We reported last year that Black Panther was likely going to be the first Marvel movie to feature a lesbian romance. A number of critics were shown an early scene from the movie that heavily suggested this would be the first Marvel movie to feature an on-screen relationship between gay characters. Danai Gurira's Okoye and Florence Kasumba's Ayo were said to be romantically involved, with the relationship taking inspiration from the World of Wakanda comic. However, this never made it to the final cut, arriving in theaters this week. Now, screenwriter Joe Robert Cole has addressed the rumored lesbian romance that doesn't appear in Black Panther.
Joe Robert Cole co-wrote Black Panther for Marvel, so he would know just how prevalent this gay storyline may or may not have been in an earlier version of the script. He might also know why Marvel Studios ultimately decided to lean away from this. However, Cole's response in a recent interview when asked about including elements from the World of Wakanda storyline were pretty cagey, though he's willing to admit they originally had intended that. Here's what he had to say.
"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. 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. But your friend quite possibly could be right, or I'm maybe having a brain fart here and just can't remember."
Marvel Studios has broken a lot of ground in terms of blockbuster filmmaker over the years, but they've definitely been shy about including anything even remotely controversial, such as featuring openly gay characters on screen. Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie was intended to be bisexual in Thor: Ragnarok, but this was really not presented in the movie, even though the actress played the character that way. Just for some context, here's a description of an early scene from Black Panther that was described by Vanity Fair's Joanna Robinson, which features between the two members of the Dora Milaje.
"In the rough cut of this Black Panther scene, 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.'"
While many Marvel fans are likely going to be disappointed this gay storyline didn't ultimately make it into the movie, Black Panther still looks like it's going to be a resounding success. The movie has been met with near-universal praise by critics thus far and looks like it's going to rake it in at the box office. Joe Robert Cole's comments to Screen Crush do reveal that Black Panther could have been even more groundbreaking though.