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Black Panther Debuts, Leaves Immediate Cultural Impact

February 23, 2018

Photo Courtesy of BYU Radio

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther wanted to be a cultural flashpoint, and it got its wish. The big-budget film, an ambitious attempt at bringing to life a well-regarded superhero. The film released domestically on February 16th and immediately became a hit, earning well over $200 million in its first weekend. But the movie is more than simply a financial success. Marvel wanted a movie that started a conversation, and it certainly got one. The film, directed by Ryan Coogler, draws heavily from a wealth of political, cultural, and philosophical touchstones to create a finished product that, despite its fantastical nature, rivals the political influence of Jordan Peele’s Get Out.

To be clear, Black Panther is a quintessentially Black movie. This is where any and all discussion of its cultural impact begins. The film takes place in the fictional African nation of Wakanda and boasts a cast of fantastic Black talent. From Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger performance to Chadwick Boseman’s titular spectacle to the ever-powerful Lupita Nyong’o’s seminal work as Nakia, this is a movie oozing with acting talent that puts Black representation front and center. For an industry like comic books, which is traditionally white and male, producing a movie like Black Panther is a sign of progress for representation. Even on Twitter, “#WakandaForever” serves as a rallying cry for Black moviegoers who saw themselves at the center of a movie with a huge budget, and unlimited potential. Cosplayers streamed into theaters dressed as characters from the movie and comic series. As the series gets woven into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, more of the same can be expected. Wakanda, as a setting, allowed for representation on a stage previously untouched by Marvel’s works.

But it isn’t just the setting that makes the movie revolutionary. Without spoiling the plot of the movie, the politics are just as stark, which is where the movie’s Blackness runs deepest. Black Panther is, at its heart, a movie about resisting colonialism from White powers. It is about the aftereffects of exploitation. It is about a Black identity in the face of a world that never liked Blackness much. It is a movie about Audre Lourde’s ever-relevant reminder that the master’s house will never be dismantled by the master’s tools. It is a movie about Black identity and Black power. Black Panther is a movie about T’Challa, King of Wakanda, but also a movie about Black people in the real world. Yes, the movie is still fictional. Yes, it is entertainment. These things are all true. But rarely is there a movie that one can say has indelibly left an impact on the society it became a part of. Black Panther, just a week after its release, has a real claim to doing just that.

Anthony Adams
Political Editor

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