A few weeks ago, I sat in amazement for 2 hours as I watched the magical film that is Black Panther. Yes, the $1 billion-grossing hit has been out for weeks, but, as a poor college freshman, I had to wait and finesse my upperclassmen friends for a free ride to the theater.
During the film I was floored by the beautiful costumes, breathtaking special effects, and exemplary acting. I’ve seen nearly every Marvel film ever released and they typically excel in production. Captain America, The Avengers and Wonder Woman all made millions of dollars in gross earnings. What makes Black Panther stand apart is the way that it addresses issues of representation, identity and the meaning of being black in a world that is seemingly anti-black. A country that has racism built into its very backing.
Growing up, the only fantasy film that I saw with positive black characters was The Wiz. Lena Horne as the Glinda the Good Witch was one of the select view . The only superheroes and princesses that I could aspire to be like were 10 shades lighter than my dark complexion. The lack of positive black representation in the media as well as in my own childhood led me to believe that the only people capable of being remarkable were white. In turn, my self esteem and self worth as a black child was very low and those sentiments lasted well into my middle school years.
Black Panther allows millions of young black children to see people who look like them being the heroes and having the power to save the fictional Wakanda. My social media news feeds have been full of pictures of black children dressed up as T’Challa or smiling brightly next to a cardboard cutout of the movie. More representation means that more black children will feel accepted and comfortable with who they are.
In addition to having positive portrayals of black heroes, Black Panther comments on identity and dichotomy between Africans and African American. From the beginning we see how plentiful and progressive Wakanda is and how that lifestyle is juxtaposed with the African Americans of Oakland and other areas that lack the resources of Wakanda. Many Wakandans saw the people who were taken from them as outsiders and left them to fend for themselves. This is reflective of the identity issues of various African Americans who feel disconnected from their African roots but yearn to be connected. In addition to issues of identity are the problems that Africans who were stolen from their home countries had to endure. The antagonist of the film, Erik Killmonger, repeatedly states how the people who are not in Wakanda have suffered and are oppressed. The reality of black people being oppressed throughout the world rings true.
Overall, Black Panther reached into my artistic soul and touched it. It rattled me to my core with its surplus of beautiful, resilient actors and actresses as well as its ability to celebrate African culture. Most importantly, it addresses problems such as racism and identity that no other superhero movie or Marvel movie has ever had. It’s important social commentary makes it one of the greatest black anthem movies of all time. Black Panther is real to me because it allows us to understand our world in a new way.