What’s to be said that hasn’t already been said? You already know Black Panther got 15/15 on the Her Story Arc Feminist Review Scale! Instead of a traditional review, here is a discussion of the amazing aspects of the movie, and further reading from black writers, filmmakers, and critics. This article is spoiler-free, but I can’t guarantee the ones I’ve linked to are as well.
Not offensive to women = 1/1 pt/Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2/2 pts/Passes the Bechdel-Wallace test = 3/3 pts
I’d like to talk about the feeling of safety going into the movie. Like Wonder Woman (the inevitable comparison as the only other major feminist superhero movie), I had high hopes walking into the theater. But with Wonder Woman, my excitement was tinged with worry that the movie would not live up to my very high feminist bar. As you know, a movie can feature a woman main character and still be offensive to women.
I had no such trepidation going into Black Panther. Part of that confidence was the good reviews I’d heard going in. I saw it a week after it came out so I was fully on the hype train. But more importantly, I think knowing there would be multiple female characters helped. There was no pressure on a single woman character to be The One representative for all women.
And then Black Panther took each woman character and went above and beyond. How did it accomplish this? By passing the Bechdel-Wallace test over and over again. The movie gave the side characters space to develop their characters in relation to the movie’s theme, and to carry their own stories. While these character developments are inextricably linked to the male main character, they deal with difficult questions that give depth to female characters that could have easily been flimsy tropes.
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4/4 pts
The plot of Black Panther was serviceable. See TV Tropes for the full run-down of well-worn plot points, from “The Wise Prince” to the “Shut Up Kiss”. I didn’t have a problem with the simple plot. Did Black Panther have to reinvent the wheel? No. People came to the theater for a comic book film and they got one. The real power, and what everyone is talking about, are the trappings. The diversity of the actors from throughout the African diaspora. The representation of different tribes, based on real tribal customs. Killmonger’s motivations– and how they came from a world we can easily see around us, and how tragic that is.
Above and Beyond General Media = 5/5 pts
What does Wakanda mean to Black people? Read it in their own words. You’ll get why this film is above and beyond:
Life and Liberation Outside of Whiteness: A Review of Black Panther by Anthony Boynton
Why Black Panther Is a Defining Moment for Black America by Carvell Wallace
Homecoming: How Afrofuturism Bridges the Past and the Present by Tochi Onyebuchi
The Women of Wakanda Roar: A sit-down with the female warriors of Black Panther
And an important counterpoint: Black Panther Is Not the Movie We Deserve by Christopher LeBron
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