“Wow” is the best word for me to describe Marvel’s Black Panther. It really requires no introduction but in case you aren’t aware, it has quickly become a top-grossing movie directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed).
I went solo and saw it on a very late Friday night in an IMAX theater several weeks after its opening. The IMAX ticket was pricey but I had heard so many positively encouraging reviews and comments about the film that I felt it necessary to be immersed in a complete theatrical experience when I viewed it. Words really cannot explain my giddiness at the vastness of messages and positive portrayals in this film, and I am definitely happy for the IMAX experience.
I am no comic book fan by no means. My superhero knowledge is, or let me say, WAS limited to the regulars. But this Black Panther movie, let me tell you, was excellent. I felt so much pride in seeing all the beautiful Black faces, acting finesse of seasoned and newcomer talent, the superhero storyline and the vivid imagery of Wakanda (a fictitious African nation). The character of King T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) was great. But honestly, most of the movie I forgot it was about Black Panther. But no movie spoilers or critiques here; you must go see this movie yourself. This post is on my women-centric thematic takeaway from the film in honor of March’s Women’s History Month (with respect to February’s Black History Month).
Year of the Adored Ones. It seems so apropos that this movie released in an immense season of female empowerment where women have used their collective voice to create societal change and norms about valuing women. I became enamored by the character and strength of the warrior women body guards called Dora Milaje, the general of armed forces (Okoye), the smart, tech-savvy younger sister (Princess Shuri), and of course the characters Mother Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and Wakandan spy Nakia (Lupita N’yongo). In doing a little Black Panther and Marvel research, I learned that the name Dora Milaje means “Adored Ones”, and that truly is an apt name and description for all of the women. The Adored Ones are courageous, confident, loyal, smart, talented, persistent, tenacious and regally beautiful. In their core beauty and essence of black femininity, these women’s hearts reminded me of myself, my friends, and any woman that I admire for being true to their power and uniqueness.
Beauty in (Black) Women’s Complexity. The principles of honor, love and power are thematic throughout the movie, and are adeptly representative of real life challenges that many black women face. For example, there is a scene where Madam General Okoye immediately makes a dramatic decision during the height of the movie that I’m like, “Yes!!! Stand in your truth.” From a survival perspective, I see similar daily scenarios by black women but which often get overshadowed under misogynistic labels and negative stereotypes that dare acknowledge the complexity of womanhood and blackness. It is not always easy to stand on the principles of survival because our hearts get in the way and passionate presentation is misinterpreted. But more representation of Wakandan warrior princesses on film could help shape a conversation on the perceived mysticism of black womanhood and their real world instinctual survival skills, perspectives and experiences that are too often devalued.
Endless Possibilities Do Exist. The telling is in the sharing of our stories. Last year we learned in Hidden Figures of the amazing contributions of black women in science at NASA. We also learned how a black woman’s cancer cells have advanced international medical research with the immortal cell line HeLa in the film, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. While ficticious, what makes Black Panther’s Wakanda just as powerful is the telling of its technological advancement led by a young black woman, who looks all of 15 years old. If I were a young black girl or teen in 2018, I would be doing flips at the commanding presence and intelligence of Princess Shuri while signing up for my local STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes. When given the opportunity to be and show our best in an inclusive and supportive environment, black women can and will do much to advance society and life. This is what we should be teaching our young black girls and supporting and encouraging them towards greatness and excelling in areas in which they show gifts, talent and technical strengths.
Lastly, I learned of a petition to create a Wakanda series on Netflix and wanted to share for those who also have fallen in love with Wakanda and want to watch the backstory unfold. I imagine it would be rich in African history and pride and a great legacy story. Please share and spread the word.