Marvel Studios’ latest has already been making waves for breaking many barriers this deep into the MCU. From genuine LGBTQ representation to its most diverse cast ensemble ever, Eternals definitely lives up to the promises of inclusivity that Marvel has been making for years. Of all these new stepping stones, one that should absolutely not go left unsaid is the inclusion of the world’s first deaf superhero, Makkari played by Lauren Ridloff.
Known best for her role on The Walking Dead, Lauren Ridloff first got her breakthrough on Broadway. Her performance in the 2018 stage adaptation of Children of a Lesser God stunned audiences and even lead her all the way to the Tony Awards with a nomination for Best Actress in a Play. Fast forward to now and she’s the first deaf superhero not just for the MCU but to be portrayed on film ever. The cherry on top: she’s one of the strongest members of the Eternals as a speedster. “Each of the Eternals’ abilities, although some already having been seen elsewhere in live-action, are visualized in creative and fascinating ways. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that some of these powers, such as super-speed, have never been done better.“
Makkari communicates through ASL and none of the other characters treat it as anything else but normal, nor is it ever actually explained for the audience. The same goes for Brian Tyree Henry’s Phastos, who turns out to be Marvel’s first gay superhero. It’s this natural inclusion that allowed for more wiggle room and opportunities for the large cast to expand their characters on set. Or so that’s what Lauren Ridloff herself revealed at the official global press conference for Eternals.
One of the more surprising aspects of Makkari is her relationship with Barry Keoghan’s Druig, who has the power to control minds. “Eternals is a romance-centered epic from platonic to unrequited love,” and this duo’s relationship is teased to be not so platonic at all. The signs are all there right from the start, yet their romance is left vague enough for audiences to fill in certain gaps on their own. According to Ridloff, this was all Chloé Zhao’s idea…
Lauren Ridloff: “I think the relationship between Makkari and Druig really comes to a surprise… within the scripts, you know, when you first go through it, it wasn’t really something that was so apparent. But Chloé, under her brilliant direction, wanted us to imply that there was a lot more to Druig and Makkari.
And I feel like what actually brought them together is they both have a lot of power. They’re very powerful individuals, and they’re told to hold themselves back. And I think that for Druig and Makkari, you know, they’re mischievous, they also have fun.”
Zhao herself chimed in, explaining where this specific motivation came from. Eternals already has a few other core romances to actually flesh out, but she couldn’t help herself to add another after seeing Ridloff and Keoghan’s chemistry on set…
Chloé Zhao: “I don’t know if Lauren, you remember, it was your first time meeting Barry, the two of you started to just riff. You know, you started to improvise. And I go, what’s happening? I see sparks everywhere! Because initially, that was not the intention. I think really it was from you guys meeting that we saw that and went, maybe we should let play into it?”
Besides bringing diversity and inclusion to the forefront, people are praising Eternals for bringing back sexual tension and undisputed love to the MCU. Yes, there have been plenty of couples in this franchise, though very few have been allowed to be portrayed as emotionally raw as seen here. There are so many layers to Zhao’s film, and Makkari and Druig’s little fling, if you will, is another fun addition to see unfold on-screen. Give us more of that in a sequel, please.