Black Panther co-writer Joe Robert Cole has addressed rumors that Marvel edited out a lesbian romance between two characters.
Suggestions that Marvel would include a lesbian romance in their upcoming superhero film began after Vanity Fair‘s Joanna Robinson watched an early cut of the film.
Per Robinson, this edit featured a scene in which Danai Gurira's character Okoye and Florence Kasumba's character Ayo exchanged flirtatious glances during a dance:
We see Gurira’s Okoye and Kasumba’s Ayo swaying rhythmically back in formation with the rest of their team. Okoye eyes Ayo flirtatiously for a long time as the camera pans in on them. Eventually, she says, appreciatively and appraisingly, “You look good.” Ayo responds in kind. Okoye grins and replies, “I know.”
A relationship between Okoye and Ayo, two warriors in Wakanda's Dora Milaje special forces unit, is depicted in spin-off comic World of Wakanda.
However, Marvel quickly shut down Robinson's account of the rough cut, saying that World of Wakanda was not used as a source and the relationship depicted there would not appear in Black Panther.
Seeking further clarification, Screen Crush spoke with co-writer Cole, who offered a mixed response as to whether the scene had been deleted due to Marvel's cold feet, or if the whole thing was just an early test before the final relationships were clarified.
Asked if Okoye and Ayo were originally written as romantically linked, Cole said, “I think the short answer is yes. I know that there were quite a few conversations around different things, different directions with different characters, and characters that we may have. We thought, ‘Well, maybe we’ll work it this way with an arc or work it that way with an arc.’
“The scene you’re talking about, I don’t remember. I can’t remember the exact exchange you’re talking about, but I think it was really brief. I’m not sure,” Cole continued. “I know that it was not – there wasn’t some major theme through that we were looking to explore with that in terms of the story. We didn’t like, pull out a full thread of some theme.”
Cole's response still doesn't definitively answer what went on behind the scenes of Black Panther, whether there was originally a lesbian romance that was cut, or if it was all just a misunderstanding.
However, it's the latest bit of negative publicity for the studio with regards LGBTQ inclusion in its films, after last year's Thor: Ragnarok edited out a scene that would have depicted a key character's bisexuality.
Meanwhile, D.C. fans are celebrating, after The CW's Black Lightning left untouched the comic's lesbian superhero Thunder, real name Anissa.
And her sexuality won’t just be a passing reference, as Anissa — played by Nafessa Williams — will also get a love interest, in the form of half-Amazonian, Asian-American character Grace Choi, played by Chantal Thuy, who is bisexual in the comics.
Your move, Marvel.
Black Panther opens Friday, February 16.
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