I was going to have her sit this one out, either go with my friends or solo while she was in school. We’d gone to Spider Man, the latest Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok, but these were all somewhat cartoonish, live action comic books without much deeper meaning beyond super heroes beating up bad guys. I was afraid that six years old was too young for Black Panther, that the story of Prince T’Challa returning to his African nation of Wakanda and assuming the throne after the death of his father wouldn’t have enough action to keep her attention. That the movie’s deeper questions about how much responsibility the richer nations of the world have towards helping others would go over her head.
She didn’t let me. I’m not sure if it’s the ninja-like appearance of his costume or the fact that he has Vibranium claws, but her Black Panther action figure has always been her favorite of all the Avengers. As the release date approached and the television commercials became more frequent I knew there was no way I could leave her home.
We both loved it. I’m not going to comment on the cultural importance of the movie, about the hole in representation that it helps to close, instead inviting you to read this article by Christopher Persley at The Brown Gothamite, someone much more qualified to discuss the issue than I am. ( And a damn fine writer. )
I’m going to talk about the women, the women that my daughter left the theater talking about. Black women to be sure, darker skinned than is usually seen on television and film, something as equally important as Ryan Coogler’s direction, the African setting or the phenomenal box office success. Black women who are strong, fierce, independent, and just as importantly, respected. These women are just as important figures to Wakandan society and the film as a whole as the men are.
There is Angela Bassett, always badass, as the newly widowed Queen Ramonda, and Danai Gurira, best known as Michonne on The Walking Dead as Okoye, T’Challa’s bodyguard and head of the Wakandan Special Forces. Even more inspiring is Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, a secret agent type that begins the film having spurned the Prince to instead free enslaved women in neighboring Nigeria and Letitia Wright as Shuri, T’Challa’s sixteen year old little sister and a genius inventor said to be among the smartest people in the world.
Chadwick Boseman is awesome as the title character and the always fantastic Michael B Jordan plays the best and most fully developed “bad guy” Marvel has put on screen yet. I put bad guy in quotations because he’s not a one dimensional super villain bent on world domination but a sympathetic character that could have easily carried his own movie.
Black Panther is a black movie, directed by a black man with a predominately black cast and everything that those looking for a hero that looks like them could have hoped for.
It’s also just an awesome movie, the same way Wonder Woman was important but also excellent. It doesn’t matter what your race, whether you have sons or daughters, or if you just like really, really good action movies, go see this one. It’s easily one of my favorite Marvel movies so far and I love the fact that once again my daughter was able to see strong women on screen, not as damsels in distress to be saved by the hero, but kicking ass and taking names.