Marvel’s “Black Panther” breaks through barriers by introducing a plethora of dynamic, complex, and powerful female characters. These women are far from the normal female characters that are often used in cinema as eye candy and instead are essential to the film’s success. As they appear on screen, they demand the attention of everyone in the theater. These characters are a revolutionary addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as to the history of cinema itself. As an African-American female, it was an extremely powerful experience to watch these badass women take center stage.
In this latest addition to the MCU, there are many female characters that express sheer valor, but Danai Gurira’s character Okoye, leader of the Dora Milaje; the elite group of all-female protectors of the Black Panther, was definitely one of the most fearless of them all. Okoye has an undying devotion to the crown and will stop at nothing to protect and maintain the safety of King T’Challa. She fearlessly defends Wakanda and in the action scenes she is always shown at the forefront, her vibranium spear and brave group of warriors never far away. Okoye exudes strength and confidence and is never afraid to question one’s morals or ethics, even if that person is T’Challa himself. Let’s just say that when there’s a threat to the throne, Okoye is the one they call. Gurira was brilliant in her performance and was truly jaw dropping in the way she brought this character to life.
Another important character that contributes to the band of influential women in the film is Shuri, played by Letitia Wright. She is T’Challa’s younger sister and the royal princess of Wakanda. She is the genius behind the black panther suits and the high tech vibranium weapons used in the film, as well as all of the modern technology that is used throughout Wakanda. How incredible is it that the manager of the technology that powers the entire empire is a young woman—likely no older than twenty years old. Shuri helps guide T’Challa in controlling the Black Panther suit whenever he is in combat. She also shows great physical strength as she does not hesitate to join the fight when need be. Her character is a huge step forward for women in the Marvel Universe. Her intelligence makes Tony Stark and Bruce Banner look like they only have surface level knowledge. A black woman in the technology and science field does wonders for representation as well. Aside from her toughness and sheer brilliance, Shuri is also very funny. Her iconic one-liners added some much needed humor to the film and were entwined with political satire. I am beyond excited to see what she will bring to Marvel’s upcoming “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Lupita Nyong’o also stands out in her dynamic role as Nakia. In the film it is hinted at that she and T’Challa once had a fling, and that she is still the object of his affection. But her free spirited nature is her primary identifier as she runs her own spy agency for the Wakandan empire. She exudes elegance and beauty while also proving to be an adept fighter with great strength, and unwavering dauntlessness. Nakia is loyal to her kingdom but does not shy away from expressing her longing to see and experience more. She is independent but also reliable. She is always a friend and protector to her people as well as to T’Challa, and is always seen fighting along his side. She has many defining moments but one particular heartfelt moment comes midway through the film in which King T’Challa is doubting his abilities as the new Black Panther. Nakia reminds him of who he is and promises that she will stand by his side as he fights for the fate of their kingdom. She explains that she makes it her duty to always fight for what she loves. Nyong’o pushes the character of Nakia to her full potential by portraying her as an endearing and ambitious woman who is also a complete force to be reckoned with.
“Black Panther” is a film completely enriched with female empowerment. Other notable women in the film include Angela Bassett as the wise and graceful Queen Ramonda and Ayo, the daring second-in-command of the Dora Milaje (portrayed by Florence Kasumba). The women in this film are important in more ways than one. Not only are they the foundation of the film itself, but they open the doors for more black female representation and will serve as an inspiration to young black girls everywhere. I was at times moved to tears at their display of bravery and strength and found that they all give a clear message to the audience—Women are powerful, women are valuable and women can be superheroes too.