It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post about a movie. I must admit that it wasn’t my original plan to be writing about Black Panther this week, but it was so good and so impactful that I just couldn’t help myself. It shook me to my core. (One might even describe me as “shook.”) And so here I am again, writing to you about some superhero movie you may or may not have heard of.
But this won’t be a traditional movie review. I’m not really here to tell you what I liked or didn’t like about the film. I’m not going to analyze the visuals, the music, or even the plot, really. I’m here to tell you why this movie is important and why you should see it even if the superhero genre isn’t your thing. Because as much as Black Panther is an excellent superhero movie and a good movie in general, it’s also just good. It’s good for your soul. It’s good for the world. It’s good for humanity. And it matters.
To me, Black Panther sets itself apart by speaking deeply into some really important issues.
The first thing you’ll notice about Black Panther is that it is a black movie. It was created by black artists, features black actors (including one playing a black superhero!), and portrays black lives in rich and full ways. And unfortunately, an important part of black experience is oppression.
If you’re unaware of the global, historical oppression of African peoples and their descendants, or if you think it’s good to get a refresher from time to time, this film is for you. From the modern-day streets of Oakland to the historical African savannah, Black Panther takes a wholistic view of oppression in a way that I’ve never seen on film before. It’s upfront, sympathetic, and real. It helped open my eyes to just how big a problem this sort of oppression is, and I think that’s something we all need.
On the flip side, the film also spends a lot of time dealing with the concept of privilege. Where does it come from? What are its effects? What responsibilities come along with privilege, especially when it comes to the question of how one relates to those who are oppressed? The main character in the film finds himself in quite possibly the most privileged position in the world, and the arc of the film follows his process of figuring out what to do with it. As someone who also comes from a background of privilege, I related to T’Challa’s internal struggle and found it convicting to watch onscreen.
But his journey isn’t just a personal one; it plays out on a national level as well. If you know anything about the character of Black Panther, you know that he comes from the secretive African nation of Wakanda. In order to protect itself and its resources, Wakanda poses as a third-world country and refuses to interact with the rest of the world. This can’t last forever, though, and as the world gets smaller and smaller, Wakanda is forced to consider in what ways (if any) it will engage with the rest of the world. We in the United States, at least, find ourselves asking these same kinds of questions, so getting viewers to consider them is a success in and of itself.
In the wake of these previously-mentioned factors, people are forced to make a decision: How am I going to respond to the wrongs I see the in world? How am I going to use my influence to make a difference? And without giving away too much of the plot, I’ll simply say that this movie does not shy away from portraying differing answers to this question. And ultimately, the film wants to know, “How does a hero respond?”
But it isn’t simplistic in its portrayal of other points of view, either. As I watched this movie, I saw parallels between the diversity of the characters’ worldviews and the diversity within real-world movements like the civil rights movement in the sixties and Black Lives Matter today. What the film left me with was an even stronger conviction for my view but a greater understanding and sympathy for other views as well. And that makes me want to do better so that I can help rid the world of the factors that lead to the less heroic worldviews in the first place.
Finally and most importantly, the film is a call for solidarity. The whole point of featuring black voices and black experiences is to draw others in and create a sense of unity. When one group suffers, we all suffer. And one when one oppressed group is set free, we’re all set free. Only together can we solve the centuries-long, world-wide problems that have been handed down to us. But we can each take steps to solve those problems, and the Black Panther is an excellent example of that.
A lot of this stuff isn’t new to you. Black Panther is close to my heart because it speaks to things I care about and write about. It touches on a lot of topics that are important to me, and it speaks to them in ways that I never could because of my lack of experience. So if you like reading what I have to say about these topics and want to know what people much more qualified than I am have to say, or if you’re tired of hearing me go on and on about this stuff and need a new perspective, or if you just want to be a better, more informed person, I hope you’ll check Black Panther out. I promise it’ll be worth your time.