the DC cinematic universe will show the blossoming relationship between the two ladies.
14. "George Michael Wasn't The Only One"
In the 2001 biographical drama "A Beautiful Mind", Russel Crowe plays, 1994 Nobel Prize for Economics awardee, John Nash. Nash's relationship with his wife, Alicia, is well documented, however, the film omits a pivotal event about his past.
John Nash was arrested for indecent exposure during a sting operation in 1954. The operation's purpose was to expose men as being homosexual. The charges were dropped, but his security clearance at the RAND Corporation was revoked, and he was fired due to the suspicion that he was either gay or bisexual.
15. "It Don't Make No Sense"
The blossoming sexual relationship between Ruth and Idgie in Fannie Flagg's novel, "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe", is one of the focal points of the story.
Idgie and Ruth's relationship in the 1991 film, is another example of characters being "straightwashed". In the film, the two are nothing more than close friends.
16. "Rock Hard"
For those who may have forgotten, Korg was the big rock guy in "Thor: Ragnarok". Korg was voiced by the director of the film and fellow homosexual Taika Waititi.
In the comics, Korg has a relationship with a fellow gladiator slave named Hiroim. Unfortunately, Hiroim was not included in the film, and the closest Korg gets to having a relationship is with his comic relief buddy Miek.
17. "Dipped In The River Styx"
In 2004's "Troy", Brad Pitt portrays the legendary Greek, Achilles. In the film, Patroclus has been written as Achilles' cousin and nothing more, however, Greek mythology says otherwise.
According to mythological writings, Achilles and Patroclus were old friends with an intimate relationship, not cousins. In Homer's "The Iliad", when Patroclus is killed, Achilles does not grieve as though he has lost a cousin, he mourns over his companion's death as though he had lost a lover. Following Achilles' untimely demise, the bones of the two men were intertwined, so the two could enter the afterlife together as one.
The 1965 film, "Agony and the Ecstacy", was an adaptation of the 1961 biographical novel, starring Charleton Heston as the promiscuous Michelangelo (not the ninja turtle, but the one who painted the Sistine Chapel).
The novel outlines Michelangelo's affinity for men, the evidence of which is in his poetry and paintings. Whether it was the producer's or Heston's choice to cut out Michelangelo's sexuality is unknown, however, aside from one off-the-cuff remark, the film skips over it completely.
19. "He Sure Was Pretty Great"
In 2004, the great Macedonian, Alexander, was brought to life on the big screen. In the film, Alexander is portrayed as bisexual. Although there is some evidence that eludes to the possibility that the film may have been correct, producers had to place a disclaimer at the start of the film that explained that the film was a work of fiction.
This film isn't an example of Hollywood "straightwashing" a character. It is an example of fighting back against "straightwashing". A group of Greek lawyers attempted to sue Warner Bros. studios because of the bisexual innuendo that is present in the film, and the producers were not having any of it. Everyone from the producers to the actors stuck to their guns and stood by production. Kudos!
20. "Three's Company"
The 1936 film, "These Three", was an adaptation of Lillian Hellman's original play, "The Children's Hour". In the original, one of the women who runs a private school is accused of having an affair with another woman, who is also one of the school's administrators.
When the film was made, it was decided that the theme of lesbianism was too taboo, and instead of being accused of having an affair with Karen, Martha was accused of having an affair with Karen's fiance, Joe.
21. "Into The Light, I Command Thee..."
In 2014, Matt Ryan was cast in the role of John Constantine in the TV series "Constantine", a role that Keanu Reeves famously had in the 2005 film by the same name. In both the film and tv series, Constantine is portrayed as a straight man, but that wasn't quite true to the character that DC had created for its comic books.
Constantine's relationships with both men and women are made very clear through the text and images of the comics. When the character was adapted for a mainstream audience, however, John was "straightwashed".
22. "The Voice Of Change"
In 1991, Bruce Perry wrote the, now acclaimed, biography of the legendary Malcolm X. In order to write the biography, Perry interviewed more than 400 people who had known Malcolm throughout his life. Through the interviews, Perry learned about a relationship Malcolm had had with another male tenant, in the building where he had lived, in Flint, Michigan.
Spike Lee's 1992 biopic, "Malcolm", hints at a time in Malcolm X's 20s, when he had slept with men for money. But the film doesn't go much further than that.
23. "Father Of The Nation"
In the 2011 biography, "Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his Struggle With India", author, Joseph Lelyveld claims that the most famous man in modern Indian history was in love with, and left his wife for, Hermann Kallenbach.
