Representation Matters: “Black Panther”

By Stephaney Wilson
Elm Staff Writer

Marvel’s newest superhero film, “Black Panther,” has been one of the biggest topics of conversation this week. Whether you’ve heard about it or seen it yourself, there is little doubt that this film has already claimed a spot in our history books.

After just nine days since opening, the film has grossed over $700 million dollars worldwide within its first two weekends, according to Forbes. It continues to soar, topping box offices across the world, and shattering records in its wake.

The film features many famous black actors and actresses, including Chadwick Boseman in the main role as T’Challa (Black Panther), Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, and many others in an all-around black cast.

This is not the first time that a black film with a black-leading male has made box office success, but this is still a time to celebrate. This film is extremely influential and highly empowering for many of its audience members. It is breaking many barriers and stereotypes that many black actresses and actors are subject to in Hollywood.

Freshman Kash Akinsade, an actor who recently watched the film, said, “To see black actors, African actors, from all over the world or Africa in the same place wearing their traditional African garb and African attire in a high definition film, in a high budget film produced by Hollywood, was such a major deal that I had to see it.”

The title itself brings some controversy to the film. What does “Black Panther” mean, and what does it mean to you personally? Many people picture the 1960s Black Panther political movement of the United States.

I suspect that many who know the history or lived through it are brought back to that political place when they hear the title. Well, it’s a little deeper than that.

According to Comic Book Resources, Stan Lee, co-creator of the superhero comic book, denies it has anything to do with the movement. He says the story actually made the shelves a few months before the political party was even established in 1966.

How political, then, is the film?

The film is political in many ways, as it’s depicting black lives through black eyes. I mean, when was the last time we’ve seen a black superhero on the big screen? Just the act of such powerful representation is political.

It’s showing the lives of the people just like me, even black bodies intact, with no impact of racism or colonialism. “Black Panther” falls into a genre known as Afrofuturism, that shows us (black people) many possibilities across time through art, space, technology, with black women at the center of this development.

Unfortunately, despite efforts to make a trip, Washington College students were unable to go see the film for free this weekend in Middletown, due to some errors in ticketing.

Nonetheless, sophomore Paris Mercier, president of the Black Student Union, reflected on the possibility of seeing the film. She said, “It’s an opportunity that not all schools have, to go see ‘Black Panther’ for free, and I think for WC it’s a step in the right direction.”

So, WC students, I will encourage you all to take the time to go watch this film, to see an inspirational superhero film for the masses.

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