Black Panther has risen the bar not only for superhero movies, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. Black Panther is the first Marvel movie to have a predominantly black cast, and has significant relevance to our society today, as it inspires audiences across the world.
According to a study at the University of Southern California, out of the top 100 films in 2014, only 17 films feature non-white lead or co-lead actors. Of these non-white actors, only 12.5% are black, compared to the 73.1% prevalence of white actors. This extreme imbalance of representation has had an immensely deteriorating effect on black children: Imagine being a young, impressionable kid trying to relate to movie characters, (more specifically your favorite superhero), and having absolutely no one that looks like you. While this may seem like a small inconvenience in one’s childhood, in reality it is a huge deal; having a role model that you can look up to on the screen has a significant psychological impact. It gives children the chance to aspire to be like the people they see in the movies, and emulate them. It inspires their everyday life, whether it be their Halloween costumes, the pajamas they wear, or the imaginative games that they make up. Now, potentially for the first time, young black children can see themselves on the screen, and imagine themselves with the same sophistication and utter coolness as the royal family of Wakanda, the imaginary country in Africa the film takes place in.
This film also brings a new perspective to the Africa us Americans often stereotype; Africa is often depicted in film or advertisements as a poor and primitive continent, with images of starving children and the effects of the horrific HIV epidemic being Africa’s trademark, when in fact Africa is a continent filled with beauty and culture, and so much more than television could ever adequately portray – well, until now that is.
In the film, T’Challa becomes the new king to Wakanda, the most technologically advanced nation in world. What with their scientific research being spearheaded by a young black woman who could easily upstage that of Bruce Banner (the Hulk), as well as the Dora Milaje, an elite special force made up of fierce female warriors, the film also gives its due to black women.
In addition to its exhilarating fight scenes, instances of witty dialogue, as well as the beautiful mise-en-scene, it can be said that Black Panther offered not only entertainment, but representation for voices seldom heard.