In letters that they wrote to each other in the early part of the 20th century, Mahatma and Hermann speak very fondly of one another and there is evidence of their feelings. In one passage Gandhi wrote, "How completely you have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance." The award-winning 1982 hit "Gandhi", focused on much of Mahatma's life, however, there is no reference to the affection he felt towards Kallenbach.
24. "World of Wakanda"
The Black Panther's righthand person was not Okoye in the Black Panther comic book canon. In fact, she wasn't even a Wakandan General. She was, however, a pretty badass warrior.
The film seems to have made a mash-up of Okoye the warrior, and the real Captain of the Dora Milaje, a woman named Aneka. In the comics, it's unclear whether or not Aneka is a lesbian, however, we do know for certain that she had a romantic relationship with another woman of the Dora Milaje. In the film, Okoye is married to a fellow Wakandan, but not the one we would have expected. She's married to a man named W'Kabi.
25. "Nothing But A Tramp"
In the 1948 film, Mickey Rooney played the famous lyricist, Lorenz Hart, whose creative partnership with composer Richard Rogers was the focus of the film. With it being the 1940s at the time the film was made, and homosexuality still being looked at as a disease, Mickey Rooney was not willing to play Hart as gay.
It's interesting how an actor could cite not being gay as a reason not to portray a role accurately, however, 13 years later, in "Breakfast At Tiffany's", Mickey Rooney, a Caucasian man, played a Japanese character...
When Scarlett Johansson was cast as Motoko in the live-action version of the popular manga, "Ghost in the Shell", there is no way she could've known just how bad of a decision it was going to be. Critics of the film were judgemental of everything from the casting to the "straightwashing".
First off, to no fault of her own, the producers chose a Caucasian woman to play a Japanese character. With casting like this, people might start to think that it's still 1961. Secondly, in the manga, Motoko is bisexual, she and a woman are even shown "knocking boots", but this part of Motoko's character is conveniently missed in the film. Needless to say, fans of the manga were not as pleased with the final product as the producers had hoped they would be.
27. "A Blank Canvas"
Leonardo da Vinci is known for painting some of the most recognized paintings in history, the "Mona Lisa" and the "Last Supper". Although not much is known about da Vinci's personal life, the film and television renditions of him have always portrayed him as straight.
One event usually seems to slip through the cracks when the history of Leonardo da Vinci's life is told. The only real evidence of his sexual preference is from historical records that are dated from 1476. In the records, a male prostitute who was facing criminal charges, named four men, including da Vinci who had had relations with him. The men were all excused of the charges as long as they promised it wouldn't happen again. It is believed that this is the event that caused da Vinci to become a celibate man.
28. "A Long Way From The Creek"
The 2002 film, "Rules of Attraction", was actually an adaption of a novel by the same name, that was written in 1987 by Bret Easton Ellis. In the novel, Sean Bateman (brother to American Psycho Patrick Bateman) has sexual relationships with both a man and a woman.
In the film, Sean (played by Dawson himself, James Vanderbeek) and Lauren still have their sexually charged moments, however, Paul's advances are completely shot down.
29. "Her Name's Galore, Pussy Galore"
As "Pussy Galore" in the 1964 adaptation of the James Bond novel "Goldfinger", Honor Blackman was sexy, she was sultry, she was scary, she was James Bond's kryptonite. The one thing she wasn't, was a lesbian...
...but she should have been. In the original novel, Pussy Galore was the leader of the Cement Mixers, an all-lesbian gang. According to Ian Fleming (the man who wrote the James Bond novels), James "cured" Pussy of her lesbianism.
30. "In Case You Haven't Noticed, I'm Weird..."
In "Archie" comics, Jughead has always come across as asexual....or perhaps "burgersexual". While Archie was off chasing both Betty and Veronica, the only thing Jughead ever seemed to care about were burgers.
In "Riverdale", Cole Sprouse plays a fantastic Jughead Jones. The show's creators apparently weren't completely set on Jughead remaining asexual and had Mr. Jones partake in a wee bit of hetero activity.
31. "A Shoulder To Lean On"
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "The Color Purple", is the story of a woman, Celie Johnson, who undergoes abuse and rape for the majority of her young life. One of the most monumental moments in the novel is caused by the sexual experience she has with another woman, Shug Avery. This encounter shows Celie that there is a life away from the horrors of her situation.
When Steven Speilberg adapted Alice Walker's novel into a major motion picture, all but one kiss between the women was removed from the story. And even that one kiss came across as one that a close friend or family member would exchange.
32. "A Look Can Tell You Everything"
The character of Ayo, in 2018's "Black Panther", was originally written as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Although her precise preference is unknown, the original script called for a sexually charged moment between Ayo and another "straightwashed" MCU character.
