Black Panther is a movie that requires no introduction. It was a culturally significant film that was celebrated and enjoyed by an international audience. This movie was, for the most part, really well-made, had a solid story, and was a brilliant introduction to the nation of Wakanda and all its important characters, customs and traditions.
This movie resonated with the general audience on so many levels. The presence of so many Black people being in a blockbuster superhero movie was refreshing and empowering for many people of color around the world. It also effortlessly showed technological advancements not seen anywhere around the world and helped in breaking many barriers and stereotypes.
However, this movie resonated on a personal level for different reasons. As a woman of color, watching all of the female characters in this movie shine and have their own roles that are important felt very empowering. It was also done in a very seamless way. At no point in this movie did it make a point of them being women in power and having a weakness; they just are. Each and every woman does what she does and does it so well.
The brilliance of female representation in this movie is how multifaceted it is. There are so many different types of wonderful women who are empowering in their own way. This is what allows women and especially women of color to feel empowered in their own lives.
The four main female characters each have their own strengths that allow them to shine in their own way. Queen Mother of Wakanda Ramonda played by Angela Basset, Shuri played by Letitia Wright, Okoye played by Danai Gurira and Nakia played by Lupita Nyong’o each portray particular strengths that are very well presented throughout the movie.
Queen Mother Of Wakanda, The Mother
Throughout the movie her love and devotion for her children, T’challa and Shuri, was evident. She was able to be the emotional support that both her children needed which is extremely important. She was by her sons’ side and gave her all for her children and for the nation she believed in. she showed that you don’t need to be physically powerful to help in times of need.
Shuri, The Scientist
This character’s strength lay in her knowledge and her scientific advancements, her power being that she led the entire science and technology sector of Wakanda. Her intelligence, innovation, and her ability to lead is nothing short of fantastic. This is very important as the representation and presence of women in careers that are Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in film is very low and even lower for that of women of color. She then uses her inventions to defend herself and use against Killmonger. This character truly is an amazing character to have in this movie and had a significance personal importance.
Nakia, The Diplomat
This character embodied the diplomatic and humanitarian side who saw the good in people and was willing to save them regardless of the consequences. Yes, she was the love interest for T’challa but in no way was her role defined by that. She was a person who had ambition and hope for Wakanda to have a connection the outside world. She also saved young girls from being sold and diplomatically arranged for an alliance with the long estranged Jabari tribe in Wakanda. She found a way to bridge differences between the Jabari and the collective Kingdom of Wakanda that others could not. This was vital for the third act where it aided in the defeat of Killmonger.
Okoye, The General
She was the general who had extreme loyalty to the nation of Wakanda and the rules and regulations. She has pride in her role as a general and is devoted to the kingdom of Wakanda. Her character is multidimensional in the way that she faces a moral dilemma and has to internally struggle between those laws and rules that she has sworn to protect and what is good for Wakanda, ultimately choosing the latter. Her character has strength and power and shows at multiple parts of the movie her physical ability to best her rivals in any situation. One notable scene that has had an impact on so many women of color was when she gladly took her wig off in the casino scene and chose to embrace her natural hair or lack thereof.
Most, if not all movies that want to showcase female empowerment have one figure to look up to and this person can do it all. While that may be beneficial, it is not practical nor is it actually representative of the real world. Women can be powerful and strong in their own way, have the ability to change the world, and be a force of good using their own unique strengths. Black Panther portrayed this in the most realistic and beautiful way possible.
It showed that if you are a woman who loves to take care of her children and be a motherly figure you still have the power to effect change. You can pursue your scientific ambition and be a leader in a male dominated profession. It also demonstrates that diplomacy and humanitarian methods can work against the more negative forces in the world to help bring positive change. If your strength as a woman lies in physicality you are just as important and you can make a difference.
The true beauty of the female representation in the movie is that it is effortless. At no point in this movie do they push the typical “is it because I’m a woman that I can’t do this?” narrative. The characters exist and are accepted in society with the power that they all have. This movie celebrates a range of women and it executes it perfectly.
As a scientist and a woman of color, I came away from this movie feeling more empowerment than any other movie or TV show has been capable of.