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Black Panther: An Amazing Moment for People of Color, An Okay Moment for Women

Black Panther’s forward movement On race makes Its patriarchy tolerable

This African nation that is so evolved and technologically advanced that it decides it's best to remove itself from our world still relies on male bloodlines to determine who will rule their country. On top of that, this power can be challenged through a ritual fight to the death. This of course happens and the wise T’Challa is dethroned while the anger-filled N’Jadaka takes control, promising to basically conquer the world and violently dismantle white supremacy. And so we’re drawn into this power struggle.

But all of this could have been avoided if they didn’t rely on such a stupid, patriarchal system of power to begin with! I found myself sitting there trying to remain engaged in the battle over the future of the world, but being distracted by my wonderment over how sexist this world is. Surely, if there were more female influence, there would have been a better system. Even if you were unwilling to give up traditional nepotism, why didn’t Ramonda, the Queen Mother of Wakanda, and the wife of the late King, inherit the throne? It's really hard to imagine that Angela Bassett, who plays the queen, would have led the country astray.

Probably the most difficult scene to stomach was shortly after N’Jadaka dethrones T’Challa in said ritual fight. The Queen, her daughter, Shuri, and Nakia, the nation's pre-eminent spy, now comprise the resistance (token white man in tow). They flee to neighboring Jabari tribe ruled by M’Baku. In an audience with him, they ask for his help.

While this scene does contain my favorite line of the movie (M’Baku silences the token white guy with something along the lines of, “If you talk again, I will kill you and feed you to my children... Just kidding, we are vegetarians. Hahahaha.”), it is quite nauseating to watch these three female characters, otherwise portrayed as intelligent, strong women, bow to M’Baku, a character up till this point is portrayed as a chest pounding, traditional brute of a man. As they kneel before him and beg for his help, you can’t help feel like they’re just helpless women running from one strong man to the next, looking for their salvation.

For a blockbuster action film, Black Panther probably has the largest number of woman warriors and females in leadership to date (even more than Wonder Woman). But for a film that is so refreshing from a race standpoint, it failed to deliver in the sexism category. The country of Wakanda is absolutely still controlled by men.

Sure, the movie does pass the Bechdel test but not without some brain racking. And let’s remember, the Bechdel test was created in irony. It’s a powerful test because most Hollywood films fail the simple challenge of having at least one conversation between two women that is not about a man. It’s hardly a marker of male-female parity.

Despite these criticisms, in a world where women and people of color alike are accustomed to settling for “better than nothing,” Black Panther is certainly one of my favorite movies of the past few years and is to 2018 what Get Out was to 2017.

story | by Dr. Radut