It’s been several months since Black Panther came out with smashing success. I and many others continue to think about and reflect on this movie. Here are some brief thoughts:
Why this was a significant film worth celebrating
Black Panther was a popular movie with an all-black cast and director, something that hasn’t been done before. Movies that involve all-black casts or a black director have usually been about stereotypical subjects like “the hood” (for example, Boyz n the Hood) or sports. But here we had a film in the superhero genre that told a story without needing to traffic in those tropes. Moreover, it was unique in that it was a story that overtly celebrated black excellence and achievement, encouraging anyone who watched the film--no matter their race--to acknowledge and celebrate the idea of an African nation that was strong, honorable, and worth following.
The role of women in the film
The women in this movie were not just sidekicks to the male characters. They had their own motives, desires, and agency which the male characters had to acknowledge and defer to (for example, note T’Challa and his interactions with Nakia). The women characters in this movie stood besides the male characters as full partners and leaders in their own right (for example, Shuri is the smartest person in not just Wakanda but the entire world,and Okoye is the general of the Dora Milaje and head of the Wakadan armed forces).
The unique way this movie spoke to the black experience within the world
There is what is commonly called "the black diaspora"-–black people have spread throughout the world, and are not just Africa . In some cases, this happened through immigration. In many other cases, it was through slavery. This diaspora has resulted in a people who share historical ancestry, but who can and are different in many other cultural ways. This is exemplified by the ways in which the Wakandans distinguished themselves from other black people around the world, and in how Killmonger’s views sharply contrasted with the Wakandan view on how black people should conduct themselves in the world.
This is one of the only films I’ve seen that was willing to highlight this broader awareness of “blackness,” showing the commonalities but exploring some of the differences (black people in the world don’t always think or act alike!).