Portrayal of women in “Black Panther” is empowering

Gabriella Blanco/ Staff Writer

Marvel’s roaring success “Black Panther” is worth talking about for it’s all-black cast (ignoring the only two white characters, played by “The Hobbit” alums Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis) and embracement of an Afro-futuristic setting.

But what makes it shine above the other seventeen movies that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe is its treatment of women and, most importantly, black women.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, black women scarcely make an appearance in superhero films. What “Black Panther” does is not only have the woman pass the Bechdel test with flying colors but give them incredible stories and personalities that stay with you.

The fictional land of Wakanda, though ruled by a king, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), is protected by an all-female squad of warriors known as the Dora Milaje, who are the epitome of female strength. At the lead is Okoye (Danai Gurira), T’Challa’s trusted bodyguard and respected friend.

Admittedly, Freeman’s Agent Everett Ross’s presence in Wakanda felt annoying, since this was meant to be the first 100% black cast for a superhero movie. What I didn’t expect was to see a Marvel movie turn their key white character into the butt of jokes at his, and his race’s, expense.

Ask anyone and they will say that the best part of the film was when T’Challa’s younger sister — and chief scientist of the entire nation despite being 16-years-old—Shuri (Letitia Wright) is startled by him and exclaims that he is a “colonizer”.

To see a major blockbuster like this dare to shine a light like this on a white character is something I would have never expected from a Marvel film and I loved it.

Superhero movies are never shy about getting political, but “Black Panther” does not shy away from it for a minute. Wakanda is fictional, but what makes it so special is that this could have very much have been the entirety of Africa if it had not been colonized in its history.

Without colonization, technology in nations would have been through the roof and women would have been able to have reached their full potential in whatever they wanted.

Between Shuri and Okoye is Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) who, although she does appear to be T’Challa’s well-known love interest, is one of the nation’s greatest spies.

Her opening scene is literally of her being undercover and rescuing a truckload of women being —kidnapped; something all too close to reality that left my mouth on the floor and my eyes in the shape of hearts.

There are moments where T’Challa, despite respecting and understanding the women in his life, asks if she would ever stay home and marry him instead of gallivanting around the world.

When Nakia refuses, he tries to understand. And when she goes to him later to tell of the devastating conditions she has seen beyond their home and urges him to spread aid and open borders, things get complicated.

Okoye, Shuri, and Nakia end up showing time and time again to understand their world better than anyone, and know that it can only do better when they all work together. These women are the ones leading everyone into battle to save their country—be it in the name of honor, love, or family.

Marvel has created some amazing stories in the last decades, but this time, they managed to create an amazing troop of multidimensional female characters or characters of color that highlight how great it is to just be you.

Wakanda forever.



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.


Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash.

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