Esther: Emma, you mentioned Marvel's male-centric thirst before, and I want to dig a little deeper into that. The MCU is a weirdly chaste universe. There's very little talk of romance, much less sex, and there's good reason to believe, as Mashable writer Alexis Nedd convincingly argued, that Chris Evans' Captain America is a virgin. (He's saving himself for his one true love Peggy Carter! Heart emoji!!!!!!!! Crying emoji!!!!!!) And yet these movies have never been shy about doling out, as you said, man candy. If there's an ab on a torso, Marvel Studios will find a way to show it. It's almost like the company line is to reinforce the physical godliness of its heroes by making them take off their shirts to show off their waxed chests.
But, in Endgame, the Russos (and likely screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Chris Markus) say "fuck it" and finally make the subtext of all those lingering hunk shots the actual text.
Hulk's hotness was a surprise specific to Endgame, but Captain America's perfect ass has been a constant in the MCU since its inception. One of the very first moments of this surprisingly lusty gaze was the post-credits scene for Captain America: The First Avenger which features a shot of Cap, backside to the camera, going wild on a punching bag. The moment turned into a GIF, was set to a new soundtrack, and lived on in infamy. Cap's butt has been the subject of listicles, Pinterest boards, and Tumblr pages. The character's Infinity War poster was essentially a tribute to his behind. It's just a fact: People love Cap's ass. Now we know: Cap loves that ass too.
The plot mechanics of Endgame, which we talk about elsewhere, requires a group of the Avengers to head back in time to the Battle of New York, which took place in 2012's The Avengers. There, they meet up with their old selves, including Captain America in his hokey, old-fashioned uniform. Tony Stark jokes that it does nothing for his ass. Scott Lang a.k.a. Ant-Man retorts: "As far as I'm concerned, that's America's ass." And if you think that's fan service, it's nothing compared to the moment when Cap has to fight his old self, defeats 2012 Cap, looks down and confidently remarks, "That is America's ass." I nearly squealed. Nothing in one of these 22 films has ever felt more true.
But, okay, Emma, if we're going to talk about Marvel's strange history of objectification, we have to talk about Thor. Chris Hemsworth has been the subject of some of the most gratuitous imagery.