by Jennifer Ruffin
On Feb. 16, 2018 the newest Marvel movie, “Black Panther,” was released. The movie has been a success, not only for it’s great cast and story, but also because of the cultural importance it holds for our generation. Jennifer Ruffin praises the film’s ability to do what no movie has before.
On Feb.16, 2018 the newest Marvel movie, “Black Panther,” was released. Anticipation of this movie was so great that many people, including me, bought tickets two weeks ahead of the release date. Despite my early purchase of tickets, I was not particularly excited for this movie, expecting it to be just another film attempting to show black culture in all of its amazing glory. Black culture in its entirety is so vast and complex, and I did not anticipate that this movie could effectively do it justice. But I was admittedly proven wrong. This movie did the impossible: “Black Panther” covered topics as small as the importance of strength in a black family to topics as huge as the day to day struggles of being black in America in a matter of two hours and fifteen minutes. From patterns on dashikis to the women’s hairstyles, every single aspect of this movie was meant to symbolize the brilliance and beauty of being black. Hands down, “Black Panther” is by far the livest and most important movie of 2018, even if it is only February.
Representation is everything.
This is a given, of course. A lack of minority representation in the entertainment industry is strikingly prevalent in Western culture. While the fact that we are receiving movies like “Black Panther,” “42”, and “Race” in which the main black characters are of heroic proportions is exciting, it’s also frustrating that this development has taken so long to come about. For the longest time, black characters have served the purpose of comic relief or have been limited to archetypal roles like the ghetto best friend or the thug villain. Of course, there are black actors like Denzel Washington and Viola Davis who deliver the gut wrenching performances in important roles wherein they are more than just a token person of color. But, demeaning roles have been the norm for black actors. “Black Panther” shows that we can play more than just those stereotypical roles. We can play a king, we can play the fiercest warrior in the country — and evidently, we can play arguably the most important superhero in the Marvel coalition. Needless to say, we can play the dope roles.
It shows the beauty of Africa.
To me and so many others, “Black Panther” is a love letter to Africa. Western media persistently portrays Africa as a wasteland of chaos and savageness. We see war and civil unrest. We see poverty and the struggle of life in Africa. We see none of the good, only the bad. And, with women walking miles to get water that is not even clean, young girls putting themselves in danger just to go to school and men and women dying of HIV at unprecedented rates, I admit it is difficult to see Africa in a different light than the harsh one shed by the media. But “Black Panther” does just that: shows a different Africa. With flying trains carrying vibranium, holographic spaceships killing the enemy, and futuristic skyscrapers piercing a beautiful skyline, the film’s utopia, Wakanda, offers a perspective on Africa that we have maybe never seen before.
It gives insight into the black experience in America.
It seems as though the black body has faced a renewed series of attacks in recent years. Black football players cannot even kneel in protest during the national anthem without backlash from our president or threats of losing their jobs from their General Managers or owners. Lebron James and Kevin Durant cannot even speak their minds about their experiences being black in America without a white anchor on Fox News telling them to “shut up and dribble.” Ordinary black citizens have been locked in prisons in alarmingly large numbers and have been beaten or shot by law enforcement for no reason.
“Black Panther” acts like a cleanser. It is an injection of powerful black images of the black body. It is what is behind the appeal of Wakanda. A land of black vibrancy, freedom, diversity and the feeling of not having to take care of outside forces, just themselves.
Being a black American, it feels as though we face assault everywhere from Charlottesville to the White House. It’s crucial to be reminded that we still have the strength and power to soar like T’Challa or Nakia or Okoye, and thankfully, we have “Black Panther” to be a constant reminder for us that we are beautiful, powerful, intelligent, fierce, loving (I can go on all day) people. This movie is a must see. It is complete and utter masterpiece.