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Black Panther’s Significance

Considering that 2020 is the year of horrible, inexplicable things happening constantly, I shouldn’t be surprised anymore when I get a news alert that shakes me to my core and ruins my entire day/week/month/life. Yet somehow, even though I’ve come to just expect the absolute worst these days, I was still absolutely shocked when I heard the news that Chadwick Boseman had passed away. As a diehard fan of Marvel movies, I of course LOVE Black Panther. Robert Downey Jr. referred to the film as the crown jewel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I couldn’t agree more. You don’t need to be a fan of superhero movies to appreciate the top-notch costumes, music, writing and of course acting. In a cast full of stars, Chadwick shined the brightest.

In the days following Chadwick’s passing, I was reminded that Black Panther’s significance extends far beyond just being a great movie. As a white woman, I’ve grown up used to that most characters on TV and movie screens look like me, but the lack of representation that has long-plagued Hollywood means that Black Americans don’t have that same privilege. Black Panther changed that. The film marked a milestone of having the first Black superhero as the lead, but it was so much more than that. Black Panther is a celebration of Black culture.

As Vox stated, with an all-star collection of majority black talent both in front of and behind the camera, Black Panther, under the direction of Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed), is about more than the latest superhero’s journey; it’s also about black culture’s journey, and it points toward a future where it could be the culture. It acknowledges and celebrates everything from traditional African society to African-American political debates, from the power and beauty of black women to the preservation of identity, all within the lush confines of the fictional African nation of Wakanda.

Look no further than this video of Chadwick on Jimmy Fallon surprising fans for context of what he and his character meant to the Black community (have tissues handy). That we now know that he was battling cancer throughout filming Black Panther and subsequent Avengers movies reinforces that this man was a true superhero. RIP #WakandaForever