It’s no secret: fans are demanding more from Hollywood with every passing day. Studios like Marvel and DC Entertainment continue to see themselves challenged by fans who use their wallets to demand social progressivism. The entertainment industry is starting to follow in kind, pushing for films and television series to feature increasing diverse casts of different race, religion, and sexuality. Still, fans of the Marvel Cineamatic Universe continue to bemoan the franchise’s lack of openly LGBTQ relationships - but Black Panther may be the film which breaks that barrier.
Last month, a select few critics and press members were allowed a sneak-peek at Black Panther during an annual Disney shareholders meeting. Sites reported the tense footage showed off Wakanda in all its beauty, and a pair of Dore Milaje guards caught the eyes of everyone.
The female warriors were shown on a boat as Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Ayo (Florence Kasumba) spoke casually to one another. Reports suggested that the pair’s conversation was on the flirty side as it held some deep innuendos. While no overt nod was made to the character’s sexualities, sites reported the scene was ladened with sexual chemistry, and comic book fans will find that easy to believe.
After all, Black Panther hasn’t shied away from queer relationships with its comics. In fact, a recent spinoff of the title has put two of its leads into a much-loved lesbian relationship.
If reports about Black Panther’s sexual chemistry is right, then the movie may be taking a page straight from Roxane Gay’s run of World of Wakanda. In the spinoff, Dora Milaje warriors Ayo and Aneka are shown to be in a lesbian relationship. A report by Vanity Fair said Okoye carries a similar demeanor to Aneka and didn’t rule out that Black Panther may have simply pushed Ayo’s feelings onto Okoye as such.
Fans have leaned heavily on Black Panther’s reported depiction of Okoye and Ayo as a means of hope for Marvel Studios. The company has yet to debut any openly LGBTQ characters in the MCU thus far, but fans have their hopes tampered shortly after reports about the presumed couple went live. Executives pushed back at the idea that the Dora Milaje warriors were in a romantic relationship, spurring a massive social media campaign to fall into place on Twitter.
Still, there is a chance that Marvel Studios may want to redirect attention about the couple for now. Films like Beauty and the Beast and Power Rangers came under fire from some foreign audiences when news broke that they contained LGBTQ characters. With Black Panther in its beginning post-production days, Marvel and Disney may want to separate the film and any of its possible LGBTQ leanings away from recent film controversies.
There is also the very real possibility that Marvel Studios has no plans to explore any LGBTQ couples in Black Panther. Regardless of fan petitions, the MCU will continue on its predestined trajectory even if it does leave fans smarting over its homogenous take on sexuality. When it comes down to it, Marvel and Disney have ultimate creative control over who gets together in the MCU. However, it does come down to fans to make sure their wants and needs are heard.