Marvel’s most recent release, “Black Panther”, shattered stereotypes and demanded the attention that the black community deserves. The movie, which was predicted to surpass the opening weekend box office record set by “Deadpool”, has started a race and gender conversation that is long overdue.
“Black Panther” celebrates African cultures and people more so than any other Marvel movie. The only other Disney movie that comes to mind as coming even remotely close to breaking so many stereotypes is “The Princess and the Frog” but even then, the female protagonists still traditionally rely on the male to save her, therefore still operating within the gender stereotypes.
The predominantly black cast, black director and first black Marvel superhero certainly caused some discrepancy in how the movie would perform in the box office. But, sure enough, “Black Panther” reeled in $404 million during opening weekend. That means “Black Panther” earned 148 percent more than “Fifty Shades of Grey”, a movie that already had both the Valentine’s Day release advantage, but also already had an outstanding reputation from the books’ success.
The movie made an incredible impact on the topic of race, as well as gender roles, in the media. In the film, the protagonist, played by Chadwick Boseman, is surrounded by powerful women: his mother (the queen), his sister, his girlfriend and the commander in chief. First off, Black Panther’s sister, Shuri, supplies her brother with her latest technological advances and gear.
This character alone does wonders in shattering the female gender role in movies. Not only is Shuri allowed to challenge T’Challa for the Wakandan throne, she also assumes a position in the STEM field, an area of study most traditionally and stereotypically filled by males. Her strong and fearless attitude set her apart from the normally submissive and dainty women that are often shown in movies such as these.
It’s incredibly refreshing to see a director not only take on the race issue in media, but to also address the gender issue head on. In other films and TV shows, directors and actors seem to poke at race and gender, but never actually address it point blank. It’s a lot of careful writing in order to avoid potential ridicule without actually producing any actual change. Other directors like Shonda Rhimes, on the other hand, are known for their characterization and beautiful writing for women of color, especially as protagonists.
Another extremely important aspect of this movie’s impact is its success in a white washed community. Until now, there has never been a black superhero, in fact, nearly every black character in any Marvel movie is actually the antagonist (except for Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson). Because of this, every young black child that has gone to see these movies in the theatre, is seeing this misrepresentation of the black community on screen. Constantly cast as the bad guy, Black Panther was a breath of fresh air for these children in that it shows them that white people aren’t the only people that get to save the world and it finally gives these children the opportunity to see someone on screen that looks just like them.
The soundtrack for the film features several successful American black artists including Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz and Future, while also including artists, such as Yugen Blakrok and Babes Wodumo, fluent in traditional African music. As the list of artists would suggest, the soundtrack features songs that offer a blend of hip-hop and staples, like the sheepskin drums, in the traditional African music.
“Black Panther”, set in central Africa, also made sure to include and celebrate some of the rich African traditions and cultures in the area. For example, the language spoken in the movie is a language native to the southernmost point of Africa. The costume designer also paid homage to countless other African tribes in the costume design, makeup, rituals and other cultural influences. Further, the cast was able to represent their own cultures on and off the screen with actors from Uganda, Kenya and Guayana. They even went to the red carpet premiere event in Hollywood, CA in their traditional royal African attire.