Why Black Panther is a Cultural Revelation

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two months, you’ve probably heard about the Marvel film Black Panther. The film has been smashing box office records by surpassing 1.2 BILLION dollars in 12 weeks, making it one of the highest grossing movies of all time. Besides the financial success, Black Panther is also the most tweeted about movie of all time, with the help from Kendrick Lamar’s tweet about the companion album which he curated and produced. While both these records are significant, Black Panther has had the biggest impact on culture and celebrates black culture in a way that most movies have never done before.

One of the most obvious impacts of the film is that it’s the first Marvel movie to have a black superhero at the forefront. Besides Don Cheadle’s role as Colonel James Rhodes in the Iron Man franchise and Samuel L. Jackson’s role as the leader of the Avengers, no other Marvel movies have featured black actors or actresses. Even in the Infinity War posters you can see the lack of representation with very few non-white actors, all of them much smaller than other characters; so with Black Panther’s release there was finally a cast that featured smart, strong, beautiful and courageous characters of color that were written without the stereotypes of token black characters seen in other blockbuster films.

The writing of the film moves beyond a typical superhero film–it touches on ideas of power and oppression and international relations. The film imagines a world where the most powerful country isn’t America, but an African country hesitant to reveal their true wealth and innovation with the world. Wakanda hides under the disguise of America’s assumptions about Africa that is rural, poor, and in need of our help, which completely ignores the rich, modern culture. Black Panther celebrates that culture through every aspect of the film from the hair, costumes, the styling of the world of Wakanda and the soundtrack which features an entire line-up of black musicians. Many portrayals of black narratives in the media are embedded in white narratives, such as the representation of slavery and civil rights, and while those narratives are important to black history they ignore enormous parts of the history and culture. Instead, these portrayals act as what white people’s views of the African-American experience should be. Black Panther, and other popular movies such as Get Out and Moonlight are pushing the boundaries of these narratives.

 

 

The representations of black women and men and black culture have created waves of influence among moviegoers. The characters in the film give children role models who are intelligent and strong, something that has been missing in the media for African-American children. Jimmy Fallon did a segment on The Tonight Show where fans of the movie were able to express how the movie impacted their life (with a surprise appearance of Chadwick Boseman, who plays the titular character) and it’s clear to see how the film has touched the hearts of many. One mother stated “my son’s childhood has been defined by Barack Obama and now Black Panther, so thank you”.

Shout-out to everyone that had a part of making this amazing movie. Hopefully we’ll get to see more movies featuring strong, complex, and unique black characters. Black Panther is an enormous step forward in not only cinematic history, but also black culture worldwide.