Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

Diversity in Black Panther: Representation within new Marvel movie

Posted on March 05, 2018 in Arts & Culture
By USM Free Press

Kate Rogers, Staff Writer

Mild spoiler alert

Directed by Ryan Coogler, Marvel’s Black Panther follows King T’Challa, of a fictional African nation Wakonda, as he strives to do the best for his people in the wake of his father’s death. A wrench is thrown in the works when an outsider returns to Wakonda with an agenda and challenges T’Challa for the throne. Along with his family, loyal friends and even some old enemies, T’Challa must work to protect the nation and keep hold of the powers of the Black Panther.  

This movie is important for so many reasons. Not only does it have incredible representation both for black people and black women specifically, but it’s a celebration of African power and tradition. Along with that, it is just generally an amazingly written and directed movie with dynamic characters and riveting action. It deals with themes of the impact of colonization, oppression, and the responsibility of those with wealth and power to help the oppressed. For a franchise like Marvel which has in the past been criticized for shallow plots, a lack of diversity and weak characterization, Black Panther is absolutely groundbreaking.

The visuals are gorgeous and the action is breathtaking. Even the soundtrack is catchy and evocative. But it is the story and the performances that really make this movie sing. The cast of inspiring and charming characters capture the audience’s heart immediately. There are more than a few badass, talented black women who are not only celebrated as individuals and vital to the story but show their strength over and over again. So many aspects of this cast break the Marvel movie mold in a way fans have been begging for, not just in superhero movies but in all of Hollywood.

Young genius Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, is Prince T’Challa’s younger sister and the mastermind behind of all his cool tech. Bright, sarcastic, quick witted and literally the smartest person in the world, she is certainly a new contender for everyone’s favorite Disney princess. Her character brings youthful energy to the film and gives young girls an incredibly strong and empowered role model to look up to.

On the other side of the coin there is villain Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan. Fueled by vengeance and a significant lack of compassion, he makes himself Prince T’Challa’s enemy. Despite his wicked intentions, he has immense charisma and his story will make audiences not only sympathize, but stop and think. Killmonger’s battle with the heroes of the movie presents a familiar moral dilemma to a generation struggling to understand and overcome unfair racial power dynamics.

Another thing that really stands out in Black Panther is the costumes. They are bright and have many unique and interesting details. The women’s uniforms and fighting garb are practical and make sense as well as being beautiful. Most importantly, Coogler based many of the costumes in the film off of real traditional African clothing from all over the continent. The choices were very deliberate. Even in a scene where three characters are dressed to blend in, the colors of their outfits are that of the Wakondan flag. Fashion inspired a phenomenon around Black Panther, with black fans all over the world attending premieres and showings all dressed up in formal African inspired outfits.

It’s obvious from the fan reactions and the revenue that Black Panther is doing well. The internet fandom is thriving. They were producing tons of art and fan-fiction even before the movie was released. Black Panther’s opening week was Marvel’s biggest ever and reviews are full of high praise. In its second weekend in the box office, it is still breaking record after record. According to Forbes magazine, Black Panther had one of the highest second weekend grosses ever, second only to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Praise is important, but numbers don’t lie; Black Panther is hard proof that diversity does the opposite of hurting ticket sales.

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