by Joce Blake
When women have power and agency, we reign supreme. Marvel’s groundbreaking film, Black Panther, proved this theory this weekend as millions of people watched women be portrayed in a heroic light. This is a turn in the right direction for the film industry since women have historically stood on the sidelines in action films. The film is not only comprised of predominantly black characters but also unapologetically emboldens the roles of badass women.
“Long Live the King” is the slogan for the film but from my perspective, it was the women who made Wakanda a country that everyone wants to call home. From Shuri, the smart, witty princess to Okoye, the fearless leader of the female warrior band, the female characters in this film made me so proud to be a black woman. It’s not often that we see females being labeled technological geniuses as Shuri was in the film. The fact that she is also a woman of color makes it more real for me personally. Watching the film, I felt proud and emancipated. I have not felt that way since I saw Hidden Figures in early 2017. Watching actresses Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright be own their valiance without having superpowers made me feel like I can truly do anything. Being a woman is a superpower in itself.
Letitia Wright’s character, Shuri, was undeniably my favorite character. Her quick, amusing comebacks alongside her irrefutable brilliance made her the shining star of the film. Shuri was able to achieve her dreams of saving the world through her technological advancements because of the resources she had and the support of her tribe; power and agency. During a Black Panther press conference, Wright said, “What I loved about [the character was] with how it was written, is that the men are always behind the women, as well, so no one's like undermining, the men aren't like, ‘You shouldn't be in technology, and you shouldn't be in math.’" Wright continued, "They're like, ‘No, go ahead.’ T'Challa's like, ‘Go ahead, sis. This is your department. This is your domain. Like kill it. Then I'm gonna work with you to finalize it," 'cause he's dope. But then it's like, ‘Okay. Just do your thing. Stay in your lane.’ That's the mentality of a king, and that's brilliant.”
The film attempts to tackle concepts of racism, colonialism, nationalism, colorism and sexism in an unimaginable way. While I am aware that this single movement cannot erase years of discrimination of various forms, I was elated to see director and co-writer, Ryan Coogler, produce something so beautiful. Black Panther promotes black excellence in a way that I didn’t realize I needed to experience. Representation is essential to the evolution of culture. Even through the beauty and fashion of this film, I now feel more liberated to be proud of my melanin skin and natural hair.
It was heartwarming to see that other women were echoing my same sentiments. Women of Denver member, Sarah Hipps shared, “I was surprised that I couldn't quite express my reaction to the film. But when I saw strong black women alongside strong black men, in a world of success and leadership that felt assumed and not in any chains or battling direct racism or being portrayed as broken down, it actually felt like a representation I knew was missing but hadn't FELT until I saw it last night. I'm jealous of the little girls who have so many black women to look to these days that have skin as dark as theirs, hair as untamed and natural as theirs, unapologetic fierceness, and a strength shown that we are often chastised for. It felt so good to see unapologetic blackness.”
As I was leaving the theater, I heard a young black girl say to her mom, “I’m going to be like Shuri when I grow up. I am going to be so smart like her!” As my eyes welled up, I realized the grave importance of this film. Thank you, Marvel and Ryan Coogler for making a film I can truly be proud of.