No one man should have all that power. – Kanye West
I hate being pandered to. I don’t like people telling me what to think. Especially in my movies. And the Hollywood crowd is oh so good at patting themselves on the back for being the enlightened ones, reminding us that “Women should be treated equally. Women are strong. Women are powerful.” I don’t need Hollywood to tell me this; I gave birth, I know. And, no, I don’t need some perplexed, over-sexualized Wonder Woman super hero to tell me this. She can’t be the ultimate portrayal of feminism if I don’t want my daughters to act like her.
And then Black Panther comes along. I was just looking for a good action movie, and BAM!, I was hit with so much more. Now here are some women I want my daughters to emulate. Strong. Empowered. Opinionated. Passionate. They knew what they needed to do, and weren’t afraid to speak their minds.
And the three leading ladies filled different kinds of roles – all roles often taken over by men. While these women all knew how to kick ass, one was a particularly fierce Warrior and the head of the king’s guard. Another was the Brainiac in charge of the kingdom’s advanced technology. (And she didn’t have to wear glasses or be eccentric or nerdy to show us how smart she was).
The final one was the Social Justice Fighter. She also happened to be the king’s ex. We get the sense they broke up because she felt she needed to leave her homeland for what she labels her “calling,” protecting those who were downtrodden and helpless in other areas. She comes back to support the king in a time of need, but when he asks her to stay with him, she refuses to turn her back on her calling.
“If you weren’t so stubborn, you would make a great queen,” he tells her.
She retorts, “I would make a great queen because I’m stubborn– if that’s what I wanted.”
What? Who said anything about doing what you wanted? What makes this exchange so powerful is the counter-cultural message it sends. Out in the real world women are told to be nice. Do what needs to be done, even if your heart’s not in it. Rock the boat, but not too much. Women are rarely told to follow their own “calling.” To be true to their own heart and instincts. To be themselves, even if nobody around them, including their super-hot boyfriend, gets it.
This woman knows who she is and stands firm in this knowledge. And at one point it looks like she has lost the man she loves completely, but she was willing to give everything up, including him, to be true to herself. THAT’s what I want for my daughters.
And what do I want for my world? Exactly what I see in Black Panther. Everyone working together through their struggle, with no differentiation. Typical Hollywood movies would have the protagonist heckled with lines like, “But you’re a woman,” or “But you’re homosexual,” or “But you’re a different color” and then the “unlikely” hero would kick ass, and smash these assumptions and stereotypes.
Black Panther assumed the stereotypes were already smashed. Men and women worked together and supported each other, with no questions about whether their genitals made them strong enough to handle a situation. And no one felt the need to prove themselves to be “enough” based on or in spite of their gender, sexuality, or race. We saw this kingdom living out the words of their king:
“More connects us than separates us — but in times of crisis, the wise build bridges while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one tribe.”