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Quite a serious fuss has already been made about the sheer level of diversity present in Ryan Coogler's Black Panther, and rightfully so. The film is not only Marvel's first superhero movie fronted by a predominately black cast, but it will also do some genuinely great things with its female ensemble as well. Specifically, Lupita Nyong'o (who plays Nakia in the film) addressed the relationships between the female characters, and explained that they wouldn't be pitted against each other like other superhero properties often do. The actress explained:
Ryan made a point of avoiding the expected female-rival narrative. In this genre, where spandex is involved, oftentimes the women are pitted against each other. In our story, there are so many different women holding their own space. Women may be in competition with each other, sure, but that doesn't necessarily mean there's an absence of love or respect.
By and large, female characters generally tend to be outnumbered by males in the MCU (and by extension, the comic book movie genre as a whole), and that sometimes leads to storylines focusing on rivalries and distrust of one another. We have seen this in the dynamic between characters like Pepper Potts' distrust of Black Widow in Iron Man 2, or even the rivalry between Patience Phillips and Laurel Hedare in the abysmal Catwoman movie from 2004. In many of these properties, one of the most consistent storytelling devices is the fact that there's a rift between women.
In contrast, Black Panter will see female characters who build each other up and have legitimately respectful relationships with each other. They do not just exist to fight each other in this world; they're three-dimensional characters with just as much going on between them as the men in this film. We still don't know too much about the overarching plot of Black Panther, but it's obvious that certain narrative cliches will be avoided by all involved to create a better dynamic (particularly between Nakia and Shuri).
Despite the changes being made to the traditional relationships of female characters in superhero stories, Lupita Nyong'o's remarks to Teen Vogue also highlight the fact that it is not going to be all sunshine and rainbows for everyone involved. These female Black Panther characters will all be their own individual people, which means that they will all bring unique visions and perspectives to the table. That said, the film will still endeavor to construct a real sense of respect and camaraderie between them. The movie may be primarily about Black Panther, but it looks like we are going to see some great interplay between the supporting cast that could bleed into the franchise-altering release of Avengers: Infinity War three months later.
Ryan Coogler's Black Panther will debut in theaters next year on February 16, 2018, and the Wakanda corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will become a full-blown battleground when Avengers: Infinity War premieres on May 4, 2018. Here's everything that we currently know about Black Panther, and here's everything that we know about Avengers: Infinity War.