The Black Panther: The Movement Within Black History Month

A comic book cover of Black Panther

 

Since the invention of television in the early 1900s, there has always been a lack of equal representation of all races. Sitcoms, cartoons, movies and even commercials were dominated with predominantly white leading actors and supporting casts. According to the article “The Golden Age Of Blacks In Television: The Late 1960s”  by J. Fred MacDonald, “In part, the changing complexion of TV in the late 1960s was a reflection within the industry of the changes wrought by the great social and legal movement that was the push for civil rights. Until this date there had been few sponsored network shows headed by black actors.” It was not until the late 1900s that people of African descent were given roles in movies, but most of these roles were either demeaning or considered black exploitation. MacDonald explains that people of African descent were offered parts in predominantly white movies with minimum lines and camera time, people such as: Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) from Star Trek, Louise Beavers (Delilah Johnson) in The Imitation of Life, or James Baskett (Uncle Remus) and Hattie McDaniel (Aunty Tempy) in Disney’s cartoon Song of the South. All of their roles in one way or another played into negative stereotypes that were are related to people of African descent, and displayed them in a negative light. As time progressed and the Civil Rights Movement went into effect, television shows and movies became more diverse, as they began to air shows that showed people of African descent in roles that were more than just background props. As examples the article lists television shows such as The Cosby Show, Julia, I SPY and Room 222 which depicted people of African descent in a more respectful and accurate light. These shows were full of characters that portrayed people of African descent positively rather than in a way that played into negative connotations that were associated with their race.

More recently I’ve noticed that people of African descent have been dominating movie/television screens and playing characters that are relatable to people of all races. After going to see movies like Hidden Figures, Moonlight, Get Out, Fences, The Butler, and Straight Outta Compton, just to name a few, I feel as though these movies  have accurately depicted the lives and struggles people of African descent face today and have faced in history.  These movies have also given people of African descent a platform to have their voices heard, as movies are now created from their point of view. There is currently great excitement within the African American community because a new movie is being released that approaches African American film in a new way. The movie that is causing so much excitement is called “The Black Panther.” On February 16, 2018, about halfway through Black History Month, a movie about a Marvel Superhero of African descent will finally be released. The Black Panther movie is set in the nation of Wakanda, which is a technological fortress inhabited by African royalty and their people. Without giving too much away about the movie, the main character must return home to take over as heir to the throne after his father’s death. Now I know that the content of this movie sounds exciting, but that’s not the only reason that this movie is outselling every previous superhero film in advance ticket sales.

The Black Panther movie, which is directed by an African American man named Ryan Coogler, is so popular because it is breaking down barriers of visual media that have always glorified white superheroes such as Superman, Batman, Captain America, and Wonder Woman, while ignoring or downplaying the importance of superheroes of African descent such as Luke Cage, Black Lightning, Batwing, Storm, and The Black Panther. This introduction of a superhero of African descent into the lives of people who are accustomed to associating superheroes with the white race, provides a new dynamic into what group of people are seen as suitable role models or saviors. Not only is this movie centered on a superhero of African descent, but also the cast of this movie is the epitome of Black Excellence. Highly esteemed actors such as Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got To Do With It), Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Michael B. Jordan (Creed), Chadwick Boseman (42), and Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) all play major roles in this movie, and collectively have drawn in the attention of various audiences. The combination of the cast members and the content of this movie has created a fierce movement within communities of color. People are excited about this movie, and yearning to see this movie because it signifies a feeling of pride during a time where being a person of African descent is so difficult.

The Black Panther gives underrepresented groups a feeling of pride because it shows us that we can be excellent, strong, intelligent, and successful, but most of all, a hero. In a way, this movie is saying, “We do not need to wait on the white savior to rescue us from our struggles, we can rescue ourselves.” Superheroes of African descent like The Black Panther encourage young children and adults who grew up in the era of white-only superheroes to strive for greatness because they are being presented with visuals of greatness. I urge everyone–young and old–to go out and see The Black Panther movie. I feel that this movie could provide insight for people of all races, creeds and colors about how people of African descent prefer to be portrayed in media. We don’t want to be limited to categories and stereotypes that were created in segregationist eras. We are more than that, and this movie shows us and the people who seek to degrade us that we are more than the expectations placed on us. So go out, see the movie, and be part of The Black History Month Movement that will become a major part of history.

P.S. If you are just as excited to see this movies as I am, let me know what this movie means to you in the comment box below.

 

5 thoughts on “The Black Panther: The Movement Within Black History Month

  1. Cherishe, thanks for bringing attention to this history-shaping movie! I’m planning to see it with a group of friends in two weeks and I’m pretty excited. As a side-note, I’m grateful that movies cost pretty much the same across the board, within one theater; it’s not like Hamilton on Broadway, where the prices skyrocketed so quickly that people of African descent haven’t really had the opportunity to appreciate their on-stage-representation as much as they may have liked to.

    • Hi Robine ,

      Thank you for your response to my blog post. Your response means so much to me because this blog was really emotionally for me. Actually this movie is a really sensitive topic for me , and I definitely shed a few tears during the drafting process. I’ve just been so excited about the release of this movie , and because of that my emotions have been getting the best of me .

      I find it so amazing that you mentioned the play Hamilton because I’ve gotten mixed reviews about the content/ casting of the play . Recently I was on twitter and saw an article called “A Hamilton Skeptic on Why the Show Isn’t As Revolutionary As It Seems” by Rebecca Onion. In this article the author questions the validity of racial diversity within the play among many other things . It may be an interesting read for you if you are interested .

      If you do get a chance to read the article , let me know what you think.

      Link : http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2016/04/a_hamilton_critic_on_why_the_musical_isn_t_so_revolutionary.html

  2. Good Evening Cherishe,
    Your article was intriguing. The topic of race (the some elephant in the room), was a worth while subject as it affects everyday encounters among people of all ethnic backgrounds. I don’t know if this topic will ever get old/boring. Thank You for being bold in your sharing, I was especially moved by the truth, that it is time for a new imagery of African Americans that lends itself to a humane expression. I hope the generations of all in the audience – recognize their hero within. It will be interesting to hear the children of today, as they will see the world differently than their mother’s and father’s generation, and perhaps us. I am going to listen closely for the change in conversation, when children of all ethnicities begin to share how inspired they are by multi-cultural movies/themes/images. I believe this positive portrayal of people of color will inspire others to go without the historical imagery that so often portrayed negativity. The future belongs to the children of the world – I want them to overcome the major stumbling block that limits humanity, a.k.a. racism.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. The topic of race is always a controversial topic but I wanted to speak my truth because I knew that there are many people out in the world who are ecstatic about this new form of representation of people of African descent . It is our time for once and I’m so glad that in my life I was able to witness a movie as beautifully directed and elegantly acted as this one. Not only am I happy for the kids who finally have a super hero who represents them , but I’m also happy for the adults who grew up in an era where all the super hero’s on Television or all the action figures they played with NEVER looked like them . I’m excited about where this movie could take us , but most of all I’m excited about HOW this movie makes us feel.

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