The hype surrounding Marvel's upcoming Black Panther is palpable. Heralded for its black cast and pristine review scores, the film is set to be a cultural milestone is contemporary Black storytelling. It's hard to believe that, in its early stages, the film was even more inclusive, with an allusion to a queer character in T'Challa's (Chadwick Boseman) all-female guard.
In World of Wakanda, a comic Marvel cites as not being used for source material for the movie, Ayo (Florence Kasumba) is in a relationship with another canonically queer character, Aneka, who is not featured in the film. An early version of the film reportedly had a nod to that. Last April, almost a year before the film's release date, Vanity Fairwrote:
"In the rough cute 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.'"
VF's Joana Robinson wrote that the moment "leans into" the World of Wakanda storyline, but the scene never made it to the final cut of the film. In an interview with Screen Crush, Black Panther co-writer Joe Robert Cole was asked if there was any intention to make a gesture toward the contemporary storyline in the film.
"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.'
Cole's response becomes less definitive towards the end. "I can't remember the exact exchange you're talking about, but I think it was really brief," he said. "I'm not sure."
Of course with any inkling of a potential queer element of a new film left on the cutting room floor, the internet was quick to respond with the hashtag #LetAyoHaveAGirlfriend, a similar treatment that Captain America and Elsa of Frozen once got. Black Panther opens in theaters this Friday, February 16.