Black Panther’s Impact On and Off-Screen

Faith McKesson, Reporter

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The last scene had played out and people began to leave the mid-afternoon screening. I sat in amazement as the credits rolled. I didn’t want to leave. Leaving would mean admitting to the movie ending and I never wanted it to.

I reluctantly stood from my seat and followed my family out of the theater. I couldn’t stop chewing my dad’s ear off about “Black Panther” and how it made me feel; how it made us feel.

Black characters portrayed as royalty, warriors, inventors, and spiritual guides? I had never seen that on screen before–at least not on that level.

I grew up watching Disney classics with no major representation beyond white princesses besides Mulan and Pocahontas. Watching my favorite movies has now become bittersweet as I’ve noticed the lack of black characters in the cast.

Not to mention, the majority of black characters I’ve seen in movies were dealers, gang affiliated, or menaces to society.

Seeing men on screen that look like my dad, and other influential black men in my life, who aren’t being gunned down by the police or victims of gang violence and poverty is the narrative shift I’ve wanted to see expanded on for years.

Chadwick Boseman played the role of T’Challa, the king of Wakanda. His portrayal of the African king was nothing short of precise. From his accent to his stunts, Boseman truly brought the Black Panther to life the second he was shown on screen.

Another significant character was Erik Killmonger.

Played by Michael B. Jordan, Killmonger was the main antagonist of the film and T’Challa’s archenemy. Left out of Wakanda due to him being an American outsider, Killmonger builds resentment towards his father’s home country and the way they keep themselves hidden from the world. As a child, Killmonger saw racial tension in America grow and how the lives of black people were shaped due to crime and abuse of power structures. Though he was a villain, Killmonger had a method to his madness and was abandoned when he needed Wakanda most.

But black men weren’t the only ones represented in a glorious light. The black women truly stole the show for me.

Specifically, Okoye. “The Walking Dead” actress Danai Gurira played the strong heroine who ruthlessly protected Wakanda with her fellow Dora Milaje warriors. Gurira gave a powerful and passionate performance as a woman loyal to her country and those who hold the throne.

Their skin, their hair, and their presence on screen was enough to make any young black girl proud of their features they’ve so desperately wanted to change due to eurocentric beauty standards.

For me and many young black men and women around the world, “Black Panther” is more than a superhero movie.

It’s a showcase of African-American and African culture. It’s a call for more diversity and casting of black actors in leading roles.

It’s much more than a movie; it’s a movement.


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Black Panther’s Impact On and Off-Screen