The Daily Illini

‘Black Panther’ is more than just a movie

Sabrina Zhang

Sabrina Zhang

By Isaiah Reynolds, Columnist

I’ll be the first to admit, I jumped on the Marvel bandwagon relatively late. I usually scoffed at the previous Marvel money-grabs. However, upon seeing the first “Black Panther” trailer right before the new year, I was suddenly a Marvel super fan and was in full support of the production.

With opening weekend quickly approaching, the hype for the movie is bubbling. Kendrick Lamar’s contributions to the movie’s soundtrack and recent music video release of “All the Stars” featuring SZA sets the precedent for an audio-visual masterpiece.

CNN reports that the Black Panther has broken Fandango’s presale ticket record within the Marvel Universe. Certain projections predict more records will be smashed during opening weekends.

Although so many people are gathering around to celebrate what “The Root” eloquently calls “the blackity blackness that will be the premiere of “Black Panther,” some of the significance and impact of the film is a bit lost through much of the excitement. Not only does the movie portray an African land untouched by European imperialism and exploitation, but the physical representations of a nearly all-black cast in a superhero movie is one of the, if not first, of its kind.

Kenneth Ghee, author of “Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation,” points out that every previous instance of a black superhero portrays the character as disconnected from their community or from any other people of color within the storyline. Having an entire production dedicated to promoting a rich and authentic culture gives a unique and refreshing breath of air, not only in the superhero genre but within cinematic productions as a whole.

“Black Panther” is a magnet attracting millions of people within the literal African diaspora and alluring those from completely different interests. Although a celebration of black culture as a whole is enticing enough for people across the diaspora to pay attention, the diversity of content within the movie as whole gives something for everyone to see.

This predicted success of “Black Panther” can possible spark a shift in content made by and for black people in that it will acknowledge the complexity of the population and prioritize fresh ideas and productions. Black interests are not solely Tyler Perry movies or simple reboots of 90s sitcoms, but with the emergence of works from Issa Rae, Jordan Peele, Barry Jenkins and many others, mainstream media is beginning to see black productions as diverse in thought, lifestyle and interests as the actual people are.  

With the success of this movie and the increasing recognition of the film’s director Ryan Coogler, “Black Panther” has the power to shift the trajectory of mainstream reception of black content creators and future black-centric productions. However, this movement and support must be protected in order to not be taken advantage of or commodified.

Director Ava Duvernay recognizes that the arrival of new black productions has come and gone for decades. The real challenge is trying preserve this shift and “make it a fact, not a trend.”

Isaiah is a sophomore in Media.

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