Although the majority of America has not yet seen Black Panther – which hits theaters February 15 – the movie has received glowing reviews from its actors, film critics, and cultural commentators alike. It’s being praised for abandoning the typical formula of “white dudes…fashioned by the US military,” and making a minority race the central story line focus instead.
After female protagonist Florence Kasumba watched the movie in its entirety, she actually said she believed this was the first movie to showcase black talent.
“We were standing around and you basically saw the beauty of black people,” she said. “I’m not used to seeing so many beautiful people with dark skin colors in one spot. That’s when I was like, ‘Wow, this is such an amazing experience.’”
— Zoe Margolis (@girlonetrack) February 9, 2018
And Winston Duke, who plays the character M’Baku, told the NY Post that this is the first time black kids will actually get a hero that looks like them.
“It really moves me that kids are going to be able to ingest this kind of material while they’re still kids, before they’re fully formed, before they have a deep understanding of the nuance of race politics,” he said. “They’re getting to see a black superhero with a narrative that’s outpacing all other superhero movies. That’s really beautiful, and I want them to know that this can and should be the norm.”
Popular culture has routinely praised Black Panther for its unconventional approach to superheroes by featuring an almost entirely black cast. I’m not against that. It’s awesome that we’re celebrating heroism in all different colors, shapes, languages, and materials. But let’s not kid ourselves. This isn’t the first black hero movie America has seen. Ever heard of Independence Day? Blade? The entire Men In Black series? Black Lightning?
The argument that this is the first time we’re seeing black people portrayed as heroes is absurd. I’d be willing to go as far as saying that superhero comics are some of the most inclusive entertainment options out there. Almost every minority is represented. Women have been superheroes. So have black people. Spiderman was a total nerd. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were literal amphibians. Avatar was a totally made up species. Don’t tell me it was all white dudes until Black Panther came along.
I hope Black Panther is as good as people are saying it is. But we shouldn’t have to make this a social justice situation in order to enjoy the movie.
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