It is not often we see women depicted in strong and powerful roles in film. Throughout the history of film women are regularly portrayed as submissive or overshadowed by some male character. Women in supporting roles often need saving or play an overly sexualized character. This portrayal has negative ramifications as this view of women gets etched in our collective consciousness. We start to treat and view women around us in the same fashion which is problematic for our society as a whole. With the release of Black Panther, the creators of the film have taken it upon themselves to combat this imaginary and change the narrative for female characters painting women in a light that I have rarely see in films. When it comes to Black Panther women are the heart and soul of this film. In the movie T’Challa played by Chadwick Boseman surrounds himself with powerful and intelligent women. They protect, support, and guide him through his trails and hardships throughout the motion picture.
Okoye played by Danai Gurira (she also plays Michonne in the hit T.V. series The Walking Dead) is the general of the Dora Milaje an all female special forces unit that act as the personal body guards of T’Challa. Okoye is a fierce warrior and fearless leader. She no doubt represents the raw strength of women. Women are often portrayed as helpless damsels who constantly need saving and protection. The image of Okoye combats that by being a bad ass warrior who can go toe to toe with just about anyone.
Marvel’s most brilliant scientific minds are usually white males. What if I told you a young black teenage girl puts them all to shame. Enter Shuri, sister of T’Challa and Wakanda’s top scientist responsible for the incredible technological advancement of Wakanda. Since Wakanda’s technology is leaps and bounds past the rest of the world it’s safe to say that the intelligence of Shuri trumps the likes of Tony Stark and other scientist in Marvel. The male dominated tech sector often views women as having limited ability and scope. Shuri represents the brilliance and the potential of women in the field of technology.
For men to be at their best they need a partner, a companion to lean for support and guidance in their most difficult moments. Women often put their men before even themselves supporting and pushing their men to fulfill their hopes and desires. Nakia played by Lupita Nyong'o is a talented spy of Wakanda who is also the love interest of T’Challa. She is the most important women in his life as he looks to her for support and guidance above all others. Without the love of Nakia, T’Challa would truly be lost.
Lastly there’s Ramonda played by Angela Bassett who is the Queen mother of T’Challa. She has elegance, wisdom, grace, and her position makes her one of the most important figures in Wakanda. Ramonda is vital to the success of T’Challa in the film. Her unconditional love and maternal instinct to protect T’Challa helps to propel him to his destined greatness. For many of us our mothers are the first women in our lives and they are often our biggest supporters and advocates. Ramonda is undoubtedly a key figure and the matriarch of the film. These strong women can serve as role models to women and girls showing that you can be strong and fierce yet have elegance and grace. The women of Wakanda have a presence unmatched by any man, they are the backbone of the society, they are the heart and soul of Black Panther.