Black Panther: The Marvel Revolution

Black Panther was one of the most anticipated films of 2018. The New York Times claimed that “Black Panther was one of the most tweeted films of 2017 even though it did not come out that year.” A movie with a cast almost entirely made of black actors, it was predicted to smash opening weekend records--and it did.  The film has the biggest opening weekend over any other Marvel film, even surpassing Avengers.

Via Longreads

According to Vanity Fair the film made over $100 million more than the $120 million originally predicted. Black Panther made $219 million. This record breaking number speaks volume about Marvel’s target audience and what they want to see in modern film. Marvel’s demographic according to Vanity Fair is 37 percent black.

The film is about the leader of Wakanda, which is a fictional African country with technical and scientific advancement beyond anything scientists at any of the top labs in the world could even dream of. The country thrives off an alloy called vibranium, which is also what Captain America’s shield is made of. Vibranium powers the entire city and has been kept a secret from the world, as has Wakanda. The new leader of Wakanda, T’Challa, is about to take his father’s place as the Black Panther since his father died in an explosion in Captain America: Civil War (2016).

Via MovieWeb Why is the film revolutionary? There are many reasons. The first reason is that this is the first almost all black main cast that Marvel has ever had. This film gives representation a whole new look. The diversity is not just restricted to one or two actors of color in a movie, but a full cast and an in-depth look into African culture. This is done especially through fashion and the African accents that the characters had in the film, as opposed to an American or British accents. The film avoids the repetitive themes like slavery, crime or civil rights. Black Panther shows African people successful in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field, inventors and at the top of their game. Black Panther shows a positive spin of of black culture, where there is no struggle-- the one we’ve been waiting to see in film for a while now.

One of the film’s main focuses is technological advancement in Wakanda. The top scientist in Wakanda is Shuri, T’Challa’s sister. A 16-year-old girl with a cheeky sense of humor and big brain, Shuri is also the smartest person in Wakanda and one of the smartest people in the Marvel universe. She has her own lab within the country and she has designed tools, gadgets and inventions that are being used in Wakanda for the benefit of the country, including T’Challa’s Black Panther suits. These inventions and her title would compare her to the brains of someone like Tony Stark, who is known to be a genius in the Marvel Universe for creating multiple Iron Man suits. Coolger commented on her character saying:Via Nerdist

“I thought it’d be really interesting seeing a young African teenager who’s manipulated [vibranium] in ways that nobody else could,” Coogler told Slashfilm, “and who’s confident and able to have her own space.”

Shuri gives the word “princess” a new meaning. We all grew up with a specific image of a princess, especially the ones that Disney gave us in their films like Aurora, Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel... The damsel in distress who needs a prince to save them. The delicate, small, usually white girl who cannot do anything for herself. Recently Disney is slowly, but surely, removing themselves from the typical “I need a prince charming” princess with films like Moana (2017), Frozen (2013) and Brave (2012). These films show princesses being independent and having opinions and fighting for what they want without needing a man. Shuri is an amazing image for younger girls, especially younger girls of color, to have as a role model to get interested in STEM and hopefully continue on with these science fields as a career. We lack women in STEM and this is the type of push we need for little girls to be interested in these fields. These are the reasons that representation matters to show young girls examples of what they can become and give them someone to look up to.  

As for the future for Marvel films? With record breaking opening weekends, glowing reviews and a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this is the future of Marvel and film. These are the movies that people want to see. Diversity, strong women in leadership roles, different cultures and representation so more children can feel a connection to these characters and have the confidence to accomplish anything with these characters as positive role models. Hopefully Marvels listens to its audience as The Black Panther will return in Avengers Infinity War this May.