Why the women of 'Black Panther' are the heroines we needed

It seems harsh, but "dumpster fire" is a valid term to describe the year we just got through. From scary climate change news, heart-breaking acts of terrorism, and, well, a steaming heap of Donald Trump-related nonsense, it was a tough 12 months.

So with our fingers crossed and our collective breath held for a better year ahead, we’re looking back at one of the bright spots that managed to shine through the 2018 gloom: the badass women of Marvel’s Oscar-nominated Black Panther—Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright and visionary costume designer Ruth Carter. Ladies, you are our everything. Let us count the ways these women ruled in 2018's biggest blockbuster and the top-grossing superhero film OF ALL TIME.

 

Forget ‘lean in’ — these women leap in

Okoye from Black Panther

Maintain order in the kingdom of Wakanda? Check. Lead warriors into battle? Check. Put their scientific genius to good use? Check. Look cool while doing all of the above? Yep, the women of Black Panther get a checkmark for that, too. Forget leaning in—Shuri (Letitia Wright), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) leapt in and not because they read some self-help book. Their courage is innate, bone-deep, inspiring and what's more, it’s heartening to think of all the young women who witnessed it this year and saw fictional if aspirational versions of themselves onscreen.

The Dora Milaje: all-female protectors not to be messed with

The women of Wakanda prepare for battle

In the enlightened world of Wakanda, the most important role (i.e. protecting the King) goes to the best man for the job. So, women. The Dora Milaje, led by the fierce and fearsome Okoye (Gurira), are King T'Challa's (Chadwick Boseman) loyal protectors, proving themselves over and over but especially in the final, epic battle scene in which the dramatically outnumbered women hold their own against various baddies and evil foes and a herd of armoured rhinoceros. Oh, and we’d be remiss not to mention teen genius Shuri (Wright), who takes on villainous Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and helps CIA operative Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) with his mission thanks to her brainiac ways. Fierce much?

 

They moved Wakanda forward socially and politically

Nakia from Black Panther

In a year where social progress was back-sliding at a scary-fast pace here on Earth, Wakanda’s Nakia advocated for boosting foreign aid, helping refugees and sharing the nation’s vast wealth and technological advances. Her life’s work is about helping people outside of Wakanda; the opposite of the trend towards isolationism and nationalism we saw IRL this year. In the end, Nakia’s ideology wins out and T’Challa agrees that it’s time to share Wakanda’s wisdom with the world in a way that prioritizes peace over Killmonger’s thirst for war. 

 

Their BS detector is top-notch

Shuri from Black Panther

Gun culture, colonialism, American exceptionalism and white privilege all found themselves in the crosshairs of Wakanda’s sharp-tongued women. From Okoye mocking the primitiveness of firearms while expertly weilding a superior vibranium spear to Shuri telling it like it is when it comes to white colonizers, these heroines cut clear through the crap with their knife-like wit and sarcastic humour. 

 

They dressed for battle and beyond

A closer look at the epic costumes from Black Panther

Oscar-nominated costume designer Ruth Carter was the behind-the-scenes heroine that helped create the world we saw on screen. Her innovative and groundbreaking designs (including 3D-printed costumes) married culture and tradition with Afrofuturism in a way that, years from now, will still seem timeless (and incredibly cool). The costumes she created instantly let us know that the women wearing them were empowered, independent and a force to be reckoned with.