Super Specific | How the queer community found solace in Venom

Super Specific is a bi-weekly blog about superheroes in pop culture.

By Diana Velasquez, Contributing Editor

Boo! Venom is queer! Surprised? Shocked? I’m not lying, the fan-favorite symbiote is not only canonically queer, but Venom’s relationship with Eddie Brock is heavily coded as such, not only in the comics, but the movies as well. 

Venom is a character that for a long time wavered in that “quasi-popular” pop culture niche as one of Spider-Man’s many villains and an anti-hero in his own right. He was more like a comic book character that popped up at an occasional trivia game, rather than someone with a multi-million dollar movie franchise. 

Venom appeared briefly in 2007’s “Spider-Man 3,” the final film in the original Tobey Maguire Spider-Man series, as one of the three antagonists. The movie, for many, is considered the worst installment in the series with Eddie Brock and Venom used more as a caricature than fully fleshed out characters.

And while Marvel eventually acquired some of Spider-Man’s film rights, allowing them to implement him into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony needed to make money off the characters they had the full rights to. Hence, the creation of the Venom film franchise.

“Venom” came out in 2018 with Tom Hardy starring as Eddie Brock as well as the voice of Venom. While the film received mixed reviews from critics, it made about $856 million and sparked an outpouring of love online for the character. In many circles, fans perceived Eddie and Venom’s relationship as romantic. 

The couple’s ship, named “Symbrock,” was Tumblr’s most popular ship for the week of Oct. 15, 2018, not long after the movie’s theatrical release in the U.S.

Though Symbrock is not explicitly canon in the film, it’s not hard to see where these shippers 

got the idea from. Outside of the film’s typical superhero-type action, the banter between Eddie and Venom sounds very similar to a bickering couple in a rom-com. Technically they even share an on-screen kiss, when Venom inhabits the body of Eddie’s ex-fiance Anne Weying (Michelle Williams). 

And in the film’s sequel, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” it seems that Hardy and Andy Serkis, the film’s director, have amped the “Symbrock” relationship dynamic as much as the studio will allow them to. 

In “Let There Be Carnage” Venom even has a “coming out scene,” referred to as such by Serkis himself. After an argument with Eddie, Venom travels around San Francisco and finds himself at an underground rave where he’s decorated with rainbow glow stick necklaces and gives an impassioned speech about society’s discrimination against “aliens.” 

Weird as some people might think it is, obsessing over monsters in a romantic and sexual context isn’t a new concept. 

Yes, I’m talking about monsterf—–s. You can blame this phenomenon on the internet and scream “Rule 34”  all day, but people have been daydreaming about monsters and sex for millenia. Ancient Greek mythology and religion in particular are fond of combining men and animals and monsters with sex. Take the legend of the Minotaur, for example. 

The man-eating monster that dwelled in Daedlus’s infamous labyrinth in Crete was the half bull, half man offspring of the Minoan bull and the princess Pasiphaë. And that’s just one of many “interspecies” relationship examples from ancient Greece. 

I’m looking at you Zeus, who has made lovers of cows, among other animals.

Recently, It’s also become more popular in more “high-brow” media. “The Shape of Water,” directed by certified monster-lover Guillermo Del Toro, won the 2018 Academy Award for Best Picture. And in that movie Sally Hawkins literally f—s the fish man. 

The morality of these relationships aside, Venom along with many other “monsters” in our literature, movies and tv shows can be coded as queer. When society treats queer people as monsters and refuses to let them be anything else, they’re eventually going to embrace it.

Fans have eaten Venom up, and they should — Venom is a funny character. He’s a weird, but also insanely powerful alien from space who forms a loving yet sarcastic relationship with his host. I’ve seen rom-coms founded on worse. But Venom isn’t just important to fans because of his relationship with Eddie, but also because of his gender expression.

Venom refers to himself when merged with Eddie as “we” and usually switches between gendered pronouns depending on his host. Since Eddie is Venom’s primary host, he’s usually referred to with “he/him” pronouns, but the Symbiote race overall has no explicit gender. 

This characteristic has made Venom a haven for non-binary and gender-noncomforming fans. 

Something that people so often forget is the little “plus” on the end of LGBTQ+ community. While those who identify as “gay,” “lesbian” or “bisexual” share most of the community’s spotlight, rarely are non-binary indivuals given any kind of representation in the media. Only 1% of LGBTQ+ individuals on cable identify as “non-binary.” 

According to a 2021 study from the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law about 1.2 million Americans identify as non-binary, which is 11% of LGBTQ+ adults. This is not an insignificant number and if the parameters were extended to include individuals who use multiple pronouns besides “they/them” the numbers would probably increase. 

A survey of 40,000 LGBTQ+ youth conducted by the Trevor Project revealed that nearly two-thirds of LGBTQ+ youth outside of the gender binary use a combination of he/him, she/her and they/them pronouns. About 4% use neopronouns — a word used as a pronoun without exposing gender or a pronoun utilizing an existing word — or they use a combination of neopronouns. 

No matter how you put it, there is a significant number of people in the U.S. and the world who identify outside of the gender binary, and they’re lacking in meaningful representation in our movies and tv shows. 

Venom, a powerful superhero, with a wisecracking sense of humor and literally endless opportunities for gender expression at his fingers, seems practically ready-made for fans to enjoy.