If the MCU is going to embrace “Wakanda Forever,” the women need their own movies.
Black Panther director Ryan Coogler got into some meaty topics during his two-hour chat with Elvis Mitchell at Cannes this week. According to Variety, he unabashedly declared his clear and present interest in directing a movie where the Black Panther is played by a woman.
Coogler discussed the inherent value he sees in featuring badass women in their own films but had to note the lack of financial value the industry places on such a venture. Let’s be straight: the industry as a whole, not necessarily the Marvel Cinematic Universe in this case, wrings their hands over the attendance of films featuring women or people of color because of institutional racism. You know it. I know it.
Why does it matter? Because people need to see themselves on the screen. If they don’t, things won’t ever change. At some point, the industry has to commit. And, while Black Panther and Wonder Woman were ground shaking and highly entertaining, incredibly well-made films, we need more.
We need more of such films which feature complex characters, heroes and villains alike, who are women and people of color. And their point of view must drive the story.
If women and black men as heroes are underrepresented, then black women are among those served the very least. It’s such a big deal that the MCU’s next Tony Stark type is an African woman.
In that regard, this conversation doesn’t quite feel like a newfound viewpoint for Coogler. Since the debut of the film, the cast and crew have lauded the value of black heroes and the importance of seeing an Africa fit to inspire us to greatness on the big screen.
Back in February, The Root put together a bunch of cast interviews for a glimpse at the ensemble’s passion for representation.
Mitchell broached the subject at Cannes by asking Coogler if the women of Wakanda were as important as the men. The director replied that not only are they as important as the men but that you might argue they are more important.
Shuri (Letitia Wright), is a techno-wizard, far superior to Tony Stark or Bruce Banner. And she’s got the chops to wade into combat. Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the Dora Milaje are the best of the best in Wakanda. Okoye and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) are legendary in Black Panther‘s casino fight.
None of this is a dig on T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman). He’s a great character. There’s both room and a need in the MCU for him to continue to headline his own films. The first African superhero can’t be shuffled aside for the next. A woman-led Black Panther needs to add to and deepen the representation.
Coogler is on point that the women of Wakanda play an incredibly important role in the story. But, the other side of his point is that they also had audiences talking after the showing. The ticket buyers dug the women of Wakanda and their fierceness.
This is so obviously true that it inspired a legendary action filmmaker to remake one of his all-time great films featuring one of the women of Wakanda. John Woo has recruited Lupita Nyong’o to remake The Killer (our own Sheryl Oh delved into why Woo has made a choice that’s going to slay).
The essential next question was would the director entertain a spinoff with a woman as Black Panther? “Oh man. That would be amazing if the opportunity came up. They did it in the comic book version.”
Yeah, they did. If he’s talking comics, then he’s got to be talking Shuri. She takes on the mantle of the Black Panther, and things get tense. In fact, she starts a war with Atlantis. This might be a great way to expand the universe!
And, for what it’s worth, T’Challa should also continue on as Black Panther. I mean, Coogler said he was talking comics, after all. There’s room for two heroes under the same mantle. In the comic books, T’Challa continues on as the King of the Dead. Which, you know, may or may not be relevant in the coming decade of the MCU.
At any rate, I looked around to see if Letitia Wright had anything to say about this. And, well. What more do you need?
Wouldn’t that be awesome? Keep that ball rolling. Black Panther destroyed the box office. Shuri’s a boss, and the director and actor are down for it. So, let’s progress very quickly from badass-in-waiting to all in.
It isn’t as though women-led films in the MCU haven’t been a discussion for some time. We’ve been talking for ages and ages about when we would finally get a Black Widow film. Marvel has been talking about it too. According to Variety’s Justin Kroll, they’ve interviewed more than 65 directors.
Fun fact: More then 65 directors have met for the BLACK WIDOW job. Marvel being extremely thorough on this one
— Justin Kroll (@krolljvar) May 2, 2018
In my mind, that says Marvel doesn’t quite know what they want to do with that character.
But, we’re getting a Captain Marvel film really soon. It’s garnering quite a bit of star-power.
The sequel to Ant-Man will co-feature Evangeline Lilly as The Wasp.
The MCU is headed in the right direction. Particularly with representation. They could do better and take more chances, but it feels like a better path at the present. I say, let’s get nuts in the next phase. Give us the full pantheon of heroes. Who needs trilogies for individual characters when you have so many from which to choose?
Be honest, that kind of got in the way for them with Captain America: Civil War. It was really kind of Avengers 3, right? Well. Ditch it. Then we don’t have to worry about who actually is leading the Black Panther character franchise.
Let’s get wild.
Give us Shuri, Queen of Wakanda and a Black Panther.