Love in Black Panther

One of the more interesting parts of the film for me was the inclusion of romantic and familial love. After reading Carvell Wallace’s article on the film’s effect on black empowerment, the inclusion of strong familial and romantic love seemed less like a requirement of blockbuster superhero films, and more like the celebration Wallace describes. With the tribal setup of Wakanda, there seems to be an incredible amount of internal support amongst the four participating tribes and within the royal family. Despite their sibling banter, T’Challa and Shuri form an immensely supportive duo, with T’Challa defending his sister’s technical talent to those who believe she is too young to lead. Toward the end of the film, it is the women who take leadership, appeal to M’Baku, and bring T’Challa back to health. The same sense of “loud and public” love that Wallace mentions seems to keep the royal family together even after they were ousted by Killmonger.

Ultimately, it is romantic love that drives many of the pivotal decisions throughout the film. Initially, we are introduced to T’Challa’s past love, Nakia, and her penchant to help others and share Wakanda’s resources with others. It is also Nakia’s deep love for T’Challa that drives her to steal the heart-shaped herb, flee the area, and appeal to M’Baku. This love is also what drives Nakia to defy Okoye’s advice to serve her country; to Nakia, her love for T’Challa and Wakanda requires her to overthrow Killmonger. As a member of Wakanda’s royal guard, Okoye is loyal to the throne, regardless of who sits upon the throne. Despite her official loyalties, Okoye eventually follows Nakia’s lead and betrays Killmonger, as Okoye loves Wakanda too much to see it destroyed by Killmonger, even though he has legitimate authority. In one of the final battle scenes, Okoye faces her own lover, W’Kabi, in defense of T’Challa. W’Kabi asks, “would you kill me, my love?” placing the Wakandan conflict into the context of their own romantic relationship. Okoye’s response, “for Wakanda, without question,” draws W’Kabi to surrender, as his love for Okoye clarifies the purpose of the battle: the stability of Wakanda.

Here, romantic love (or the denial of love) is what drives the characters’ motivations, though not in the traditional sense. The love Wallace discusses is more than the requisite romantic plot line intended to draw in a larger audience. The love present in Wakanda is a deep support and caring for the betterment of others, whether that be within the family, romantic relationships, or others outside of Wakanda, as we see toward the end of the film.

1 comment

  1. I agree that the portrayal of love between characters was very interesting. I really appreciated that in this movie the female characters, particularly Okeye, did not fall into the female stereotype of being defined by their romantic interest. In most super hero movies, it seems to me that women are portrayed as the love interest that must be rescued, used as a pawn or a prize. If they posses power of their own, they are often characterized as being hindered by their womanly compassion. Alternatively, they are depicted as being entirely masculine, forgoing romantic interests to feminine pursuits. Okeye breaks from this mold by exhibiting power and femininity. She clearly demonstrated that she is willing to put her duty to her country before her romantic interests. By doing so, she shows that being a women in no way detracts from her ability as a military leader.

Leave a Reply