*The women of Wakanda “were integral to the storytelling and the wisdom that the main character possessed,” says Angela Bassett, referring to Chadwick Boseman’s King T’Challa in the Disney/Marvel smash “Black Panther.”
Elle.com contributor Clover Hope noted that “Black Panther offered a divine alternate reality in which black women weren’t half-baked tropes or superficial emblems of empowerment. This was a blockbuster with an all-star coalition of black actresses in leading roles—a vision hardly ever seen on screen.”
“It was really important in terms of the representation of black feminine strength,” said Bassett, who plays T’Challa’s mother, Ramonda. Danai Gurira steers an army of female soldiers called the Dora Milaje and Lupita Nyong’o plays Nakia, a tactical spy.
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Gurira recalls the fight sequence set in a South Korean casino, during which she snatches her own wig: “I loved doing that, from the minute she’s wearing that wig and complaining about it, to the minute she gets rid of it very pragmatically. That spoke to so many things about feminine aesthetics.”
Meanwhile, Nyong’o says Nakia “was a departure from the character you see in the comic books. She is an independent woman and a bit of a rebel but also a loyalist to her country,” said Lupita. “I am also someone who depends on my family and friends and feels a connection to my people, and maybe has a sense of responsibility to make them proud. So I really related to that balancing act within oneself.”
“Very early on, it becomes clear that while T’Challa may be king, it’s the women who command the kingdom and ultimately save Wakanda from crisis,” Hope writes.
“In our story, the emphasis is on many different women holding their own space,” says Nyong’o, describing the film as “a Marvel universe that is unapologetically black.”
“Black Panther” earned over $700 million in the U.S., and Bassett noted the film’s impact, “We all felt the anticipation but had no idea how it would mushroom, or that it would be so global and smash whatever preconceived notions we’ve heard for decades—that stories like this about these people won’t travel as well or won’t generate financially on such a huge scale.”
More recently, there’s talk that “Black Panther” deserves to be in contention for Best Picture at the 2019 Oscars.