Was Black Panther’s character (portrayed by Chadwick Boseman) displaying toxic masculinity? Why or why not?
This answer is chock-full of spoilers, so if you haven’t seen Black Panther, don’t read this article, yet…
The Black Panther, as portrayed, is not suffering from toxic masculinity. Why would I say that?
He listens to this woman. General Okoye, leader of the Dora Milaje.
And this woman. Princess Shuri, chief scientist of Wakanda.
And these women. The Dora Milaje, the bodyguards of the King of Wakanda.
He respects their opinions. They respect his ideas and his role as their leader and their friend. He is comfortable in their presence. He laughs with them. He never raises his voice with them. He is never angry with them.
I found his gentle nature with all of them, dignified and respectful. He respects their talents, their skill and their dedication to Wakanda.
His love for all of them is easily apparent and he isn’t ashamed to show his affection and admiration for any or all of them.
A man who is confident in himself does not fear women. Or their viewpoint. Or their skills. He is not put out when their abilities exceed his. He is not afraid of their disagreement. He is in touch with his emotions and isn’t afraid to display them.
T’Challa is quietly masculine. Confident in his abilities, without anxiety in his capacity to solve problems. He is the Black Panther and knows his people depend on him.
He, in turn, depends upon his people. As he should. He works to earn their respect. He gives respect and gets it. There is no use of fear, of gender roles, of hostile patriarchy in what little bit of Wakanda we see. The leadership came in all sizes, male and female, young and old.
T’Challa is proud and very masculine. But the right kind of masculinity.
- One capable of accepting help. (He didn’t chastise Okoye when she helps him during the attack on the caravan. He did, after all, freeze like an antelope in the headlights…)
- One capable of asking for it when needed. (Shuri’s support in Korea.)
- One capable of admitting he was wrong. (In the spirit realm with his father.)
- One capable of respecting the decisions of other people, even when he doesn’t agree with it. (Killmonger’s refusal of medical help was respected even though T’Challa clearly doesn’t agree with it. — I don’t think Marvel will stand on this, I suspect we will see Eric Killmonger again, but if they do, I have mad respect for this.)
- One where people love him enough to do anything for him, in his name, even after he’s presumed dead.
Toxic masculinity can’t do these things. Not a single one without the threat of violence or overwhelming fear.
You must have been thinking of the Other King of Wakanda, Erik Killmonger who displays classic signs of toxic masculinity.
What IS Toxic masculinity (Wikipedia)
The concept of toxic masculinity is used in psychology to describe certain traditional male norms of behavior in the United States and Europe that are associated with harm to society and to men themselves. Such “toxic” masculine norms include the traits of dominance, devaluation of women, extreme self-reliance, and the suppression of emotions.
The concept of toxic masculinity as used in psychology refers to traditional cultural masculine norms in American and European society that can be harmful to men, women, and society overall.
Toxic masculinity is defined by adherence to traditional male gender roles that restrict the kinds of emotions allowable for boys and men to express, including social expectations that men seek to be dominant (the “alpha male”) and limit their emotional range primarily to expressions of anger.
Contemporary expectations of masculinity can produce such “toxic” effects as violence (including sexual assault and domestic violence), “sexual excess” (promiscuity), excessively risky and/or socially irresponsible behaviors including substance abuse, and dysfunction in relationships.
Erik Killmonger list of toxic behaviors includes:
- Killing potentially hundreds of people in his quest to reach Wakanda and, using scarification, etches his kills on his body. (Muy macho.)
- He joins every military organization he can, just to increase his killing potential and acquire the skills needed to infiltrate Wakanda. (Mad props.
- Not necessarily toxic but the training was likely to reinforce his lack of respect for human life and the rights of others.)
- He shoots his “girlfriend” in the face when she became inconvenient to his plans. (Like her right to life, for example.)
- Kills an entire office of people to rescue Klaue. (They’re collateral damage in his quest for world domination.)
- Gaining access to Wakanda by killing Klaue who absolutely deserved to die — as determined by a court of law… (Okay, like a stopped clock he’s right, twice a day.)
- Disrespects the Queen Mother. Disrespects the council. Informs them Wakanda should be doing more to help the members of the Diaspora. (The second time in a day he was right.)
- Chokes a temple mystic who disagreed with his destruction of the heart-shaped herb. She was met with immediate near-lethal force establishing fear as his primary tool of social interaction. (Kinda toxic…)
- Proceeded to recommend arming insurgent armies around the world and destroying governments using Wakandan technology. He was planning to out-patriarch, patriarchy, by murdering the leaders of the world and making a new Wakandan Empire.
His solution to the challenge of the Diaspora and Wakanda’s inaction during the chattel slavery period in history was to create a world where he ruled over everything he didn’t burn to the ground.
A man who is willing to destroy ten thousand years of an advanced civilization (and then the rest of the world) to get revenge, regardless of who gets hurt in the process?
That sounds like toxic masculinity, on steroids.
This post was originally published on Quora and is republished here with permission from the author.
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Photo credits: Marvel Studios