By Dawn Sawyer
Greater Atlanta Christian School
As Marvel producers bring their viewers to Wakanda in the new movie Black Panther, we experience more than just thrill and suspense packaged within each superhero movie brought to the table. Black Panther brings a sense of unity to Marvel’s fanbase and has opened the door for representation of all cultures and ethnicities in the superhero world.
Black Panther features a fictional country located in Africa, called Wakanda, who is in possession of the world’s strongest metal, vibranium. This unique metal contributes greatly to their advanced technology, that of which helps them stay hidden from the rest of the world. The story, however, focuses on an African prince whose father has just been killed by Americans. Forced to protect his country in these hard times, he returns home only to be challenged by his long lost cousin for the throne.
With Chadwick Boseman playing Black Panther in the film, Marvel fans finally get to see a black male being the hero of the story. Although fans were given War Machine and the Falcon, they acted mainly as backups for the main characters, such as Captain America and Iron Man, and were rarely featured in the Avengers movies. The main heroes in Marvel movies tended to be the same ethnicity, which proved frustrating for people of color. However, in Civil War, the fans are introduced to a new kind of character, Black Panther.
When movies claim to be inclusive of many ethnicities and feature black people, they tend to focus on lighter-skinned African Americans. What makes Black Panther stand out from other movies is it’s wide range of shades within the black community. The representation was incredible and shocked everyone when word spread of a movie encompassing a majority of black people. The film also helps go against the stereotype that you have to look and act a certain way to be black. There was a variety of roles for blacks represented in the film, ranging from doctors to warriors.
Along with Black Panther’s use of Africans of all shades, the genders of the main characters were also refreshing to viewers . Lupita Nyong’o, playing one of the main characters Nakia, is a dark-skinned woman who has a strong, level-headed role in the movie. Portrayed commonly as angry and loud by the media, dark-skin women haven’t been featured in any Marvel movies, even as a background character, until this film. Therefore, Black Panther’s inclusion of dark skinned women in numerous roles such as warriors, doctors, scientists, spies and many more surprised fans and is evidence that the industry is slowly, but surely changing.
In addition to the humor, thrill and representation in the movie, the film entails black history as well. The main question proposed in the movie by the villain, Erik Killmonger played by Michael B. Jordan, is why Wakanda failed to do anything about the slavery and conflict that occurred right outside their borders. This alludes to actual history of numerous African communities contributing to the Middle Passage established in the early 1500s, used to transport slaves. Although Killmonger went about it the wrong way, he did have a point, and the idea of all blacks coming together to help out your people in anyway possible, can be relevant to the racism and discrimination we see today.
Although Black Panther was centered around Africans, this is not just a win for the black community, but for all people of color. Representation is needed for every ethnicity, and Black Panther has opened the door for new roles concerning other people of color. Everyone has witnessed how this movie has changed the way people see Marvel, bringing in thousands of new fans. Black Panther made $1.344 billion as of May 22 and is the world’s ninth-highest-grossing film of all time. If this was accomplished with representing one new group of people, imagine what could happen when including all ethnicities in upcoming movies.
Marvel is on the road to many new things that could contribute to society in a major way by representing everyone and having an important message in each movie they produce. Experiencing Black Panther as a dark skinned woman made me feel proud of how far we’ve come, along with a new sense of belonging. Everyone should be able to relate to this feeling and should feel like their identity matters, rather than it being something you feel ashamed for. We should celebrate our differences and Black Panther has started this long process of appreciating each culture as a part of our society as a whole.