Black Panther is here! Unless you've been living under a rock or don't have access to any electronic device or newspaper, then you know I am talking about the new Marvel Comic film which debuted this weekend to record breaking numbers. I have watched virtually all of the Marvel comic films and when I learned about Black Panther, I was hype. My comic book loving brother, Teddy, schooled me on the character, T'Challa, who inherited the throne to a fictional African kingdom, Wakanda. The character was created in the 60's when Black people were enthralled in the cause of civil rights and breaking down barriers due to the color of their skin. With the current state of this country in mind, this movie has been declared a movement. Black Panther reminds us that Black pride is not something to be ashamed of but to be celebrated. Social media is filled with people taking pictures in African attire, all Black, dancing, and posing in reverence of their experience with this film. It even has it's own hashtag with people sharing how the film resonates with them, #whatblackpanthermeanstome and #wakandaforever
A CNN article states, "a film that explores what it means to be black, centered on a black superhero, featuring a mostly-black cast, and helmed by a black director is on pace to be one of Marvel's biggest blockbusters."
I went to see this film alone (because my schedule didn't sync up with other people and I preferred not to wait to see the film. I'm sure I'll see it in theaters more than once), I put my favorite printed head wrap on, dressed in all black, and walked into the theater with my snacks (don't judge me) waiting for my mind to be blown. Best of all, the film was released in the middle of Black History Month! This is not a review but more of my reflection on themes I noticed in the film. I won't be giving away any spoilers but I do want to talk about a few things I noticed in the film and why this film is important to the USA and the world.
The women have an important role in the safety and structure of Wakanda
The ladies of Wakanda are amazing! Though the tribes are ruled by a King, many of the women have important roles. First, they have an all female military. In a country where it wasn't too long ago that women were not allowed to vote or be in the military, this is important for little girls to see. Second, Shuri (princess and sister to T'Challa) runs the technology lab. Her skills in math and science are what make the Black Panther suit be indestructible and have the train running by use of kinetic energy. She has no super power other than her intelligence and self-confidence. I also recognize how it is empowering for those first generation American children to see women rocking their native clothing. These positive images of females will inspire young girls to believe they can and be confident in their abilities.
The lead characters deal with grief
T'Challa and Kilmonger both experience heart breaking losses and the way they cope with the loss is displayed in a realistic way. Without giving too much of the story away, both men's lives are significantly effected by loss and both feel the power of carrying on the legacy of their late loved one. As I watched the film, I could see the hurt in both characters. One used his hurt to fuel his desire for revenge and the other used hurt to show mercy to others. The movie goes over the stages of grief through flashbacks: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Despite much progression, mental health in the Black community is still considered taboo. Families often do not seek help or will go to a church leader before seeing a therapist. While Black Panther does not show any characters in therapy (I don't think it would have worked for the story line), they do display how people of color can be vulnerable without being labeled as weak. The characters display a resiliency by use of introspection and being transparent with others. There's a line in the film stated by Kilmonger, "Bury me with my ancestors that jumped from ships into the ocean. For they knew death was better than bondage." Although slavery was centuries ago, Black people continue to live in a society which seeks to oppress them, only it is not so blatant. Black folks carry these generational traumas (whether conscious or not) which effect how we perceive ourselves, how we cope, and our ability to embrace being emotional. I believe this film will normalize some of the issues people of color face and I hope gives courage by reminding us that tough times may come but we will make it through to the other side.
Despite different viewpoints, unity helps us to progress
The film highlights four tribes in the nation of Wakanda. Three have resided together and one broke away and lives in the mountains after a conflict centuries ago. The tribes are brought together to protect the nation when it becomes apparent outsiders want to do harm. I enjoyed this part of the film because it reminds me of a family. We may not always get along, but when needed, we can put our differences aside and come together. Much like how the Black community united to protest Jim Crow, police brutality, and advocate for better funding in their communities. This film shows we are stronger together than we are apart.
We all can be a superhero
Little black children around the world now have an image of a hero that looks like them. We needed this film. Why? Because oftentimes, children of color are told what they cannot be and the images they are shown defining success and affluence are typically not with people who look like them. Much in the way President Barack Obama's years in the oval office, Black Panther will announce to the world that we can be anything we want to be. Our skin color is Warrior, King, Father, survivor, superhero. "All children deserve to believe they can save the world, go on exciting adventures or accomplish the impossible,"
Here's a video of a group of kids who found out they would be going to see Black Panther with the rest of the classroom. Enjoy.
If you've seen the movie, comment and let me know what you enjoyed most about it.
"Black Panther" is in theaters now! Be sure to check it out.