Marvel is Changing the Hero Movie Game
This was supposed to be a top ten list, it really was. But honestly, there’s just too much to say on the subject for something as basic as a little bullet pointed list, so instead we’re going to just talk about this hero. We’ll start out with the obvious. Black Panther is iconic, incredible, and not apologizing for anything. Let’s face it — he was one of the best parts about Civil War. This movie, however, marks a turning point in the MCU, and one we stand firmly behind. The King has arrived and we want to be clear:
This is a huge deal.
A Little Backstory
Black Panther was the first major black superhero to enter the comic scene. The popular belief is that he was named after the Black Panther Party, but this isn’t true. Black Panther first appeared in the Fantastic Four in July of 1966, while the Black Panther Party wasn’t officially founded until October of the same year. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby saw the rise of the civil rights movement. They also saw that there was no hero the movement could identify with, so they created one.
The pair set out to create a hero that the black community could rally behind. Black Panther’s royal lineage came at a time when black people were seen as second class citizens. In making him royalty, they made him powerful, legitimate, and ensured that his right to be a hero was unquestionable. The name may seem outdated to those who are walking into the series in 2018, but at the time, his name was a symbol. He was unapologetic in his blackness, which was needed at the time of his creation. He was a hero born of the civil rights era who filled a large, previously empty space.
Now, some people might ask why a superhero movie needs to have a focus on race. We understand that not everyone is as big of a nerd as we are here at Gemr (we read about comic history for fun), and that not everyone engaged with the same heroes or fell in love with the same stories. The truth is this: Black Panther has always been about race. Black Panther was created so a completely unrepresented group of people could finally see themselves in comics. To create a movie that is supposed to revolve around this character and not have a mostly black cast would not do right by the character — and would frankly be ridiculous.
Black Panther also took on the primitivization of the African Continent. The west often looks at Africa as exotic, but primitive and behind the times. This is a misconception, but one that still prevails today. So Lee and Kirby created Wakanda as a bastion of Afrofuturism, making it one of the most technologically advanced societies in the Marvel Universe. The city has always been shown in gleaming regalia with monorails and flying crafts that rivaled (nay, bested) anything else in the universe.
What about now?
Alright. That was a lot, and you might be saying, “cool so he meant a lot to people during the 60’s. What does that mean to me NOW?” Well, this is Marvel showing that they understand they have let their black fans down.
Up until now, every single Marvel film has starred a white male superhero. All of the black characters have been set up as sidekicks, background characters, and delegated to support roles. Black Panther is the first in the MCU film to have a black hero front and center. It’s about damn time. It took 10 years to make it happen, but here we are and we’re thrilled to be standing here.
What’s even better is that Marvel did not stop there. Almost the entire leading cast (with the exception of two actors) is black. It’s a fact that the vast bulk of the superhero genre will still be from a white perspective. But we can, and should, add in other voices. Almost every superhero film in theaters is a wall of white, blonde haired, blue eyed men named Chris. Even DC can’t escape the flood. We are beginning to think that Hollywood is cloning them and thought we wouldn’t notice (we did). It’s about time we see things from a different perspective. Through experiencing the powerful stories of others, our respect for each other and their experience grows. That makes us all better people, and we can get behind that.
We haven’t even mentioned that Marvel hired a black voice to tell a black story. The director, Ryan Coogler, has a few fantastic films behind him and had a desire to tell a poignant story in modern times. Marvel gave him a chance to bring his vision to life, and we think they made a great decision. He wants to show how a black hero with a legacy of royalty interacts in the MCU, and we are thrilled to see it unfold.
Women also have a large focus in the world of Black Panther. The Dora Milaje are the Black Panther’s personal guard. They are warrior women drafted from every Wakandan tribe that serve as the elite guard charged with protection of T’Challa. Marvel has been a little lackluster with the development of the women in it’s cinematic universe (We’re looking at you, Age of Ultron), and all the women in these underdeveloped roles are white.
Black women hardly exist at all in the MCU. Valkyrie was a welcome sight in Thor: Ragnarok, but she was one woman in a vast expansive universe. Every other woman of color has been covered up with make up and CGI. This movie finally gives black women a chance to shine. With so many amazing black actresses filling the roles of these incredible women, we know there will be some epic moments worth talking about for a long time.
We’re absolutely pumped to see him in action and you should be too. If not for these reasons, then for the simple fact that it looks like it’s going to be a totally kickass movie. So take a little time out of your day and enjoy an incredible hero in a country of technological marvels you can’t even imagine. We have one last thing left to say, and it’s simple: Wakanda Forever, Long Live the King.