Why Knives Out making Daniel Craig’s character gay isn’t exactly an LGBTQ+ victory

A graphic showing actor Daniel Craig as Knives Out character Benoit Blanc with rainbow pride colours superimposed in the background

Knives Out is the latest film to have a character retrospectively come out – and it’s well and truly time for Hollywood to give it a rest.

There was much media fanfare when Knives Out director Rian Johnson confirmed at the London Film Festival that Daniel Craig’s detective character is queer. It was hinted that Benoit Blanc had a male lover in the first film, but now it’s canon.

You’d be forgiven for feeling confused. Craig was one of the best parts of the first Knives Out film, but he hardly came off as queer, and a veiled reference to a male lover felt forced at best.

But now it’s all part of the story, apparently. Johnson says he’s queer – something which was never made clear in the first film –  and his male lover is going to have a cameo appearance in the upcoming sequel Glass Onion: A Knives Out Story.

The film isn’t released on Netflix until Christmas, but we’d be willing to bet that that cameo will be a quick, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, with no larger bearing on the film, that’s easily excised for homophobic markets.

There’s a recent trend of Hollywood doing exactly that, then clapping themselves on the back for depicting LGBTQ+ lives.

It happens time and time again, and somehow, nothing ever really changes.

Queercoded characters

In 2019, Avengers: Endgame won praise because a character at a grief support group mentioned that he had a male partner. It was heralded as Marvel’s big queer moment, but it essentially amounted to nothing – yet another hollow moment that left LGBTQ+ audiences wanting more.

Then there was No Time to Die and its casual confirmation that Ben Whishaw’s character is queer. If you popped out of the cinema for a toilet break you would have happily left the film with no knowledge of the inconsequential plot point.

Before that, there was Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast which – gasp! – showed Josh Gad’s character dancing briefly with a man at the very end. The whole thing was cleverly done by Disney – if you were looking for signs that the character was queer, you’d pick up on it – but kids could watch it without knowing a thing.

There have also been bigger misses, such as Bohemian Rhapsody, a film about Freddie Mercury that somehow managed to relegate his queerness to the background, and there was Immortals, a Marvel film that had a gay superhero whose sexuality felt like it was lobbed in to score points.

Time and time again, it’s the same old story – Hollywood throws heavily queercoded characters into its films that only LGBTQ+ audiences can uncode. When they dare to include overt representation, it’s always in the background – small, insignificant plot points that add nothing but mean studios can say they’re telling diverse stories.

Knives Out (and likely its sequel) are just the latest in a long line of films that have ultimately done a disservice to queer viewers, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be the last. It’s the trend that just won’t go away, even as cinema gradually starts to become more confident in representing queer characters.

Things are slowly starting to change. Most recently, Billy Eichner’s gay romantic comedy Bros has shown audiences a much more overt depiction of queer life.

But it’s undeniable that big budget Hollywood films are still falling far behind television and streaming when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation. TV has been showing queer characters in all their complexity for years, while streaming-only films like Fire Island show there’s a brighter future ahead.

In the meantime, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Story and its gay lover cameo shows that mainstream Hollywood studios have little interest in doing better.