Disney is notorious for pushing its queer characters to the sidelines. Sometimes you can barely tell if they’re there at all, like Oaken’s maybe-husband in Frozen, or LeFou’s longing for Gaston in the live-action Beauty and the Beast. Then there are more prominent side characters in Disney-owned properties, like Joe Russo’s cameo in Avengers: Endgame, or the background lesbian kiss in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that could be easily edited out.
And then there’s Loki in Loki. Even though his sexuality only gets a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mention, he’s the star of the show, he’s unkillable, and there are many of him. Do the math and it’s the most queer representation Disney’s ever put out into the world.
[Ed. note: This article includes spoilers for Loki.]
The third episode of Marvel’s Disney Plus show, starring Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino as Loki and a Loki variant who calls herself Sylvie, features a conversation between the two characters about their dating history. Sylvie asks Loki if he dates across the gender spectrum, and he confirms that he does, then he says, “I suspect the same as you. But nothing ever...” She completes his sentence by saying, “Real,” then she nods in affirmation.
The implication of this scene is that Loki is queer, and also, he “suspects,” his variant Sylvie is, too. The implication of Sylvie’s sentence-finishing nod — she’s dated plenty of people, but never found anything “real” — is that she’s queer, too. Or at least, that’s how I read it. It’s also an interpretation backed up by the comic book canon. As my colleague Susana Polo noted in her writeup of this aspect of episode three, Loki has long been portrayed as fluid in terms of both his sexual attraction and his gender expression. That includes Lady Loki and any other Loki iteration.
Like so many queer and queer-coded villains before him, from Mystique to Mr. Sinister, Loki is also a character who tricks people, subverting their expectations in the name of evil or mockery. It is not uncommon for bisexuality and androgyny to be highlighted in a character who is villainous. That type of negative representation made it harder for me to come out of the closet — but it has also made me feel strangely protective of queer, gender-bendy villains like Mr. Sinister, Mystique, and yes, Loki.
So, I consider Loki to be a fundamentally queer character whether or not the House of Mouse cares to confirm it. I’m also sympathetic to the critics out there who weren’t impressed that Loki’s queerness was acknowledged in just one line of dialogue. This is a show that posits a multiverse of Lokis, except all of them apparently prefer to present as masculine, except for just one who also changes her name to a more feminine one. That’s also the only Loki who ends up kissing another Loki. These are two queer characters kissing, but it’s an opposite-gender kiss. That doesn’t make either of them any less queer. But it does make their kiss a lot less shocking to see in a Disney Plus show.
So, now that I’ve clarified that I’m not going to throw Disney a parade for a huge representation win, we can have a little fun with the implications of Loki, because I’m pretty sure that this show has inadvertently included more queer characters per capita than any prior Disney property. I obviously assume every iteration of Loki is queer, since they’re all Loki, and that’s a core aspect of Loki-ness. Old Loki? Queer. President Loki? Also queer. Crocodile Loki? You know it. The very idea of Straight Loki would doubtless be the most Nexus Event-producing Loki of them all.
Even the central romance of Loki is based on a common brain teaser that circulates in queer spaces: “Would you date yourself?” I think Loki’s own answer would be similar to that of a Reddit user named MrAppleby in a thread on the subreddit “gaybros” about this topic: “I would punch my doppelganger and then fuck him raw.” Surely, all the Lokis on the run from Alioth have had the same impulse, in between their various escape attempts and power grabs. I mean, what’s sexier than an escape attempt and/or power grab? Especially if you’re Loki?
Except for the Lokis who aren’t self-actualized enough for that sort of thing. As the “gaybros” thread shows, there are plenty of people who don’t particularly like themselves (“I am working on becoming someone I would date,” says CloolessDerp). That’s also what Loki is about: The main character’s self-hatred and insecurity guarantee that he’ll always be alone. He has to learn how to love himself, literally, in order to love anyone else.
That’s also why his friendship with Mobius, who notably isn’t a fellow Loki, is so meaningful — and why the show’s final reveal that Mobius doesn’t remember Loki anymore is such a tragic gut punch. Loki finally learned to love himself, and then he even made a friend. Now that’s been lost to him. Hence, it would make sense for Loki to actually date Mobius in the second season, now that he’s learned to love himself.
That probably won’t happen on the second season of Loki. The revolution will not be televised, Loki will not kiss Mobius, and I will receive a lecture via email from a stranger about how it’s disgusting that I can’t let two male characters “just be friends.” But deep down, I will know the truth. All of the Lokis are queer. Disney made a show about a multiverse of queer characters, and it told us that their defining trait is survival.