Yesterday I went to an early screening of Black Panther. I’ve never walked out of a movie theater feeling so empowered. I walked out with a confidence I haven’t experienced in a while. After the movie ended, I went on social media to see the responses of friends who were going to see the movie early as well. I loved witnessing the black joy on my feeds and in my inbox. Every black friend who saw the movie in various theaters around the country all had the same reaction; they felt inspired, incredible, powerful, and strong.
Although black people have less chances to land roles in Hollywood, we still are out there giving amazing performances. From Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer to Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman, black actors are giving amazing performances on movie and t.v. screens. Unfortunately, black actors are often seen as side kicks, there to move along the narrative of the white lead. When a movie has a large black cast, the topic usually involves slavery or the civil rights movement. While, these are incredibly important topics that we need to continue to reflect on, they don’t represent everything that black people have to offer when it comes to the box office.
White people are able to see themselves in a variety of roles in any medium. Want to see a movie about a kickass white woman assassin? Have your pick. Interested in a movie where a white man plays a doctor or a lawyer? There are plenty. Want to see white people falling in love? That’s not hard to find. Looking for white superheroes? They are almost all white. While we’ve had Falcon and War Machine show up in past Marvel movies, both characters have played side kicks to Captain America and Iron Man. T’Challa plays side kick to no one.
In fact, this movie doesn’t really have any sidekicks at all. Everyone has a goal and everyone does what they need to do to reach it, whether T’Challa is involved or not. Shuri, Okoye, and Nakia are all main characters who are multi-layered. There is no “sassy black friend” in sight. These women are all strong, smart, and superheroes in their own right. My favorite thing about the women in this movie is that they don’t even need superpowers to save the day.
For the first time ever, black people are going to be able to see themselves reflected in film the way that we deserve to. Movie posters and previews alone were making black people feel confident, happy, and proud. Now that we have two hours and fifteen minutes of black excellence playing out on screen, the positive effects will be plenty. Many people will get the chance to see themselves represented for the first time on a movie screen. Many people will feel as if the screen is a mirror that shows the excellence that they are capable of. I don’t want to give away any of the amazing moments in the movie but there is one moment in particular that made me feel incredibly proud to be a black woman. Because of that moment, I left the movie theater feeling invincible. It helped me remember the power that has always been inside of me.
I hope Black Panther has many sequels. I hope that the box office success of this movie will lead to more movies that feature black actors in more roles than maids, slaves, and sassy black friends. I hope this inspires more black creatives to continue working on their art and keep pushing to get their projects green lighted. Representation matters which is why I believe it has been so hard for us to get proper representation. Black people being properly represented to ourselves and others is another step towards dismantling white supremacy. I can only imagine how far we will go in the coming years if art and entertainment continue to make us feel this empowered.