– by David Kozlowski

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther hits theaters very, very soon and leads directly into Avengers: Infinity War a few months later. This is a very important MCU film, as it introduces not only several major new characters, but also the (fictional) country of Wakanda and its unique, diverse culture. Black Panther (along with Ant-Man and The Wasp in July) also signals Marvel’s shift towards a broader representation of ethnicity and gender. These factors may or may not influence your decision to see the movie, but it’s undeniable that it’s broadening the appeal of these movies to at least a couple under-served audiences.

Aside from its nearly all-black cast, writer, and director one of the more overlooked aspects of Black Panther are its female characters, who are absolutely the equals of their male counterparts in every way. In fact, one of the key goals of Black Panther is breaking down some of the stereotypes, cliches, tropes too-frequently applied to women in superhero films.

Related – Black Panther Releases Series Of Badass Character Posters

Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) and Letitia Wright (The Commuter) star as Nakia and Shuri — two of the strongest women in Wakanda. So don’t expect either of these characters to wait around for Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa to come rescue them, instead, these two might be the ones coming to save his bacon.

Nyong’o and Wright spoke with Teen Vogue and described what attracted them to these roles:

LW: “Playing [Shuri] was so refreshing. She’s strong, and she can kick butt. She’s intelligent, she loves Wakanda, and she loves creating technology to protect her people… Even with some of the male characters [in the movie], you see moments when they are weak. Shuri was the sort of character I went home and studied to find out the reason she does things.”

LN: “[Director Ryan Coogler] made a point of avoiding the expected female-rival narrative. In this genre, where spandex is involved, oftentimes the women are pitted against each other. In our story, there are so many different women holding their own space. Women may be in competition with each other, sure, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s an absence of love or respect… You see [our characters] work together, and you see a dynamic that is really encouraging.”

Both actresses stressed that Black Panther is an empowering vehicle for both genders, one that challenged their expectations and excited them about future possibilities (Wakanda and all of these characters play crucial roles in Avengers: Infinity War):

LW: “I’m excited for what Black Panther is about to do, not just for young black boys and girls, but for everyone. There’s a black superhero, but then we’re going to have more Asian superheroes and more from India. The solution to the problem being: We don’t have enough of this, so we’re going to make more. I’m excited!”

LN: “In Kenya, I grew up watching Mexican soaps, Australian soaps, and American stuff. I didn’t feel like TV was so diverse — but I just took it in stride. What’s really exciting about this is if I can project my humanity onto people who don’t look like me, from cultures that aren’t like mine, why on earth shouldn’t it be the same in reverse?”

Both actors had a lot more to say, and I encourage you to read the entire interview (they share several more cool insights about the film too). Hopefully, Wright is correct in that the success of Black Panther could lead to even more opportunities for actors of all ethnicities and gender identities to play in this amazing sandbox. The more Marvel reflects America’s diverse demographics the more it grows its audience — and we all win when that happens!

How do you feel about the equal emphasis of male and female characters in Black Panther? Let us know in the comments down below!

Black Panther hits theaters on February 16, 2018.

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SOURCE: Teen Vogue

  • Moby85

    I’ve always said that if “diversity” is to be a goal of Hollywood’s then write good, engaging, ORIGINAL, roles for these actors. Don’t just race or gender swap in a lazy remake switching up the formally white roles.

    The good news is Black Panther is a great opportunity for this. It’s supposed to take place in Africa and seems to be well-cast. What I have seen on the interwebs is fear from people of African descent that the film will rely on African-AMERICAN stereotypes instead of really promoting and writing the characters as people who were born and live in Africa, not the United States. That’s why when the trailer hit with that rap music I rolled my eyes.

    • You make a great point regarding the music in the trailer, which is clearly intended to address the film’s core target demographics (I think it’s fair to say that the music in the trailer has broad appeal, but it’s a tone deaf move for sure). Hopefully, rap and R&B are really popular in Wakanda, such that this serves the narrative organically (I’m just spitballing now). However, like a lot of recent Marvel or DC films, the music in the trailers is probably not representative of the actual soundtrack in the film.

