I’ve never been one to rush out to see the movie “everyone” is talking about. I rarely go to the movies, to be honest. However, “Black Panther” seemed like more than just a movie and more like a cultural event for Black people in 2018. So I made it a point to view the movie during the opening weekend in the theaters, and I am so glad I did.
Very rarely do Black movie goers get to experience a full range of themselves on screen. Some of the most interesting roles were given to Black women, who served as women of strength and not merely damsels in distress to aid the Black Panther. They were not seen as women in despair, solely love interests, the long suffering woman in the wings or any of the other various tropes allotted to women on screen. Their sense of strength was fueled by conviction and not anger, and their love of themselves, their comrades and their country allowed a multifaceted interrogation of the ways in which Black women have served and continue to serve as moral compasses and backbones of democracy.
Indeed, this movie is a Disney movie about a comic book hero, so I do not want to ascribe too many interpretations to the film. However, what makes “Black Panther” transcend just another action hero movie is the way Black people across the Diaspora have responded to the film in this particular moment. The feelings of joy, pride, sense of action and love of one’s people across geographic space are just some of the reasons this movie has resonated with movie goers both young and old, comic book diehards and those who have never watched a Marvel or superhero film in their lives.
Esthetically “Black Panther” is first-rate. The costume designs nod to varying cultures, tribes and designs across the continent of Africa. Couple that with a cast that hails from across the Diaspora and “Black Panther” becomes a movie “for us” and “by us.” With the incredible financial success of “Black Panther,” Ryan Coogler, the rising young director from Oakland, has inadvertently opened doors for young Black directors for years to come. All of these factors contribute to the unprecedented excitement about this film.
It is my hope that Hollywood has taken notice (and has been put on notice). Blacks in film (in front of and behind the camera) are more than capable of creating films that everyone wants to see. They are capable of creating art that touches the masses both inside and outside of the United States. They have been ready for the world stage for decades. Finally, the opportunity arrived and “Black Panther” more than exceeded the challenge.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is the 2018 NYU McSilver Institute Fellow and an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream” and the host of The Aftermath on Ozy.com. You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.