Though Marvel's Black Panther is about the ascension of a new Wakandan king, the film is also largely about the powerful women around T'Challa who are running the show. According to a number of the film's female stars, their characters' strength is a direct reflection of Wakanda's cultural history.
Because of the fictional country's historical isolationist worldview, a lot of things about Wakanda are vastly different from its neighbouring nation states and other international actors. For instance, it's vast stores of vibranium and the development of fantastical technology. But in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Angela Bassett, who portrays Queen Mother Ramonda, said that Wakanda's culture is also the reason that Black Panther features so many dynamic women whose nurturing qualities are seen as signs of strength.
Actress Danai Guriria, who plays Okoye, further explained that because Wakanda was never invaded or colonised, its culture was predisposed to becoming more egalitarian along gender lines:
They were a nation uninterrupted. They got to go through their full evolution. Other countries on the continent were very interrupted and traumatised through colonisation. Wakanda didn't have that disruption. It was such an advanced nation, it actually allowed for evolution of gender roles. It recognised that you allow all your citizens to advance to their full potential.
Lupita Nyong'o portrays Nakia, a Wakandan spy who periodically slips pasts the country's airtight borders to collect valuable intel about the wider world around them. Though she's very much a love interest for T'Challa, Nakia moves through Black Panther with a freedom and flexibility that means she's never expected to wait around for the king, something that inspired Nyong'o:
It was such a breath of fresh air seeing men and women living in their power with out one dwarfing the other. To me it was reflective of the fact that sexism is learned. To see a society where that's not the focal point, where gender is not the fabric with which society is built and the delineations of sex are not oppressive, that's really cool. And it's possible.
The EW piece with Black Panther's leading women also features a video and is chock full of all kinds of fabulous insight into the movie. You should definitely give it a read and watch before the film drops this Thursday. Check it out below: