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While Black Panther is obviously the most racially progressive film that Marvel has ever put out, what’s garnering less attention is how feminist it is.
So far, the MCU hasn’t been great with diversity of race or gender. People of color have been limited to one quippy black sidekick per franchise, and literally no characters of any other race seem to exist at all. The one lone female Avenger, Black Widow, was joined by (a whitewashed) Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but they barely get to interact at all, and are constantly surrounded by men.
It seems that ‘ass-kicker’ and/or ‘girlfriend’ are the only roles assigned to these women — let’s not forget Pepper and Jane, both written out of their own stories due to contract difficulties with the actresses.
Black Panther, however, is breaking that trend. For the first time, we’ll have not one, not a measly two, but a whole plethora of varied and brilliant women fleshing out the ensemble. Let’s take a closer look at them:1. Nakia
Played by the Oscar-winning Lupita Nyong’o, Nakia is a Wakandan spy, fighter, and T’Challa’s ex-flame. Though romance is certainly in the cards, Nakia’s role in the story is far more than ‘love interest’ - her affiliation to the War Dogs, the central intelligence service of Wakanda, gives her an independent and unique perspective to the political questions asked in the film.
Princess of Wakanda and a tech-genius that would put Tony Stark to shame, Shuri (raising star Letitia Wright) is T’challa’s 16-year-old sister and master engineer. As leading tech innovator in the most technologically advanced nation in the world, Shuri’s intellect is certainly nothing to be dismissed. Neither is her killer sense of humor! This sibling relationship between Shuri and T’challa is really something special, and Shuri’s confidence and carefree nature are inspirational.
The Queen mother of Wakanda is nothing short of regal. Dignified in mourning the loss of her husband, King T’chaka, Ramonda is no less able to offer political advice to her son. Angela Bassett brings such power to the role.
4. The Dora Milaje
This elite fighting force of warrior women are sworn to protect Wakanda. The fight choreography they are involved in is absolutely mind-blowing! The portrayal of strength in these women and the utter respect they receive is revolutionary in itself. Ayo (Florence Kasumba), a member of the Dora Milaje who got a brief cameo in Captain America: Civil War (2016), has since become the leader in her own spin-off comic book World of Wakanda, in which she is in a romantic relationship with fellow Dora Milaje, Aneka. Unfortunately, it seems that Marvel hasn’t deemed it fit to include Aneka in Black Panther… but maybe we can get a spin-off Netflix show or something? Though they’ve made some progress with regards to race and gender being represented in their films, Marvel still has a long way to go with regards to sexuality.
The Dora Milaje are led by Okoye, played by The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira. A fiercely loyal citizen, with a sharp tongue and some mean fighting skills - she's going to become a firm fan favorite. Far from a background character whose only benefit to the narrative is her fighting skills, Okoye plays an integral role in fate of Wakanda.
These women are all written with such care and respect — each has her unique perspective and motivations, shaping her world-view and her actions in individual and totally believable ways. They spend time with one another on screen, they have deep and complicated and loving relationships with one another, as well as with the men around them. They work together, they have disagreements, they share jokes. To see that many complexly written black women on screen together is absolutely revolutionary. This is what the future looks like.
Black Panther is in cinemas now.https://youtu.be/-SsMADlj_5M