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Black Panther 2 Dora Milaje star praises her character’s queerness.

by John Paul
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Michaela Coel, who will be making her MCU debut in Black Panther 2, says the character’s queerness ultimately convinced her to accept the role. Director Ryan Coogler highly anticipated sequel to his critically acclaimed 2018 film Black Panther is set to be released next month. The film, Wakanda Forever, is the last in the MCU’s Phase 4 slate. Talk of a sequel has already begun to emerge soon after the initial film’s release. However, Marvel’s plans shifted drastically after Chadwick Boseman’s untimely death in 2020. Now, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will focus on the fictional African nation’s leaders defending their country after the death of King T’Challa since Marvel has decided not to recast the role.

The Dora Milaje are an all-female elite fighting force and royal bodyguards in the fictional African nation of Wakanda. Black Panther: World of Wakanda, a Marvel comic miniseries published in 2017, featured a lesbian relationship between Dora Milaje combat instructor Aneka and her coworker Ayo. While Aneka will make her live-action debut in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Ugandan actress Florence Kasumba has been playing Ayo in the MCU since 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. She came to highlights when she famously told Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in Civil War to “Move, or you will be moved.” Coel, a British citizen of Ghanaian ancestry, was cast as Aneka in July 2017.

Coel recently spoke with Vogue about why she accepted the role of Black Panther and what it means for the people of Ghana. Like many other African countries, Ghana is considering a bill that would make it a felony to come out as gay, with potential prison terms of up to five years. And that’s why, as Coel puts it, “it felt important for me to step in and do that role.”

Here is what she commented:

That sold me on the role, the fact that my character’s queer. I thought: I like that. I want to show that to Ghana. People say, ‘Oh, it’s fine. It’s just politics.’ But I don’t think it is just politics when it affects how people get to live their daily lives. That’s why it felt important for me to step in and do that role because I know just by my being Ghanaian, Ghanaians will come.

Marvel has toyed with introducing LGBTQ+ representation into the Black Panther franchise before. Now the inclusion of Aneka in Wakanda Forever does a good job of setting up the introduction of her romance with Ayo. There were rumors of a romantic subplot between Ayo and Danai Gurira’s Okoye before the first film came out, but that particular scene was cut. While the reasoning behind the decision to cut this subplot was never explained, it appears that Marvel is ready to circle back and pay homage to the comics by introducing Aneka. There’s no indication from Coel’s comments as to whether or not Aneka and Ayo’s relationship will be shown explicitly in Black Panther 2. Still, it sounds like Aneka’s sexuality might be confirmed to the world.

Following the success of Black Panther in 2018, the MCU has released other films like Eternals, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Thor: Love and Thunder, all of which show progress toward better LGBTQ+ representation in the MCU’s canon. It now appears that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will make up for the original film’s choice to ignore queer themes. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, building on the success of the first film, has the potential to become a significant vehicle for advancing queer representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and beyond.



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