The Transformative Power of Film: What Marvel’s Black Panther Means to Me

Shay Harris—So I saw Marvel’s Black Panther this past Sunday. I know, I should have seen it opening weekend, but responsibilities and what not. Anyway, Sunday was a beautiful day. I had finished a matinee performance of Lobby Hero (check out my last post to hear about that) around 4pm, grabbed dinner shortly after, then got in a car with four other friends at 5:30pm.

We arrived at AMC Webster 12 (a theater with beautiful reclining chairs) early, but I didn’t care. My friends and I got our snacks, watched theater employees cleaning, then made our way to what would be an emotional experience. When referring to Black Panther as an emotional experience, I’m referring to my own because I can’t speak on anyone else’s behalf. Now the days leading up to this moment were painful because I’m the type of dude that sees Marvel (well, superhero) movies opening weekend. Afterwards, I bug out on the ride back home, reflect, then go to YouTube where I look at reviews/analyses by my favorite creators. Unfortunately, February—despite it being Black History month—was a rough journey.

Nevertheless, when that movie began—OH…MY…GAWD!! Now, DISCLAIMER: This post isn’t a movie review. It is simply me sharing why Black Panther was an emotional experience for me. With that being said, let’s unpack this film:

1. The colors:

You have to see the colors used in this film. There are so many purples, blues, yellows, greens, reds, like WOAH!! So much thought was given to the costumes and they looked beautiful. The colors were particularly beneficial during the final battle because I was able to distinguish who-was-who during the fight. Everyone wasn’t a uniform mass of “enemy”.

2. The soundtrack was memorable:

If you haven’t listened to the Black Panther album, my question to you is, “What are you waiting for?” This film would have been weaker without Kendrick Lamar and the various artists who helped put it together. Like, Hip Hop/Rap on a superhero film? What?! I can’t event talk about it anymore. You have to listen to it for yourself, so go do that.

3. It had a complex antagonist:

Erik Killmonger had a compelling story and motivation that makes many other MCU antagonists pale in comparison. He made compelling arguments and if it weren’t for the execution of his plan, I probably would have been on his side. For a film to make me identify with its antagonist is a wonderful thing. In many ways, Killmonger was the character I most identified with.

4. Strong female characters:

Nakia, Okoye, Romonda, and Shuri were wonderful in their respective roles. I especially liked Okoye and Shuri because the former was the general of the Dora Milaje, a team of women who serve as special forces for the city of Wakanda. Then there’s Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister and the genius behind much of the technology functioning in Wakanda—including the Black Panther’s suit. To see Black women serving in the role of “general” and “tech genius” was refreshing and they had SO much agency! Like, they got things done on their own! Bravo!

5. It was unapologetically Black:

Honestly, this bullet speaks for itself. Whether the film was in America or Africa, Black Panther was beautifully Black. As a writer, the previous four points stimulate my creative juices, but this one gets at the meat of why this movie was an emotional experience for me. The people working on Black Panther cared about it and believed in it. Seeing a primarily Black cast portrayed in positive and complex ways was refreshing and much needed. I was raised on tales of heroes—Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, the X-Men, etc. Stories about these figures made me happy, but most of my favorite heroes don’t look like me. This isn’t inherently bad, but the reality is that not every hero is male, cis-gendered, white, and straight. There are so many heroes whose stories can be shared and in my opinion, Black Panther (and Wonder Woman) proves that characters from minority groups can support a movie and tell a rich story. Projects like these are worth investing in! Black Panther reminded me that it’s a blessing to be Black. Why? Because my people, our culture, and history are beautiful. I feel like I’ve reconnected with a part of myself that I hadn’t truly known before and am thirsty to discover more.

Now Marvel, just let me work on one of your projects and I’ll be a happy camper! Until next time 🙂

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