You must have been living under a rock to have missed all the hype surrounding Marvel‘s latest superhero film ‘Black Panther’. A superhero film with a black lead is almost unheard of and early indications show that this may turn out to be one of Marvel’s most successful films so far. With a projected $200 million for its opening weekend, this film proves to Hollywood and further afield that films with black characters can be successful. I must admit I wept a little when I watched it. I have waited my lifetime for a film like this, one that portrays black people in a positive light and doesn’t reduce us to stereotypes or tropes.
Representation is important! We all want to dream and see ourselves in the stuff that we watch. We all need hero’s who are like us to look up to and for far too long black people have been sidelined and stereotyped in movies. Not only is Black Panther showing black people positively and displaying the inner strength but the female characters are strong without being angry and aren’t just there to look attractive or prop up the male characters.
Film really can influence our perception of different ethnicities and races. So often in movies, we are portrayed as angry for no particular reason but we as a group are strong and I really think Black Panther demonstrates this beautifully. Black panther showed women of colour (WOC) as fully fledged powerful characters who exude their own power irrespective of any male characters. WOC are overlooked in so many aspects of life – we are underrepresented in politics, in entertainment and in senior positions within companies. But we are capable of so much and I hope that this film will start to help bring about an attitude change, not only within Hollywood but also within the wider world.
There was no mistaking the joy and emotional reactions that many of us had when we saw Black Panther. This film also represents the beauty of the black woman. A beauty that can be maligned in Western culture. How many traditionally black features have been co-opted by other races? Features that WOC have been made fun of for possessing but on other races they are deemed beautiful. This film represents black beauty in all its forms and this really is a joy to behold. The hairstyles range from the more traditional African to the more modern natural hair movement and everything in between. It really does represent just how beautiful black women are in all our guises and variants.
The location for Black Panther is Wakanda. A fictional African nation that is the most technologically advanced in the world. Given President Trump’s recent remarks about African nations this couldn’t have come at a better time. It is time for an attitude shift, to show the world just how powerful and strong WOC can be. It is time to redress the balance – WOC are underrepresented in STEM but times are a changing. Organisations like Black Girls Code are making strides in tackling the issue and film like Black Panther really do give hope to millions of black people who for too long have felt neglected, overlooked and misunderstood.
Representation really does matter. Don’t underestimate the effect that being positively represented can have on a whole group of people. Of course misrepresentation isn’t limited to WOC or black people in general, it spans so many groups. I’d love in my lifetime to see full representation for everyone whether you’re black, asian, hispanic, disabled, gay or trans. But this is the first time I’ve felt as a WOC that I’ve been properly represented in mainstream cinema and that is something to be celebrated.