Marvel’s newest box office hit is empowering for Black America

By Kimberly Paschal | Sports Editor


Marvel’s breakout movie “Black Panther” is currently the number one film in the world. With $704 million made worldwide, as of the second weekend, “Black Panther” has not only broken box office records, but also the assumption that movies with a majority black cast cannot be a blockbuster hit.

Black Panther has captivated audiences and empowered not only Black America, but also people of African descent worldwide. In Oakland, where the story actually begins, some movie goers got the full experience from music, dance performances, and food. Needless to say, “Black Panther” is not your average movie experience, especially considering some fans have shown up in their best African-inspired outfits.

The popularity of Black Panther comes as a result of the historic nature of the movie. Black Panther is the first mainstream black superhero and the first black superhero to have their own movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Black Panther first appeared in Marvel comics in Fantastic Four #52 in 1966 and is inspired by The Black Panther Party, hence the name Black Panther. Although there have been other black superheroes like Wesley Snipes in the Blade series, Black Panther is the first one to truly captivate not merely Black America but also the world. In addition, Wakanda is the most technologically advanced country in the MCU as a result of their precious metal, vibranium (Marvel fans may remember vibranium is what makes up Captain America’s shield.)

Black Panther follows T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, as he returns home to the MCU fictional African nation of Wakanda after the death of his father King T’Chaka. T’Challa, the newly crowned king and Black Panther, faces a new enemy when he is challenged by an outsider—Erik Stevens, also known as Killmonger—for the thrown. Although Killmonger is the villain of the story, many argue he is the representation of the Black Liberation Movement. Killmonger also represents the void, caused by the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, many people of African descent, especially in America, struggle with. Black Americans especially have identified with Black Panther and Killmonger in particular on such a deep level because of this disconnect between American culture and the various African cultures. But what sparks much conversation is Killmonger’s most famous line of: “Nah, just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships. Because they knew death was better than bondage.”

Despite Killmonger’s extremely radical views, he brings up some extremely important ideas. Wakanda is not involved in affairs of the world unless they believe it is extremely necessary. Wakanda disguises itself as a third-world country, does not accept aid, and is not involved in trade. Although it is amazing to see a completely self-sufficient African nation, Killmonger believes they need to share that wealth. Killmonger overthrows the Wakanda thrown, and as king, his first order is to send Wakandan weapons to their wardogs, or spies, in other nations. From there the wardogs will arm the various African descendants throughout the world to overthrow oppressive governments. One of the most amazing aspects of Killmonger’s ideology is that he is extremely sympathetic. Although Killmonger claims he “learned from his oppressor,” he instead becomes that oppressor.

T’Challa is the representation of tradition. Therefore, he deeply disagrees with Killmonger. While visiting his father, T’Challa says, “You [T’Chaka] were wrong…we should never have turned our backs on the world.” However, T’Challa is initially reluctant to change. This is a perfect representation of the constant struggle between honoring tradition and moving into the modern world. The battle between T’Challa and Killmonger can also show how many black Americans struggle with honoring their roots, yet unknown to many, while also progressing into the future.

In the end, T’Challa defeats Killmonger but decides to bring Wakanda to light. In the end credit scene, T’Challa visits the United Nations and explains that Wakanda will open its borders, but what is most admirable is that T’Challa circles back to Oakland where it will be the site for the first Wakanda International Outreach Center. T’Challa, with the help of his genius sixteen-year-old sister Shuri and love interest/spy Nakia, provides movie goers with hope for a more inclusive Wakanda that continues to honor its traditions.

Wakanda is the example of what the various African nations could have been if they were not colonized. The result has left audiences breathless. After seeing Black Panther for the first time, I was left in awe. As a 21-year-old black woman, I have never seen a movie of this magnitude. Elders in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s, have said this movie is what not merely Black America needed, but what the world needs. The culture, social, and even psychological impact of Black Panther cannot be described in a little over 800 words because Black Panther is what many people, myself included, not only wanted, but needed. From the soundtrack produced by Kendrick Lamar, to the directing by Ryan Coogler, to the acting by Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright (just to name a few), Black Panther is not merely the best movie of 2018, but should be regarded as one of the top movies of all-time.

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