Michaela Coel: Wakanda Forever LGBTQ

Ben Arnoldussen

One of the most anticipated and long-awaited films of 2022; the four-year follow-up to its 1.3 billion dollar box office hit Black Panther, the movie Wakanda Forever is set to be the next big movie for both cinema and Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. With this, however, there comes a new set of characters and plot lines to grasp the audience’s attention. One of these newer characters is Aneka, a Wakandan warrior trainer who Michaela Coel plays. Coel has played numerous characters embodying sequences of political enactment, both about women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, and sexual assault. While she usually stars in her own written films, like Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You which both won multiple awards including numerous BAFTA and an Emmy, the British screenwriter and actress told Vogue magazine “That sold me on the role, the fact that my character’s queer.”

With the new film making its way to the main stage, the anticipation for another LGBTQ+ character to join the small ranks in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is very special. While Marvel has had queer, gay, and lesbian characters before, it has been subtle, and often given in small quantities. For example; Eternals, the 2021 Marvel film directed by Chloé Zhao, featured a character that we learned is married to another man. Another example is Doctor Strange: The Muliverse of Madness, where a character’s parents were two married women. However, they were killed after about five minutes of screentime. See a trend? Disney has done a bit toning of down when it came to LGBTQ+ characters, as they are the parent company to Marvel, Pixar, and other entertainment companies. 

With this, movies that had potential or hints of LGBTQ+ characters, storylines, or lead-ups, were diminished, cut down, or removed from the film entirely. While both Marvel directors Joe and Anthony Russo have come under scrutiny about this factor, they have made moves to change that. In Marvel’s Avengers Endgame, Joe Russo actually played a grieving man, mourning over the death of his male partner, after the events of the movie’s prequel: Infinity War. Over the years, Marvel has made a grand shift in the diversity of characters, with an almost all-Black cast for the 2018 Black Panther, an almost all-Asian cast for Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and a collection of men and women of all Latino, Asian and Black ethnicity in Eternals. The importance of diversity and representation is modernizing in the growing world of cinema, with director Joe Russo telling IndieWire magazine, “It was important we did four of these films, with a gay character somewhere in each one. We felt it was important for one of us to play them as well, to show our integrity and that we were serious. One of the things that is compelling about the Marvel universe is its forward step with a focus on diversity.” 

The hype around Michaela Coel joining the MCU is expected and well deserved, as we know she brings a fiery and unique look to the films she plays in. While it is amazing to see as many LGBTQ+ characters as we have on Marvel’s film rolls, we are excited to see what Michaela Coel brings to the Black Panther atmosphere and hopeful for what LGBTQ+ representation we will see from Marvel next.