In Captain America: Civil War, Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, stops Wakandan Prince T’Challa on his way to his car. Before she can speak to him, a statuesque and powerful woman with a shorn head steps in front of her.
“Move. Or be moved,” she orders.
T’Challa intercedes. “As amusing as that would be…” and he gives his Dora Milaje bodyguard played by Florence Kasumba orders to stand down.
This tiny scene, which whetted our appetite for seeing more from the Dora Milaje imperial guard, pointed to something bigger that is just coming to fruition—the day of the female superhero has arrived and no movie has personified her better than the female characters of Black Panther.
This is not to give Wonder Woman, whose movie we deeply loved, short shrift. For that matter, Florence Kasumba is also in that playing an Amazon warrior. But both of these movies point to a wonderful trend – princesses who are also academics, technological geniuses, brilliant generals and badass warriors.
The dawning of the princess general started with our late, beloved Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, continued with Robin Wright transforming from Princess Buttercup into General Antiope in Wonder Woman, and saw fruition in princesses Diana and Shuri. These characters embody a particularly female sort of heroism in which they manage to be more compassionate and more resolute than their male counterparts. Black Panther’s Nakia is the perfect example.
An international spy and former lover of T’Challa, the newly crowned King of Wakanda, Nakia is a passionate advocate for the oppressed. She has left the boundaries of their advanced culture and seen how others suffer. This won’t allow her to stand idly by when she knows that Wakanda has the knowledge and resources to make a difference.
Erik Killmonger has similar ideas. Trained as a Navy SEAL and a CIA operative, Killmonger has come home to Wakanda, but his anger, alienation and masculine aggression has taken the same resolve in a different direction. Where Nakia wants to aid the world, Killmonger wants to burn it all down and start a new world order with him in command.
This is not to overlook the additional layers to each character that shaped who they became, but Nakia is a powerful example of how superheroines can embody positive female traits and still kick ass with the best of them.