Black Panther was amazing! Go see it now! If you’ve already seen it, go see it again! The rest is spoilers.
Before I actually begin, I would like to note that I am by no means an expert on black womanhood. For that, you will have to go elsewhere. I am literally a white woman from one of the whitest countries in the world and as such not part of the primary target audience for Black Panther. And that’s entirely okay! I’ve never been part of the primary target audience for any Hollywood movie and that’s never stopped my enjoyment. What I do know, however, is that I didn’t know I wanted Okoye as much as I do.
I’ve never exactly mainlined Black Panther in comics. It’s Marvel, yes, but it’s not one of the more easily accessible series in Finland. Until Comixology and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s excellent run, I’d only ever read disparate issues. I knew about Dora Milaje but not about just how amazing they are. And while I was so happy to see such a variety of womanhood on the screen, Okoye is the one who stuck with me. See, while I never did mainline Black Panther, I’ve mainlined several other comics and epic fantasy on the regular and that storyline of duty vs love vs honor is such a recurring theme. Usually, it just wears a very different face.
It’s clear from the very first moments that Okoye loves her king as a friend as well as someone she protects. But when tradition states that he is no longer her king, she protects the usurper, no matter how much her own heart is breaking. While I don’t begrudge a single moment in the movie, I still wanted Okoye’s struggle to have more space. There’s a whole movie’s worth there, just happening in the background. Okoye is loyal to Wakanda, first and foremost. And when W’Kabi – her beloved – goes against honor by attacking T’Challa, she faces him on the battlefield like the badass she is, even if her heart is breaking again. “For Wakanda… No question.”
What makes Okoye as a character so revolutionary is that she always feels like a woman, not a guy who was just cast as a woman, or a plot point / throwaway joke cast into a female body (I’m looking at you Riddick). Not necessarily a woman I’d like to have a beer with – Nakia’s more my speed – but someone whose presence would not only make me feel more secure but also like things are under control. And that’s still, sadly, kind of amazing outside of fiction written by women.
Okoye doesn’t get that hero moment that Wonder Woman and Black Panther do, but she’s still a big damn feminist masterpiece of a hero to me.