Danai Gurira knows just how fortunate she is. The actress plays Okoye, a general of the Dora Milaje army in Black Panther as well as the closest advisor to Chadwick Boseman's character T'Challa, otherwise known as Black Panther. The movie can't stop breaking records. The Disney/Marvel flick just topped the box office for the fifth straight week, something that's only been done in the past by the movies Avatar, The Sixth Sense and Titanic, which reigned for 15 straight weeks. While not uncommon for Marvel movies to earn big bucks at the box office, what makes this so much more important is that Black Panther is not only a great film that is hugely entertaining but it features a predominately black cast with female characters just as powerful and intelligent as their male counterparts.
The movie has earned over $1.18 billion dollars worlwide and is showing no signs of slowing down, making it this year's biggest release. The impact of Black Panther has been felt globally and has served to highlight the fact that diversity and representation has sorely been missing in mainstream films. And while Black Panther gives us a movie with strong role models and characters, it also serves as a vehicle to highlight the power of women.
The Marvel Universe has often showcased compelling female characters in their movies like Scarlet Witch and Black Widow, but in Black Panther the female characters have as much power as the male characters and have equal gender representation in terms of numbers. Gurira spoke to Screen Rant during our Avengers: Infinity War set visit about the impact that representation has had on her:
"I think it’s really thrilling. I’m insanely thankful to be alive at the moment I am alive, and I don’t take it for granted that so many women before me have had to navigate and push for more representation and I get to benefit from the fruits of their labor. I really think it is really thrilling. Even in the times I've been alive, I’ve seen that evolution from before I started acting to now. You can feel that, the shift, and it is a really exciting thing - when you see there is a lot of attention paid to the position and the contribution of female characters and you get to be a part of that, so it’s really thrilling."
Gurira is no stranger to playing strong, warrior type characters. Probably best known for her portrayal of the sword wielding zombie apocolypse survivor Michonne on The Walking Dead, Gurira's Okoye is unapologetically loyal with a fierce integrity once reserved only for male characters. The character similarly challenges the typical ideals of feminity on the big screen.
The success of Black Panther worldwide shows that we not only need more diversity on the big screen, but that audiences are craving more equal gender representation as well. Thankfully, we've been promised that we will see much more of Black Panther's Shuri in future Marvel films - and who knows, maybe even a movie that pairs together characters like Shuri and Okoye. We've only scratched the surface of what there is to know about both of those Wakandans, and they clearly have much more to offer than what we've seen thus far.
Black Panther has definitely done more in terms of diversity and representation on the big screen that we've seen in a long time - and given its box office success, there's hope that there will be much more of that to come in the future.
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019