Marvel haven't had the best time of it recently. Right on the heels of the comic sales chief blaming female characters and people of color for bad sales (seriously), Marvel has shot down news that Black Panther will introduce the MCU's first lesbian characters with a swift "no homo."
The report comes to us via Variety, who among other publications were given a tour of Marvel Studios last week. Along with a Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 screening and a glimpse of Spider-Man: Homecoming, media reps were also shown concept art and a scene from Black Panther — a scene that seemed to introduce the first #LGBT characters in the MCU.
The Lesbian Love Story We Almost Saw
These characters are Ayo and Okoye, two members of the Dora Milaje who have some serious chemistry in the scene in question. Here's how Variety described the sequence:
"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.'"
At first glance, this seems just like subtext — but when you throw in the context that Ayo is an out and proud lesbian in the #Marvel comics, this exchange becomes a lot more sexually oblique. Ayo and another woman flirting while training? Yep, that seems pretty gay to me. Variety drew the same conclusions and reported the story — that's until Marvel reached out to clarify that no, this scene was definitely not gay at all, thank you very much.
Variety have since updated their article with Marvel's statement at the top:
"A Marvel representative reached out to say that the nature of the relationship between Danai Gurira’s Okoye and Florence Kasumba‘s Ayo in 'Black Panther' is not a romantic one and that specific love storyline from the comic 'World of Wakanda' was not used as a source."
The World of Wakanda comic focuses on Ayo and Aneka as they fall in love and try to juggle their romantic relationship with their duties as Dora Milaje. It's a fantastic comic, one which people are still talking about.
Considering Ayo was the first of the Dora Milaje that we ever met in the MCU — she was the one to face off with Black Widow in Civil War — the choice to include a lesbian character in the movie cast seemed like Marvel's first step towards some much needed (and long overdue) #LGBT representation.
Fans Protest Gay Erasure
But now, it seems like Ayo's sexuality will be reduced to mere subtext, a fun fact for those who like the comics and can read something into her interactions with women. Many fans have already reacted in outrage, flooding Twitter with complaints against Marvel.
Many used panels from World of Wakanda to show what could have been included in the Black Panther movie.
This outrage is pretty justifiable, considering the fact that even the canon gay characters in movies like Power Rangers, Beauty and the Beast, and Star Trek: Beyond were barely visible — this is especially annoying following the media storm prompted by each studio revealing the LGBT characters before the films were released. And yet, in the movies themselves, the sexuality of these characters is left very much open to interpretation, more hinted at than obviously expressed or talked about.
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When it comes to Marvel, their queer characters seem to be confined to the TV shows, and in fact, there are only two gay characters in the MCU — Joey Gutierrez, an Inhuman Secret Warrior on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Jeri Hogarth, played by the fantastic Carrie Ann Moss, who appears in both Jessica Jones and Iron Fist
While Jeri's inclusion in the Netflix Marvel shows is important, she's just one character among the dozens that populate the MCU. With 14 movies and five TV shows under its belt, you'd think that there was room in Marvel's expansive empire for a few more LGBT characters than just Jeri and Joey. This is why Black Panther seems like an opportunity missed.
Granted, Black Panther has not been released yet. There's still a chance, however slim, that Marvel's "no homo" shutdown is actually just a crafty ruse that will allow the movie to surprise us with a sweet lesbian love story between Ayo and Okoye.
Yeah. I'm not holding my breath for that either.
Tell us in the comments: Would you like to see more LGBT characters in the MCU?