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I had delayed watching the film, ‘Black Panther-Wakanda forever’ because I dreaded a sequel without T’challa, the original Black Panther. This character was portrayed by the brilliant Chadwick Boseman, who unfortunately died of cancer before the second part was filmed. When I finally mustered the courage to see the film, I was blown away; not only is this a beautiful tribute to the late king T’challa but is also a powerful feminist film.
It is inspiring to watch a movie helmed by women of color that radiate confidence and are backed by well-defined character arcs. Why is this film different, and why does it make such an impact?
For starters, the main leads are all women.
Black Panther is one of Marvel’s biggest franchises, and it passes the Bechdel test with flying colours. This test ensures representation in cinema, with at least two women characters conversing with each other on a topic other than a man.
The women of Wakanda are shown as brave, courageous, and capable. Shuri, T’challa’s sister, must fill the void left by her brother. This is her journey, and she doesn’t have any romantic love interest or hero. She is not a mere prop; she is her own hero.
Once a Queen, always a Queen
Queen Ramonda is T’challa’s and Shuri’s mother. She grieves the loss of her firstborn while trying to hold Wakanda together. International pressure mounts; Wakanda sits on natural reserves of precious Vibranium, and the nations of the world try to bully her. There is a scene where she silences the world leaders with grace, dignity, and power. Ramonda keeps her speech short, but ensures she is heard and how!
The whole world may be up and against her, she may be well past her prime, but she refuses to yield. You don’t mess with a Queen. Period.
Women can rock STEM!
STEM careers have typically been dominated by men. The opportunities for women have been on the lower side, and the numbers slide down further when it comes to women of color.
In sharp contrast, Shuri is a tech genius who works with Artificial intelligence and conducts advanced experiments. Also featured in this movie is student Riri Williams- a girl of color, who is a tech genius. She started tinkering at the tender age of three. Riri builds a Vibranium metallurgical detector in less than two months; a feat that could have taken many years.
The women here are tech-savvy, driving cars, riding bikes, and flying in robotic suits with finesse. For those who believe that women can’t drive or code, Wa’ kanda attitude is that?’
The way the women are presented or introduced.
How is a woman typically introduced in a movie? Mostly by catering to the male gaze. Her long tresses flying in the wind, her skin glowing, and her curves accentuated-presenting an overall picture of being delicate and pure while gyrating gently to soft background music.
Move over stereotypes, and say hello to the Wakandan warriors, the women that sport muscles and crew cuts, and who choose Vibranium spears over designer bags. Wakandan beauty originates from strength and not looks. Some women sport a clean-shaven look, challenging the stereotype of conventional beauty. They are unapologetic in a delightful, liberating way.
Imagine being able to live in a world where you can walk fearlessly and if a man leered at you, you could gouge his eyes out with the aforementioned Vibranium spears.
The women aren’t robots; they are vulnerable too.
Sometimes, in a bid to steer away from stereotypes, women are portrayed as flawless. The women here are as real as real can be. Nakia was T’challa’s fiancée. She is a fierce warrior and is multi-lingual. She disappeared for six years following T’challa’s death. She explains later that she had to get away from it all. Sometimes a break does a world of good.
Nakia isn’t afraid to talk about her vulnerability, it doesn’t break her; it makes her stronger.
The women are decisive.
In commercial cinema, what irks people like me is women going ‘what do we do?’ and acting like delicate damsels in distress. In reality, women would be among the first to come up with a solution. Ramonda, Shuri, and Nakia- all three are women with brilliant minds, who find solutions to problems, never backing away from a challenge or ‘asking’ to be saved.
Wakanda is fictional- I am not referring to the Vibranium deposits, the magic herbs, or the technological prowess. This nation is fictional because of the idea of a land where women know no fear, and their voice is heard and respected, unconditionally. How wonderful would it be if it could become a reality!
This film is a treat to action lovers but will delight feminists more. When I hear ‘Wakanda Forever’ I feel goosebumps. Hoping that we can usher Wakanda into our lives!
Lalitha is a blogger and a dreamer. Her career is in finance, but writing is her way to unwind! Her little one is the center of her Universe. read more...
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