      • Kindofabigdeal

        Except for Guardians and Suicide.

  • Gilgamish

    At what point does “breaking cliche’s and tropes” by depicting women as strong, capable and equal to their male counterparts become a trope in itself? I mean, not for nothing, but as a purveyor of all things pop culture, we’ve seen this mold broken time and time again for decades with increasing frequency.

    It’s not that I mind… I freaking love Weaver as Ellen Ripley, Hamilton as Sarah Conner, Thurman as The Bride,Lawrence as Katniss, Johansson as Black Widow… etc etc.

    Maybe we haven’t reached the saturation point, but those roles ARE out there. These depictions ARE in the DNA of an entire generation. Maybe the focus should be more about PAY equality then availability of “strong female” lead and supporting roles.

    • Kindofabigdeal

      For every person who can blindly watch a show without being offended there is a loud minority who have to break things down into groups to make sure everyone is fairly represented. As long as we keep seeing each other as different then we will continue with the division.
      I think our greatest weakness as human beings is that we keep segregating into smaller groups until everyone is at odds with everyone.
      I can appreciate what was done with this film. But patting yourself on the back reminds me of what Tyler Durden said about self-improvement.

    • Brafdorf

      It doesn’t stop until they’re no longer the minority or roles in movies I’d say…

      • Gilgamish

        I listed five successful and popular characters as an example. By no means does the list stop there. In fact, it’s probably easier to find strong women in modern film and television then it is to find the subservient, helpless Faye Ray types of yesteryear.

        But as I said, maybe we haven’t reached the saturation point yet… but maybe we’ve reached the point that it is such a norm we don’t have to go out of our way to point out the obvious? Let’s just acknowledge that depictions of strong women are common and normal. I think that’s a natural step in the process too. The next and more important argument should be about how we value these professional actors in the real world, by paying them equivalent to their male counterparts.

        • Kay

          I think the point of this is that Black Panther doesn’t just show strong women, but strong, capable black women. This is not something that has been shown across many movies.

          • Gilgamish

            I see your point, but I would submit that is due to a dearth of non-cliche’ roles for black actors period. When there ARE roles for black women in film or television, they are invariably depicted as strong and capable women (maybe even more consistently than white women are, honestly). The Help, Hidden Figures, the Color Purple, Beloved, 12 Years a Slave, Lady Sings the Blues… decades of strong black female characters in film… though not in the super hero genre, but again that’s more due to a lack of any people of color in the super hero genre, of either gender.

            I love these accurate and real depictions of women in film, and I’m certainly not arguing against more of it… I’m merely saying let’s not marginalize our progress by acting like this isn’t the norm these days. It is, and that’s a good thing.

          • Kay

            I can agree to an extent. There is a lack of diversity that makes it hard to consider the tropes, well tropes. But I can’t help, as a woman who grew up watching Star Wars (with its one female character) and other superhero shows, to get excited seeing any strong female representation in these films. I definitely think it is getting better, but given the reaction we are still seeing to say a female lead in Star Wars (from a loud minority), I still get excited. Because for every strong female lead out there, we see two simpering or oversexualized women.

  • Kratos

    hey man WTF?!?! “diversity” stole my nemean cestus!!!

  • Behemothrex

    LOL Mostly Black cast and Diversity do not go together. Hell if different White people can’t be diverse how can different Black people be. And all these Mary Sue characters are really annoying, who says you have to be equal in every way to be a good character, equal in every way is BORING!

    People want diversity as long as everyone is the same…wha?

    If things keep going like they are every company will go bankrupt because they only cater to .1 percent of the population.

    • Kay

      When 90% of movies are all white cast, then yes diversity is having a movie that takes place in Africa have a mostly black cast…

    • Gilgamish

      I believe the diversity is found in contrast to the larger Marvel Universe… unless you’re simply trolling, in which case, carry on…

    • Smerdyakov

      The super rich?

David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.