By Tatiahna Turner
The new Marvel movie, Black Panther which is set to be released in theaters February 16, 2018 has what some may call an unexpected important character. Letitia Wright will be playing the role of Black Panther’s 16-year-old half-sister, Shuri. Although Shuri has been around in the comics, Black Panther will be her cinematic debut. It couldn’t have come at a better time given our society’s current climate surrounding the equality and representation of women. In this day and age the young, bright minds of women in our community need inspirational characters like Shuri to remind them that women can be intelligent and powerful. In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Wright has only good things to say about Shuri, “She’s princess of Wakanda, but also she designs all of the new technology there. . . She’s so vibrant; a beautiful spirit, but also so focused on what she does. And that’s good for other people to see, especially young people to see, because it’s like, ‘Look, there’s a young black girl who loves technology and she’s from Africa.’ It’s something refreshing.” Nate Moore, Black Panther’s producer says that Shuri is, “the smartest person in the world, smarter than Tony Stark but she’s a sixteen year old girl which we thought was really interesting.” Moore goes on to say, “Again, black faces in positions of power or positions of technological know-how, that’s a rarity. So it’s something that’s a big part of the film.”
The underrepresentation of women in film of, and especially black women in positions of power, is something that is rarely talked about. It seems that society often forgets just how powerful film and television can be in our lives. It can be subconsciously defeating or discouraging for women to never see themselves portrayed in films or shows across the world as intelligent, strong, and beautiful. More often than not, we are made to seem weak-minded, powerless, and beneath our male counterparts. The representation of women as simply objects that can be controlled and taken advantage of is very degrading, and is why it is important that we begin to see more characters like Shuri on the big screen. For a woman of color to be a centerpiece of a film and to be portrayed as “the smartest person in the world,” I would say is a great first step in the right direction.