I have never been too much of a movie buff. In fact, I can possibly count all the movies I’ve been excited to see at the cinema on one hand. I didn’t even go past my laptop screen to see some of my favourite movies. For the most part, I have always preferred books to movies – the detailing is always better when it is written down, and book to movie adaptations have almost always been disappointing. My basis for picking movies has always been on whether the book was great, or the trailer looks exceptionally exciting. I have never just watched a movie based on actors or directors. But just possibly, Black Panther was about to change that.
The marketing was perfect: an all-star black cast, African themes, action and even sex appeal. Black Panther as a superhero was nothing new. First appearing in 1966, Black Panther was the first superhero of African descent, at least in popular comic books. It was a remarkable stride, given the racially charged atmosphere of America at the time. Even now, in 2018, race is still a major issue in America, and seeing dark faces like Chadwick Boseman, Luptia Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Michael B Jordan and Danai Gurira have actually ruffled some feathers – but I digress.
I was impressed. I wanted to see Black Panther just to appreciate Angela Bassett who I have always adored (and not even for her acting skills). But I still have not gotten around to it, weeks after the movies multi-million dollar opening. I watched as people bought tickets days before the opening in Saint Lucia, as they rounded up friends, as they posted vague reviews with attached gifs, expressing their absolute approval, as they rounded up different friends to see it a second time; as they had heated arguments and, as they reminisced over scenes where Michael B Jordan was shirtless.
I still didn’t go to see Black Panther. I didn’t even try to watch some illegally streamed version as I had done with what would become some of my favourite movies. Let’s leave it at the fact that I’m really just not a movie fanatic, and didn’t want to be in a crowded theatre either. But despite having still not seen the movie, I have come to appreciate what it has done for the black community – a sort of outsider’s perspective.
The saying ‘representation matters’ has never mattered more than in this particular instance. For the first time, black people have had the opportunity to enjoy a movie based on them, which was promoted on such a wide scale. Other black superheroes exist, and movies and series about them also exist, but nothing has been pushed as much as Black Panther has. Black people, the world round, have embraced the opportunity to cosplay to go to see a movie, to dress up in kente cloth outfits, and even face paint. Some referred to it as ‘the black people’s Harry Potter’. Admittedly, I thought the tribal face paint was a bit much, but who was I to judge when black people finally felt like they had made a huge impact in the film industry.
Movies like 12 Years a Slave and Fruitvale Station have always hit some nerves in certain pockets of society, but Black Panther was all inclusive, and especially inclusive of black people. Seeing a cast of mainly black characters, hearing African accents (though unauthentic) in a movie that wasn’t about oppression, and widespread genocide (at least that is what I have gathered) must be genuinely empowering.
Given the absolutely mind blowing amount of money that the film has gained, the records it has broken, and the recognition and fame that it has brought to both the actors and the director, Black Panther has become a staple of the black community – something to be spoken of for years to come. Not to mention, numerous actors are of Caribbean lineage which speaks to the immense talent of the people in the region and the diaspora. With word of an already solidified sequel to the movie, I just might have to finally go see and appreciate the original Black Panther, and perhaps witness firsthand what the hype about the shirtless scenes was all about.