[Article] BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER & The Women Taking Center Stage
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. © 2022 MARVEL.
The much-anticipated follow-up to Black Panther, BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER drops in theaters on November 11th. There has been much debate on how this installment would be handed after the sudden passing of Chadwick Boseman, the man behind the Black Panther mantle. How would the cast AND characters move forward in a way that would respect and honor their central character while pushing the story forward?

Recently Nightmarish Conjurings took part in Marvel Studios’ international press conference for BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER. Moderated by Jacqueline Coley of Rotten Tomatoes, in attendance were stars Lupita Nyong’o (“Nakia”), Letitia Wright (“Shuri”), Danai Gurira (“Okoye”), Tenoch Huerta (“Namor”), Alex Livinalli (“Attuma”) and Mabel Cadena (“Namora”). Also included were producers Nate Moore, executive producer Kevin Feige and, of course, director Ryan Coogler.

From the trailer, the women of Wakanda and their complicated relationship with grief while trying to lead Wakanda is the main focus of this film. This is an exciting concept to be able to take part in for all Marvel fans but especially black femmes who are looking forward to the representation. So why did Marvel choose to go in this direction? Nate Moore explained this choice:

‘Just telling good stories’

(L-R): Danai Gurira as Okoye and Angela Bassett as Ramonda l Eli Adé. © 2022 MARVEL.

“It was just the right story to tell. These were the characters who were most affected by T’Challa’s passing and so we focused on the people who were appropriate. I think it’s not about pushing women forward or holding men back. It’s about telling the story that is organic, and I think sometimes, maybe from the outside, there’s a thought that there are agendas at play. It’s just telling good stories.

We are blessed with an amazing cast who breathes life into these characters and makes you wanna see what’s happening with Shuri or what’s happening with Okoye or what’s happening with Lupita or what’s happening with Ramonda. To not highlight them would’ve been a disservice to the story. And so, I think the movie’s better for it because if we would’ve had to wedge in some new male characters just to have that voice, that would’ve seemed sort of more performative than just telling the story we told.”

Moore and Coogler cultivate a beautiful environment of sisterhood, resilience, and nurturing interpersonal relationships between the women who surrounded T’Challa. I don’t think this franchise could move forward in a way that felt authentic without addressing this and highlighting how each character’s grief is a unique and personal experience. Who are these characters without their anchor and how do they mourn?

Grief and identity in BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER

Letitia Wright as Shuri l Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Coogler added to this saying, “The main characters, their identities were kinda wrapped up in this man is the truth of it. Shuri, every day she was alive, had her brother. So, when she lost him, what we discovered while we were working on the script, and then eventually bringing it to life with the actors, was that she really lost her sense of self. She identified herself as this guy’s little sister, as his protector, and as the person who looks out for him.”

Intelligence and quick wit are essential traits of Shuri’s character. She’s an inventor and it’s clear that she has lost her muse and the driving force for her creations, not only that but she has lost her brother. She has a complicated relationship with her identity and her grief that is beautifully explored.

Coogler elaborated further: “When she loses that, it makes her very unmoored And the tricky thing about that is death comes for everybody. The worst nightmare that you can have is if something were to happen to you, the people who you love and leave behind would be unmoored, would be lost after you were gone. So we were exploring all of those things. It wasn’t really about gender, directly. It was about who would be most affected.”

So what can fans expect from BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER? I think there will be something for everyone: representation for brown and black communities, beautiful cultural land, and seascapes full of rich history. Action-packed sequences with our favorite heroes and most importantly a very beautifully interwoven story about how everyone struggles and copes with grief.

BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER hits theaters on November 11, 2022.

Ashleeta Beauchamp
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