I really hope you all have seen Black Panther by now. If not, please go see it now and then come back to finish reading. I’m not even kidding here. Go do it.
(Also, some serious spoilers ahead, so be aware.)
Black Panther is amazing for many reasons – the cast, the costumes, the setting, the celebration of African culture. But for me, what stands out the most is the women in the movie.
These women are strong, smart, passionate, caring, loving, and they have the support and confidence of the men around them. And what I really appreciate about these women is that they are strong not because of or in spite of a horrible event that they overcame, but simply because they believe in themselves and their cause. Because, quite frankly, I am tired of seeing the portrayal of strong women who are only strong because of horrible tragedy. The implication that comes from that repeated trope is that a woman cannot be strong by herself, but only as a result of an action done against her.
The women of Black Panther are strong on their own terms.
- Nakia is determined and passionate in her defense of women who can’t protect themselves. She loves T’Challa, but isn’t willing to compromise her goals for him, and T’Challa respects her decisions and encourages her in pursuing her dreams. She’s also a fighter who steps up to defend her country when it is threatened by outside forces.
- Okoye is a protector and defender who remains loyal to her job – her defense of her country and the throne, even when she is unhappy with the man on the throne. She doesn’t compromise her job, even when her emotions are pulling her in another direction – the strength she shows in those scenes, where you see the conflict in her as she explains her choice, is very powerful. And in an amazing moment, she puts what is best for her country, to which she has sworn allegiance, ahead of her love for a man. A man who has betrayed his King, his country, and his woman, but who still seems surprised when she won’t accept his behavior.
- Shuri is amazing. She’s a smart and capable woman, even as she is discounted by a man because of her age. And her country, and her king, shows absolute trust in her, despite her age. She fights alongside the others when she is needed, using technology that she has created. And she uses her skills to help outsiders, healing two men who aren’t even her countrymen, but who are in need of her help.
- Ramonda is Queen Mother, exhibiting grace and strength to others during a traumatic and painful period in her life. She has lost her husband, but she still rejoices in her son and daughter. She thinks her son is dead, but still fights for what is best for her country, when she could have hidden instead. She inspires her people with her courage and determination.
These women risk their lives, they turn away from easy choices, and they stand up for what they know is right. And part of the reasons they make these choices is love – for their country, their fellow people, the world that they want to improve, and for each other. And they do not compromise themselves in their determination. And this is another reason I love these women and they way their characters were written. They show that a woman can find strength in love, that love is a strength for women, and not a weakness.