The Cultural Importance of 'Black Panther'

It was Saturday night. As my family and I settled into the red chairs with popcorn in hand at the theater, we were finally ready to watch Black Panther. 

We sat on the edge of our seats with excitement because we were watching the first movie to feature a leading black superhero. This movie was more than just another Marvel or superhero movie to me: it was a movie about black culture. In an age that allows us to wait for movies to be released online, I saw pictures, posts and videos of people going to watch the film with their friends while I scrolled through social media throughout the week of its release. Black Panther has spurred a cultural celebration — many viewers even went to see it in traditional African clothing. It was fascinating to witness and be a part of this historical moment in black history.

The film, which was directed by up-and-coming young talent Ryan Coogler, blew me away. After watching, I obsessed over every aspect of it: from the message to the acting to the fight scenes and to the bomb soundtrack. The movie was centered around a fictional African nation called Wakanda. Contrary to the media typical portrayal of Africa as chaotic and disheveled, Black Panther showcased Africa as a thriving continent filled with successful and beautiful people. I admired how this film depicted Africa: a landscape filled with vibranium, a rare commodity, and a thriving population. I thought the film portrayal of Africa in this manner was crucial because it illustrated that Africa is, in fact, a beautiful continent that has been exploited over and over, especially during European colonialism.  

As a black woman, I felt empowered watching this film because it created a new and much-needed narrative through its depiction of African culture through authentically portraying a beautiful black aesthetic. I was especially captivated by the inspiring female characters. They aren't cast to the side; instead, they're strategic and strong fighters who help save the life of T’Challa, the main character. One of my favorite characters is Shuri, sister to the Black Panther, T'Challa, She stands her ground and isn't dependent on her brother. I loved the dynamic between this powerful and iconic duo. Shuri is a near-perfect role model that young girls can look up to: she's intelligent, hilarious and a well-rounded black female character.

I was also happy to find out that the actor Letitia Wright is Guyanese, because I am too. Something stirred inside me when a saw this successful Guyanese actress on the screen — it reminded me that with hard work, I can accomplish my wildest dreams. It was so refreshing to see an entirely African-American cast on the big screen. Not only that, but it showed that a film with leading black actors can be a box-office success. Most films with a black cast have plots centered around slavery, but Black Panther portrays African Americans as thriving and powerful. This is a huge step in the right direction and I hope to see more people of color represented in Hollywood films in the near future. It's 2018. Everyone should be able to see their culture positively represented throughout all aspects of pop culture.

Black Panther is one for the books and it will forever be a significant movie for black culture. Just one last thing: Wakanda forever!

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