There is a moment during the original cut of "Black Panther" when Okoye and Ayo lock eyes flirtatiously for more than just a quick glance. The moment was clearly cut out of the final version of the film, otherwise, Ayo would not have found herself on our list.
33. "Breakfast Sounds Like A Great Idea"
When Truman Capote wrote "Breakfast At Tiffany's", the narrator of the novel was written in his own image, that being the image of a homosexual man. In the book, the narrator's attraction to the character of Jose was made quite clear.
The 1961 film, focused more on the female lead, as it was played by Audrey Hepburn, and the persona of the narrator was transformed into Paul Varjak, the (straight) love interest of Hepburn's character, Holly Golightly.
34. "There's More To A Man Than His Face"
Mel Gibson's 1993 film adaptation of the 1972 Isabelle Holland novel, "The Man Without A Face" was a great film, but not very accurate to the novel. Citing that he "didn't care for the direction of the characters", a key element of Justin McLeod and Chuck Norstadt's relationship was omitted.
In the novel, Gibson's character, Justin McLeod was quite evidently gay, and he develops an inappropriately close relationship with the young Chuck Norstadt. Interesting how "Lolita" was critically acclaimed and "The Man Without A Face" was "straightwashed". Both films are about inappropriate relationships that adults have with a minor. One of the relationships was heterosexual...guess which one?
35. "Nothing's Ever Lost, It's Just Hiding Sometimes"
After winning 4 of the major categories at the 1946 Academy Awards, it is the film adaptation of "The Lost Weekend" that most people know. In the film, Ray Milland had the lead role of Don Birman, a man who goes on a 4-day bender that results in, that's right, a lost weekend. In the novel that preceded the film, there was a bit more to Don's inner turmoil than the film let on...
The original Don Birman was a closeted gay man who had homosexual feelings for a college friend of his. Certain that the producers would not approve of an alcoholic gay man as the lead character in a film, the guilt that Birman felt about the situation wasn't explored, and we lost out on another layer of both Birman's persona and Milland's talent as an actor.
36. "Zeus' Kid"
From the television series, "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys", through "Young Hercules" and all the way up to the recent film starring The Rock, Hercules has consistently been portrayed as a heterosexual man.
Greek mythology says otherwise. According to the legends, Hercules was quite openly bisexual, as were most people in ancient Greece.
37. "Getting Hot Up Here"
Throughout Tennessee Williams' play "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof", the character of Brick struggles to accept his homosexual feelings for his deceased friend Skipper. In the play, Brick becomes reliant on alcohol to help him suppress these feelings.
When "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" was adapted for Hollywood audiences in 1958, Paul Newman was cast, opposite Elizabeth Taylor, as Brick. In the film, the character of Brick was re-written to no longer be dealing with his repressed homosexual feelings, but his own issues with immaturity instead.
38. "It's Disco Time"
17 years after its initial release, the director's cut of "54", the film that told the story of the famous Studio 54 nightclub, was released to audiences on DVD and Blu-ray. Studio 54 was renowned for drug-filled sex-crazed parties with only "A-list" celebrities. As great as the original film was, it was missing some fairly important scenes that would have further developed the character of Shane O'Shea.
The 44 minutes of scenes, that were removed from the theatrical version were cut by the producers because most of them included the relationship between Shane O'Shea (played by Ryan Phillippe) and Greg Randazzo (played by Breckin Meyer). Following the release of the uncut version, "54" became almost an instant cult classic for the LQBTQ+ community.
39. "Sing For The Moment"
Cole Porter wasn't just a brilliant lyricist and composer, he was also as openly gay as someone, realistically, could have been in the first half of the 1900s. Let's be honest, as tough as still is in some places, the early 20th century was not the easiest time for someone to be part of the LGBTQ+ community. In 1946, Cary Grant was tasked with playing Porter on film.
In the 1946 film, "Night and Day", Cary's portrayal of Porter explored the complex relationship that Cole Porter had with his wife, but left out the fact that she knew about his homosexuality. In fact, the film suppressed Porter's homosexuality, much like Cary Grant, allegedly, suppressed his own feelings towards men.
40. "Taking Aim"
Richard Brooks' novel, which the 1947 film "Crossfire" was adapted from, was based around the murder of a gay man whose murderer's motivation was fueled by his homophobia.
The film version showed Hollywood's homophobia by switching out the homosexual subject matter for antisemitism. In order to make this work, the production team swapped a murdered gay man for a Jew who was targetted and murdered in a fit of rage. Both subject matters are important to discuss, and neither should be "washed" out of the media for fear of a negative reaction.