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The Compelling Meaning Behind ‘Black Panther’

I waited too long to see the movie “Black Panther” in theaters, and if you have yet to see it, then stop what you are doing and make it a priority on your “to do” list.

The Marvel film created new records, including the fifth biggest opening weekend of all time with a total of $201.8 million in North America and the largest opening in February. “Black Panther” held the overall second biggest opening for a Marvel film, only behind 2012’s “The Avengers.”

“Black Panther” also received an “A+” rating from audiences, and the review site Rotten Tomatoes awarded the film a 97 percent approval rating.

Obviously, critics and fans alike enjoyed the movie, but what is so special about another superhero movie?

For those who do not know much about the storyline behind the movie, here is a quick recap:

Isolated from the rest of the world, the African country of Wakanda exists in secret. The world recognizes Wakanda as being a poor, third-world country, but little do they know, Wakanda is the wealthiest, most technologically advanced country in the world powered by a precious metal called vibranium.

The movie focuses on the country’s new king, T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman), who rules as the “Black Panther” with supernatural abilities and a tech-powered vibranium suit.

T’Challa immediately faces monarchial challenges. Several of his people feel they should share their resources with the world, while others prefer to selfishly keep their knowledge to themselves. His antagonist, Killmonger (played by Michael B. Jordan) exposes the king’s flaws and attempts to take the throne for himself.

The movie is not just an ordinary Marvel superhero movie, and I wouldn’t dare throw it into that category. “Black Panther” is important because it starts conversations and leads people to think about the deeper meaning.

For one, the movie is an incredible tribute to the black community. As author and pastor Erwin McManus said after seeing the film, it is the “cultural expression we need right now.”

“Black Panther” beautifully negates the long history of negative representations of black identity in our country. McManus, who is Salvadoran, said the movie made him beam with pride about black heritage.

The film’s message is something our nation needed for centuries. Negative black stereotypes have caused non-black people to create their own beliefs about blackness, and those beliefs have both consciously and subconsciously affected the way black individuals think about themselves.

Most of our great heroes––conquerors, superheroes, gods––are white. How do you think these depictions have shaped the way white men think of themselves? How do you think the lack of these depictions among the black community have shaped how both whites and blacks think about minorities?

White supremacy is real, and while perhaps it is not directly caused by white superheroes, I think it definitely has an indirect effect on all communities. We need more heroes like T’Challa. We need more heroes to represent communities around the world––not just ones with white skin.

Not only does “Black Panther” address cultural issues, but it is a superhero story with significant purpose. T’Challa is faced with the issue of whether to help the world around Wakanda while also risking his country’s safety and resources.

T’Challa’s predicament easily translates into our nation’s own issues. We are a nation blessed beyond measure, yet so many of us ignore the men and women in our own cities and in the world around us who need our aid.

The film ultimately challenges its viewers to look beyond the panther suit and action scenes and take a deeper look at themselves.

While the film addresses heavy topics, it also is full of comedic relief and entertainment. Whether you see or saw the movie because of the humor, action or because of its cultural relevance, it is a movie for the top of everyone’s “must-see” list.


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