While the Dora Milaje are frequently referred to as the King’s bodyguards, they are much more than that.
By Faridah Gbadamosi
The reviews for the very highly anticipated film "Black Panther" are up and they are glowing. Currently sporting a 99% Rotten Tomatoes score despite attempts to disrupt that, the film is well on its way to possibly being Marvel’s best film yet.
The most gratifying thing in all these reviews filled with praises is that the Dora Milaje get to shine. Going into the film, the thing that gave me the most pause was how the Dora Milaje would be represented, how the women in general would be represented.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a mixed bag when it comes to female representation in their films, and even more frustrating is the lack of women characters of color up until recently (though Valkyrie was a truly fantastic character). With the Dora Milaje we get to see black women warriors — some of the best fighters in the comic book universe — brought to life. More than anything, I wanted them to be written and shown to be amazing.
While the Dora Milaje are frequently referred to as the King’s bodyguards, they are much more than that. They were introduced in "Black Panther" Vol. 3 #1 by Christopher Priest as an elite squad that exists to protect Wakanda, its King and also serve as his ceremonial wives in training (an aspect that has been thankfully dropped from the film).
Created in a bid to keep the peace, the Dora Milaje is composed of women chosen from the rival (and occasionally warring tribes) that surround Wakanda, each given an equal opportunity to be the King’s queen. The Dora Milaje are easily identified by their shaved heads and African tribal markings. They are highly trained in a specialized fighting style that makes them great at fighting in any environment and with just about any blade. Most of the Dora Milaje are not named but a few have been identified with storylines of their own. There is Ayo who is a part of the elite team within the elite Dora Milaje known as the Midnight Angels, there is Nakia, who eventually becomes the villain Malice, and of course there is Okoye, one of the most loyal of the Dora Milaje, a trusted confidant to the King. While the Dora Milaje have been prominent in the comic's run since their introduction, they were finally given the space to exist on their own in Roxane Gay’s recent, and unfortunately short-lived, series, "World of Wakanda".
Stop believing what other people have to say about Black women, and start believing what Black women have to say about ourselves.
This week, rumors about actor and heartthrob Michael B. Jordan's alleged new girlfriend — Latina Instagram model, Ashlyn Castro — began to take root. Almost immediately after, news of a boycott against "Black Panther" appeared, supposedly led by Black women (but we didn't get that memo).
Not a boycott of Michael B. Jordan or any of his other upcoming projects. Just "Black Panther", which is currently everybody's favorite Black power emblem. In this narrative, Black women quickly became traitors to our race, thoughtless and trivial. Our imagined lack of support for "Black Panther" translated very easily into a lack of support for Black men altogether, and this was used as a justification for the misogynoir that ensued.
First of all, the sheer ease and momentum with which this wildfire rumor spread is proof enough for me that some people simply cannot wait to talk shit about Black women. All they need is a reason to air their already long or deeply-held misogynoir, whether or not that reason is based in any truth. The "Black women are boycotting "Black Panther" because Michael B. Jordan is dating a non-Black woman" hoax of 2018 was a pathetic attempt to make Black women appear bitter and paint us as irrational and irresponsible, unfit to make decisions about the media we consume — an old song that also plays during conversations about Black women's love for "Scandal" and disdain for "Birth of a Nation".
The beginnings of it rest on misogynoir as much as the public’s willingness to believe in it does. Created by a known troll account on Instagram, ground zero of the fake "Black Panther" boycott effortlessly built its narrative around a familiar stereotype: Black women become irrationally angry when Black men date people of other races, especially white and white-presenting women (I'm sorry this discussion is so cisnormative and heteronormative).
This is a belief that continues to grow more and more, with less and less context in each evolution. Even Jordan Peele's "Get Out" dipped its toe in this flavor of misogynoir when Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) insisted to his girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), that the most likely reason for Georgina’s (Betty Gabriel) apparent coldness towards him was because she did not like the fact that he was in a relationship with a white woman. He had no evidence to support this claim when Rose questioned it, except to flatly say, “It's a thing.”
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