Challenging the status quo in a male dominated genre.
Courage Family Tradition Innovation
Some of you may be asking why a superhero movie about an African king, directed by a man has been included within this blog. Out of the 9 producers of this film, there are two females, which warrants its inclusion. More importantly though, T’Challaaka The Black Panther, is supported by a female team. Ryan Cooglar could have quite easily focused most of the movie on the battle between T’Challa and Killmonger and it still would have been a success. He chose however to place the women supporting T’Challa central to the story.
Diverse female representation is a key pillar of the film.
In Wakanda not only are the women treated equally to the men, they can ascend to any position in society (with the exclusion of king). The core team of women supporting the King are; the general of the King’s personal guards Okoye, T’Challa’s sister Shuri, the master engineer, and his love interest (and Wakandan spy) Nakia.
There are many other strong female representations in Black Panther. The king’s personal bodyguards, the Dora Milaje, are all women and female tribe elders sit on T’Challa’sadvisory council. Each of these characters collectively showcases the roles women take in society and their ability to take on positions more commonly perceived in the real world as being for men. Central traits to each of these characters is their confidence, strength and assertiveness.
The importance of the Black Panther film is not limited to gender representation. It is the first superhero movie set in an African country, stars a nearly complete black cast and celebrates black culture. The film challenges the status quo expertly and effectively. This has resulted in it being one of the most successful superhero films of all time, with a sequel in the works. The significance of this movie cannot be understated. Although the focus of the movie is on Africa and the US, the issues around privilege, prejudice and racial bias addressed in the film are commonplace across the Western World.
Yes, it is a Superhero film with all the applicable bells & whistles.
I am a huge fan of Superhero films. I have watched all MCU & DC movies (even the bad ones) and where possible, in chronological order. They are easy to watch and highly entertaining regardless of whether the storyline is any good. Despite certain director’s opinions on this genre, there are millions of people who agree with me. Black Panther stands apart from other movies in the superhero genre because it has depth and meaning and left a lasting impression on me.
Being a superhero film, it must include the golden triangle of; fight scenes, tech and triumph over evil. But underpinning all this, is a story about family and our place in the world.
Black Panther leads off from the end of Captain America Civil War with T’Challa having the unenviable task of taking over as king from his recently departed father, T’Chaka. He is young and must lead a country shut off from an ever-changing and in some places, unstable world. Chadwick Boseman plays the role with grace, humility, compassion & fortitude. He is T’Challa. Throughout the film he has to grapple with his own concerns about living up to his fathers legacy and carve out his own way. On top of this, he is challenged by an outsider who believes Wakanda hasn’t done enough to assist black people suffering around the world.
The theme of Nationalism is weaved throughout the story.
The Nationalism narrative is seeded throughout the movie with both sides of the argument represented. The fictional country of Wakanda is rich in Vibranium, a metal with a plethora of good uses. This metal has made Wakanda a rich African nation, however they have hidden this from the world, who perceives them as a poor country. This is born out of fear from deception and loss. Similarly, the Nationalist diatribe often seen in the news is also from fear though its origin and reason is vastly different. The main antagonist, Erik Killmonger (played brilliantly by Michael B. Jordan who has the right mix of anger and resentment), believes Vibranium can help solve the problem’s facing his fellow humans. However, he doesn’t necessarily want to use it in the best way. It’s a decision T’Challa and the rest of the council grapple with throughout the second half of the film.
I’m hoping this storyline in connection with the ever-constant news about the Border Wall & refugee crisis made people stop and think about their responsibility as human beings in a globalised world.
The balance between tech & tradition
Innovation is a key component of the Iron Man films and it’s nice to see another MCU character being given the innovation baton. In this instance it’s not T’Challa who is the tech genius, it is his sister Shuri. She is forthright, smart, sassy and doesn’t fit the typical princess mould. What is particularly impressive for me is her confidence in her abilities. She is supported in her endeavours not only by her brother but also her mother, Ramonda, who allows her to be the best version of herself. Her inclusion in this film is important because little girls can look at her and say, “I can do that”. I also enjoyed seeing the relationship between Shuri and T’Challa, who have great on-screen chemistry. I suspect the actors had lots of fun making this film together.
The women in front and behind the lens are instrumental to the success of this film.
Black Panther has showcased the diverse roles women can play seamlessly. Ryan Cooglar and his team should be applauded for this, as the issue of limited role types continues to plague Hollywood.
His behind the scenes team included several women across cinematography, costume design, set design, editing, casting and production design. It was a deliberate choice by Coogler, and one he understands is important to further increase gender diversity in the industry.
I can’t finish this post without mentioning the brilliant Danai Gurira. Mostly because watching her in anything after seeing her kick-arse on many seasons of The Walking Dead is an absolute treat! She is so damn cool and absolutely nails this role as the conservative & protective warrior.
A movie worthy of the accolades.
I want to leave you with words from T’Challa’s address at the UN at the end of the movie to announce Wakanda’s opening of their borders. We should all reflect on these words given the current political climate globally.
‘The wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we are one single tribe’
Black Panther is available to watch on Disney+
The main players
Main Cast – Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Forrest Whitaker and Andy Serkis
Director – Ryan Coogler
Writers – Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole
Producers – Victoria Alonso, Jeffrey Chernov, Louis D’Esposito, Kevin Feige, David J Grant, Genevieve Hofmeyr, Danny ‘Yun Tae’ Kang, Stan Lee & Nate Moore
For more information
The Black Panther effect is changing the face of Hollywood
Black Panther is a gorgeous, groundbreaking celebration of black culture
The Revolutionary Power of Black Panther
The women of Black Panther are empowered not just in politics and war but also in love
Women of Wakanda: The Female Forces Behind ‘Black Panther’s Historic Oscar Push