What 'Black Panther' Means To Me

Black Panther dropped in theaters on Feb. 15, but the hype was a year in the making.

Ever since the character of Black Panther came on to the scene with Captain America: Civil War, the excitement for the characters solo movie was incredible. I knew  Black Panther was going to be the first big, motion picture superhero movie centered around black culture.

The film has already broken ticket sales and is on track to be the highest grossing movie Marvel has ever made. So, yeah. You could say it’s a pretty big deal. Weeks leading up to the release, the hashtag #WhatBlackPanterMeansToMe popped up all over Twitter. It’s clear to see that the movie is not only on track to win awards, but also win over the underrepresented people it glorifies.

Some are pointing out that the movie shines a light on African culture — without Americans. Black Panther is a chance to show an African country develop and thrive without white colonization. Beyond that, these characters movies surpass the cliche “black pain." This narrative is almost nonexistent in multi-billion dollar production like Black Panther. Others are praising the movie for not only the almost entire black cast, but the black director.

This comes right after the release of D.C. Comics' Wonder Woman. People loved that a women could be portrayed as strong and did not need a male counterpart. Wonder Woman also had a female director take control of the project. Not only are different demographics being represented in huge films, but audiences are noticing. In my mind, Wonder Woman was one of, if not *the* most groundbreaking superhero film made thus far.

These movies aren’t just pleasing to adults who finally feel represented, but they're are loved by audiences of ages. Just as Wonder Woman presented an amazing role model to the youngest generation, Black Panther has become a mantra to young African American kids. With the Twitter hashtag, some parents were loving that their children could sit in the theaters and see a man, as dark as them be the hero. In today’s news, children of color don’t get to see people they can identify with on the “winning side." Parents not only loved what it meant to them, but to their children. One tweet even read: “My seven year old grandson exclaimed ‘Superheros can be Brown people too?!’”

Even young girls have strong, powerful black women to look up to. Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira are dark-skinned women in places of power in the fictional country of Wakanda.

Clearly, movies like Black Panther have an effect on us now, but the generation that gets to grow up with that as their standard just may be on to something.

Black Panther isn’t only taking on the typical movie narrative, it fits within the niche genre of Afro-Futurism. Afro-Futurism is a literary and cultural aesthetic that combines historical fiction of Africa and science fiction. As someone who had no clue what Afro-Futurism was until she looked it up, that makes me even more hype for the new wave of storytelling.

Black Panther is the start of a movement. A movement that is going to shake up the tradition, white-centric narrative that all movies gravitate toward. When Marvel was doing the first edit and cut of the movie, it was rumored to be 4 hours long. There were people who were begging Marvel to keep it. Audiences were so excited for something so new that they would be willing to sit in the theaters for 4+ hours to watch a single movie. That’s not only dedication, that is pure excitement.

Black Panther has set a new standard for movies. Movies about minorities and underrepresented audiences can be — and are — big office sellers. The matter of the fact is that people can relate to stories. But the ones that are going to resonate the hardest are with characters and stories that reflect them and their reality.

Here’s a link to the trailer (if you haven't seen the film already) to get you even more excited about equal representation.