Of all the superhero movies that have come out in the recent years, Black Panther is easily #2 on my list, Captain America: Winter Soldier being #1. By now, most people have seen this movie, therefore I won’t go into details of it. I will briefly mention why I liked the movie and focus mostly what I thought of the supporting female characters in the movie.
Black Panther was beyond what I imaged it would be. I thought there would be stereotypes, disrespectful females, uninteresting main character (I thought T’Challa was average in Civil War), and typical “black” music. This movie trumped all these expectations and filled me with contentment in finally watching a movie with a black cast that respects itself. The story was visibly a work of passion, with dedicated actors who took their role seriously. It was clear that this movie took upon itself to show a different side of what is typically depicted of black people.
The storytelling seamlessly explained the origins of Wakanda and why it’s special and gave each character dimensions, personalities, and clear motivations. Even the main villain, Killmonger, had a genuinely understandable reason behind his actions. The Wakandan men in the story were very well written, one of the best male characters I have seen in a “black” movie. All of them embodied characteristics I can admire in anyone: honor, dedication, thoughtfulness, intelligence, honesty, strength, and the list goes on. These qualities are especially present in T’Challa. Despite everyone’s different view on what should be the future of Wakanda, each shared their opinion respectfully with the king, without trying to impose their beliefs. It was especially interesting to see the King really consider everyone’s point of view and synthesize everything to make a final decision. He is a character who genuinely tries to be a good man and king without sacrificing his morals and values. Kudos to Chadwick Boseman for really translating what and how his character is, feels and thinks through his mannerism, speech delivery, and facial expressions. I do think that he has to work a little more on the latter.
Black Panther had many fascinating moments, however some the best scenes are hands down the action sequences. The fight scenes were wonderfully choreographed, everyone’s favorite (including mine) being the casino fight. Thumbs up to Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Freeman, and Andy Serkis for doing their own stunts. Here is an interesting video of the director, Ryan Coogler, breaking down the fight sequence in detail. Very insightful and thoughtfully planned out scene. I don’t usually say this about most action films with female action scenes, but Nakia and Okoye stole the show during those parts. In fact, most of my favorite parts of the movie were the female characters supporting the King.
Women of Wakanda:
Black femininity is proudly represented by the actresses. I never felt as though there was some kind of competition between these characters. In fact, they all respected and supported one another regardless of their different points of view. They never acted as though though they needed to prove their worth, ability, or intelligence to males. The impact that these women made in their representation of black females in media is not to be ignored, as it is quite profound. Each of these women portrayed qualities that every woman (perhaps everyone) can be influenced by, at least in part. These traits are also commended by the Most High as He values beauty of the inner most part, the heart (1 Peter 3:4)
Okoye: Dora Milaje General- Portrayed by Danai Gurira
Starting with my favorite character, Okoye. She is the general of the Dora Milaje, a special force unit of bodyguards for the King. The general is also the the love interest of W’Kabi, T’Challa’s former best friend and Head of Security for Wakanda’s Border. I have not seen a black female character portrayed as well as her in a Hollywood movie. That’s not to say there’s not any. Princess Leia is another fine example, not to mention Ellen Ripley from the Alien movie franchise. However, she is easily the most relatable to me for obvious reasons. The type of strength that she portrays is slightly different from the characters I just mentioned, but nonetheless remains the same. Okoye is not only an excellent fighter, she is also has a feminine strength to her. She has dignity, clear morals and values, wisdom, kindness, and respect for other. Wisdom and kindness are standards that the Most High values in a female (Proverbs 31:26), as what comes out of our mouths is very important to discipline, as well as our behaviors. Okoye’s respect is not only towards her fellow warriors and King, but also towards her lover. She is not seen downgrading him (and vice versa) and seeks to stop W’kabi, not because of his beliefs, but because his actions are influencing others to take part in creating chaos within Wakanda. Okoye values the unity, traditions, and safety of Wakandans, which is why she says that she would choose Wakanda over her lover. In the same manner, W’kabi does not kneel before her because she is a woman and he loves her. I see that this interpretation of that scene is very rampant across the internet and do not understand how one could conclude such a thing. It is very clear, as seen by the way he looks around at his fellow Wakandans before dropping his weapon , that he kneels in surrender to the fact that he was wrong. His wrongdoing wasn’t betraying Okoye, it is that he was leading a chaos and violence against his own people. They were killing each other because of different ideals. That is why he kneels and surrenders. Okoye’s statement made him see the irony of what his actions (Proverbs 27: 5-6). I respect her character because she did not have to insult, nag, or fight W’kabi to help him see “the error of his ways”. Nor did she have to act like a man to show “strength”.
