The Most Unappreciated Part of Black Panther
Okoye, “I am loyal to that throne no matter who sits upon it. What are you loyal to?”
Nakia, “I loved him. I love my country too.”
Okoye, “Then you serve your country.”
Nakia, “No, I save my country.”
This moment does not get enough attention. It is in this moment we realize that the struggle of means and ends is not just reflected in the main character of T’Challa and Killmonger but between Okoye and Nakia. They both love and serve their country but in different ways.
Okoye serves the throne of Wakanda above all else. She is loyal to their traditions and, above all, their king. This means that even if she disapproves of her king and thinks he is acting against the wellbeing of the people, she will serve him without question. To her the throne and the king, are the country more than the people. (To my perception.)
Nakia serves the people of Wakanda first and last. She is willing to put aside tradition and law if it is what will better serve the people. To her the throne matters less than what it serves.
This was a genius comparison. Through this tale we learn that actions matter just as much, if not more than, intentions. Bringing Wakanda into the light may be the intention but if it is done with anger and violence, it is wrong. Serving Wakanda may be right but if doing so sacrifices the safety of the people, it is wrong.
In the end Okoye turns against Killmonger but not because she has decided to serve the people over the throne but because the ritual was not completed. T’Challa did not die. This means Warmonger cannot be king. It is when the tradition is ignored by Killmonger that Okoye turns on him and guides her fellow Dora Milaje to do the same.
Another comparison is made of means and ends, also including Okoye. Okoye and her husband W’Kabi both agree to follow Killmonger but for different reasons. Okoye follows because he is now king. W’Kabi follows Killmonger because he promises glory and dominance for Wakanda. W’Kabi follows for power, Okoye follows for duty. This cultivates in a tense moment on the battlefield when W’Kabi asks, “Would you kill me my love?” To which she answers, “For Wakanda? Without question.” It is this moment that causes W’Kabi to look around and see that their people are killing each other. This killing is all being done for the sake of Wakanda for one reason or another. He makes his choice, and puts down his weapon. Does he do this because he decides the people of Wakanda are more important than the power of Wakanda? We don’t know. We can see that in that moment he is not willing to sacrifice his people for his own vengeance.
I find it interesting that at no point does Okoye have to choose between the throne or the people. Seeing her struggle with that choice would be interesting but I think we can agree there is plenty of ideal clash in Black Panther. Seeing this conflict of means and ends reflected in so many characters helps drive home the point: The means matter. It isn’t just what you accomplish but how.
Watching these interactions of characters, morals, and ideals was an absolute delight. I have watched this movie time and again and every time I find something new to love. As a writer the echoes of conflict are inspiring and as a person, I find myself inspired.
The means matter.
What a timeless message.
Find more things to love about Black Panther:
Executive Power https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8xcK69brd8&t=6s