Marvel’s What If…? reignites passionate debate on whether beloved character is queer

Phil Coulson looking lovingly at Captain America

The latest episode of Marvel’s What If…? has re-energised an ongoing debate about a beloved character Phil Coulson’s sexuality.

Fans have long theorised that SHIELD agent Phil Coulson could be queer – and after he made his big return, the discourse has returned with a vengeance.

Coulson stars in the latest instalment of What If…?, an animated Disney Plus series exploring alternative timelines of the Marvel multiverse.

Episode three takes place in a universe in which the Avengers never existed with Tony Stark being killed off and most of the original superhero group soon following.

Coulson, not seen since the end of ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, returns with his emphatic fan boy nature intact – he’s known to collect Captain American memorabilia. And by the end of the episode, fans were wondering if Coulson’s stanning might actually be revealing something about his sexuality.

When the agent, voiced by Clark Gregg, first sees Thor in What If…?, he immediately tells his boss Nick Fury that he is “gorgeous” and has “really great hair”.

Later in the episode, after Thor’s death, Coulson sniffs the god’s corpse (creepy) and compares the “rotting” body’s scent to lavender.

In another scene, Coulson confirms his devotion to Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, is still strong. He shares that his password is actually: “Hashtag-Steve-Steve-Steve-I-Heart-Steve-0-7-0-4”.

Several fans argued Coulson’s oddly queer-coded dialogue in What If…? is proof that he’s part of the LGBT+ community.

Coulson’s long-standing man-crush on Captain America has caused many a lively internet debate over his sexual orientation.

In The Avengers, he even gushed that he watched Steve “while you were sleeping” – before correcting himself to say: “While you were unconscious from the ice.”

In the film, there were a couple of references made to Coulson dating a cellist. In one scene, Coulson seemed to indicate that “she” moved to Portland. So it could mean that Coulson is attracted to more than one gender.

Nothing has been explicitly stated, and, knowing Marvel, it might never be made clear.

However, Gregg, who has played Coulson across the MCU, opened up about the character’s new crush on Thor in an interview with EW. The actor described how this animated version of Coulson is “pretty darn true” to the original character.

This prompted EW to question Gregg about Coulson’s sudden “fangirl” moment “over Thor’s ‘gorgeous’ appearance” in the Disney Plus series. Gregg seemed to take the question in stride and admitted that Coulson would marvel at all of the hunky superheroes and their real-life actors.

“I mean, look, it’s very true to life in that the guy who plays Agent Coulson has certainly spent his fair amount of time marvelling at [Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor] in all his glory,” Gregg said, laughing. “So apparently, there is no Chris that I don’t have a huge crush on.”