Nakia: Spy and T’Challa’s love interest- Potrayed by Lupita Nyong’o
Nakia is a spy master that is also part of the Dora Milaje. She is T’Challa’s former flame but they reconnect throughout the movie and resume their relationship at the end of it. She is my third favorite character because she is just as similar to Okoye as she is different. She is more patient and displays kindness as seen by her concern for the kidnapped women at the beginning of the movie. Nakia is also adamant at wanting to actively help those in need outside of Wakanda, confirmed by the type of work she does and her desire to mostly stay outside the country to aid where she can (Proverbs 31: 8-9). She is also very skilled, intelligent, and beautiful but was not seen using her appearance to her advantage. This reminded me that the Most High wants us to focus on a type of beauty that will last much longer than outward appearance. As a spy, Nakia is required to use any means at her disposal to get something done, including charm. However, this is not necessarily an example to apply nor something to applaud, as it is a form of deceit (Proverbs 31:30).
Ramonda: Queen Mother- Portrayed by Angela Bassett
I thoroughly enjoyed Angela Bassett’s performance in Black Panther. Anytime I see her onscreen, I cannot help but pay attention to her. She always carries herself with grace and dignity, no matter what type of role she plays (unfortunately). Never did Ramonda embarrass or try to usurp power from her son during the movie. She lets her son take care of business, offered words of wisdom, and affirms his ability to take up the role as king. When the time came for her to step up and act for the sake of Wakanda and her son, Queen Ramonda did so without hesitation. She swallowed her pride, took up courage and sought out her son’s rival, M’baku, for help because of her concern for Wakanda (Phillipians 2: 3-5).
Shuri: Tech genius and T’Challa’s sister- Portrayed by Leticia Wright
For a newcomer, Leticia Wright really surprised me with her performance. Though she is nowhere near top 5 on my list of favorite Black Panther characters, Shuri was a fun loving character. She is a tech scientist who could give Tony Stark a run for his money, especially when it comes to innovation. She created many things from her brother’s suit to medical technology in Wakanda. Shuri is just like how I imagine having a younger sister: playful, supportive, smart, reliable, and annoying 😛 . One thing I was disappointed in was her disregard of traditions and modern attitude. I don’t think it makes sense for her to be the only person in Wakanda, as far as we know, to publicly and shamefully act in blatant disrespect of tradition. I understand that the character is young and that this was perhaps done as comic relief, but I still find it strange, especially for a character of royalty. Despite this I did enjoy seeing her interaction with her older brother and other characters. Her funny reference Bucky Barnes was quite shocking wasn’t it? 😀
In the end, Black Panther is a film worth watching and taking notes from. It is long overdue that someone take the time to produce something of quality that doesn’t put down or discourage black people. I don’t quite agree with the symbolism used in this movie, but I can’t expect better from a product of Hollywood. Nevertheless, this is a movie that I can say will definitely influence females. Whether it is in a positive way is certainly questionable, as feminine qualities are increasingly shunned. Bryan Coogler has a promising future as a director, writer, and producer. I hope that he continues to improve, directing and writing projects that will positively influence our community.
“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” -Proverbs 31: 10 KJV