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The Importance of Marvel’s Black Panther

todayJune 30, 2017

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By Jenise Jackson
Blog Content Contributor

*KTSW consists of and respects varying opinions within its staff. Opinion articles do not reflect the opinion of KTSW as a whole.*

Here is a question for you all; Even though we are in 2017, is society still afraid of mainstream black cinema? In my opinion, the answer is a strong yes. Why is that? Well as time continues to progress, black actors, actresses and directors have worked to break long-standing stereotypes that have been portrayed in earlier cinema. This seems to be surprising and unappealing for some moviegoers and it became evident to me after the release of the trailer for Marvel’s new film, Black Panther, which is set to be released this upcoming February.

For those who are not into Marvel comics and their accompanying films and TV shows, the Black Panther (T’Challa) is the first black superhero to be featured in mainstream American comics. What I believe makes the Black Panther comics special is that T’Challa is also royalty in a fictional African nation named Wakanda. Of course we have seen other black superheroes in Marvel productions since the creation of the Black Panther, but this will be the first time a black Marvel superhero takes center stage in a movie since the release of Blade: Trinity (2004). However, what stands to be an important step in the right direction, it is not sitting right with some people.

Think about the common roles black actors and actresses play in films that are more largely recognized. You probably imagine them playing the comic relief, the black best friend to a white counterpart, a thug, a “loud, ghetto” woman or a domestic worker. Hollywood is quick to cast blacks in these roles, but is not always as prompt to let them take center and play more positive or dominant characters. This really comes as no surprise since it has been quite obvious over the years that Hollywood still has a huge diversity problem. Let us use the recent release of DC Comics’ Wonder Woman as an example. There were people claiming to be upset with the fact that Wonder Woman was not “American” enough (she is Amazonian by the way), or that there were female-only screenings for the film. I do not believe these were the real issues that people had with the movie; I think there were some people who did not appreciate the fact that not only could a woman lead in an amazing superhero film, but a woman could also direct that same film. As the movie industry stands at the central point of cultural inequality, it is clear that not only is society still reluctant of female inclusion but of racial inclusion as well.

Just because people are afraid to see black actors and actresses play positive roles in films doesn’t mean those films shouldn’t be created. This is why Black Panther is so important. You have to start somewhere to make a change and superhero movies are the perfect place to start. Superhero movies are an extremely large market for Hollywood. While the nearly all-black cast and black director are amazing, everything else we currently know about the Black Panther film is already historical. Just from the teaser trailer one can see that T’Challa stands for much more than power and muscles, he is a symbol of black pride and dignity. The trailer also portrayed Wakanda as a black, technologically advanced nation that stands as a metaphor for a better image of what people expect from a black community. If the film’s trailer can make a bold statement, just imagine what the entire film will and can do.

I undoubtedly will be supporting the film once it is released. At a time, where #BlackLivesMatter is a strong standing movement and old racial division seems to want to rise, it will be nice to see a hero that represents hope for a better world.

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