The smashing blockbuster success "Black Panther" is being praised both as a wildly entertaining film and as a triumph in "diversity" because of its almost entirely black cast. But some on the "intersectionality" Left say that the film failed in one glaring way on the diversity spectrum: it lacks "queer representation."
The complaint has really gained traction after one of the film's female stars, Florence Kasumba, seemed to confirm that a lesbian scene she was involved in was left on the cutting room floor. In an interview with Kasumba, Vulture faults the film for its "lack of queer representation."
After praising the film for its "onscreen representation" for the "nearly all-black cast" and "richly detailed female figures," Vulture details the intersectional complaint, which stems in part from what appears to be the deliberate purging of homosexual references to some of the comic book series' gay characters, including the one played by Kasumba:
But one thing it lacks is openly queer characters. This has caused a bit of frustration among fans of Black Panther comics, who point out that one of the film’s minor characters, Ayo, is a woman who has a romantic relationship with another woman in series like the Ta-Nehisi Coates–written Black Panther and the Roxane Gay–written Black Panther: World of Wakanda. In the film, she’s played by actor Florence Kasumba, and shows no signs of romantic involvement with anyone.
Citing a report by Vanity Fair from last April in which the writer claims to have seen footage of the Ayo character flirting with another female character, Okoye (played by Danai Gurira), a claim Marvel denied, Vulture says it tracked down Kasumba to ask her if the rumored lesbian-themed scene was more than a rumor. As Vulture puts it, she "seemed to say the scene existed."
"The thing is, if the makers would have wanted everyone to see the scene, it would have been in the movie," Kasumba told Vulture. "The final result that we’ve seen, there were a few scenes that have been cut. Different scenes, also. They didn’t make it into the movie for certain reasons, and at that point, I have to say: What their reason is, I can’t tell you, because nobody told me about whether it’s in or not."
Establishing the world of Wakanda and the central characters, particularly T'Challa, she suggested, took precedence over establishing sexual relationships among secondary characters. "There are so many important things that had to be told in these two hours," she said.
Asked if she personally wishes that Marvel would feature the character's homosexuality, Kasumba answered more directly. "I'd love to, at some point. Not now, because it’s too soon. ... Who is in love with whom and whatever — that was not important in this movie," she said.
"It'll be interesting to see whether Marvel decides to display Ayo’s queer identity in future films," she added. "On the one hand, there’s a bit of conventional wisdom that non-straight characters don’t play well in blockbusters, especially internationally. But on the other hand, Black Panther has already demonstrated that conventional wisdom is made to be defied."