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Women of Wakanda: why 'Black Panther' is set to be the most feminist Marvel film to date

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While Black Panther is obviously the most racially progressive film that Marvel has ever put out, what’s garnering less attention is how feminist it is.

Image courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

Image courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

So far, Marvel hasn’t been great with diversity of race or gender. People of colour have been limited to one quippy black sidekick per franchise, and literally no characters of any other races seem to exist at all. The one lone female Avenger, Black Widow, was joined by (a whitewashed) Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), but they barely get to interact at all, and are constantly surrounded by men. 

It seems that ‘ass-kicker’ and/or ‘girlfriend’ are the only roles assigned to these women — let’s not forget Pepper and Jane, both written out of their own stories due to contract difficulties with the actresses.

Black Panther, however, is breaking that trend. For the first time, we’l have not one, not a measly two, but a whole plethora of varied and brilliant women fleshing out the ensemble. Let’s take a closer look at them:

1. Nakia

Image courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

Image courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

Played by the Oscar winning Lupita Nyong’o, Nakia is a Wakandan spy, fighter, and T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman)’s ex-flame. Though things are sure to heat up between the two of them, it’s clear that Nakia’s role in the story is far more than ‘love interest’ - her affiliation to the War Dogs, the central intelligence service of Wakanda, is sure to bring plenty of drama to the story!

2. Shuri

Image courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

Image courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

Princess of Wakanda and a tech-genius that would put Tony Stark to shame, Shuri (Letitia Wright) is T’challa’s 16 year old sister and master engineer. As leading tech innovator in the most technologically advanced nation in the world, Shuri’s intellect is certainly nothing to be dismissed. Neither is her killer sense of humour!

3. Ramonda

Image courtesy of Marvel/Disney

Image courtesy of Marvel/Disney

Queen mother of Wakanda, and sure to be mourning the loss of her husband, King T’chaka, Ramonda’s relationship with her son T’challa will no doubt be a powerful one - especially portrayed by Angela Bassett!

4. The Dora Milaje 

Image courtesy of Marvel/Disney

Image courtesy of Marvel/Disney

This elite fighting force of warrior women are sworn to protect Wakanda. From the looks of the teasers we’ve seen, the fight choreography is going to blow our minds - especially the Dora scenes! Ayo (Florence Kasumba), a member of the Dora Milaje who got a brief cameo in Captain America: Civil War (2016), has since become the lead in her own spin-off comic book World of Wakanda, in which she is in a romantic relationship with fellow Dora Milaje, Aneka. Unfortunately, it seems that Marvel hasn’t deemed it fit to include Aneka in Black Panther… but maybe we can get a spin-off Netflix show or something? Though they’ve made some progress with regards to race and gender being represented in their films, Marvel still has a long way to go with regards to sexuality.

5. Okoye

Image courtesy of Marvel/Disney

Image courtesy of Marvel/Disney

The Dora Milaje are led by Okoye, played by The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira. A fiercely loyal citizen, with a sharp tongue and some mean fighting skills - she's sure to be a firm fan favourite! I mean, check out this supreme ass-kicking she doles out:

Black Panther releases in cinemas on Feb 12th, distributed by the Walt Disney Studios.

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