The Importance of Black Panther

 In Popular Culture

At Hero Town, we often talk about how important superheros are as sources of hope and inspiration. But we also acknowledge that not everyone has had the same opportunity to look up to a hero who was like them. The latest Marvel film, Black Panther, broke those boundaries by being one of the first superhero films to headline an African superhero.

The film is heavily influenced by African culture

With an African-American director Ryan Coogler and a largely African-American supporting cast, Black Panther has been a source of empowerment and inspiration for many over the world. Dorcas Utkovic, the director of Oz African TV, says that for African Australians, the impact is immense:

It’s really significant for us black people here in Australia … because that’s what the big cry is: for us to tell our stories in our own way.

The Royal Palace of Wakanda

The Royal Palace of Wakanda, as seen in the Marvel comics

Chadwick Bose’s character, T’Challa (a.k.a the Black Panther) is the ruler of Wakanda, a fictional African nation in the Marvel universe. The film highlights and celebrates African culture, which has not often been seen in modern cinema.

For audiences, this was not just another superhero movie

ABC News recently reported on the premier screening of the film in Melbourne was a momentous occasion for the African-Australian audience. After the screening, South African filmmaker Scottnes Smith led the moviegoers in a cheer of “Viva Wakanda”. The importance of celebrating African culture and heritage was felt deeply among the audience. Smith says to ABC News that

If some young child out there sees a superhero who is black, and they get the inspiration to be more than what they’ve been told they are able to be, then this film does something good for the world.

This sentiment is echoed by many of the other attendees at the Melbourne screening.  One moviegoer, Michelle Johnson, described the screening as a “monumental moment” for black culture and history. She goes on to say:

knowing that there are kids, there are other people my age, teenagers, even older people, who are able to see themselves in something like this is significant for me.

Black Panther’s success sets a precedent for diverse films

The debut screening of Black Panther smashed box office records, proving it to be an overwhelming success. Estimates placed the film as making over $300 million in its opening weekend. The revenue breaks not just the record for the biggest box office opening for an African-American director, and not just the highest selling February opening in box office history. Black Panther launches into the top five opening weekends of all time. Smashing out all other Marvel films except 2012’s The AvengersBlack Panther is one of the most successful films in Marvel’s ten years of filmmaking. Black Panther is both a resounding success on its own merit, and a testament to the need for diverse stories in the 21st century. Because everybody deserves to have a hero they can look up to, and now for many, the Black Panther is that hero.

Steph Downing
Stephanie Downing is the administrative assistant for Hero Town Geelong. Born and raised in Geelong, Australia, Stephanie is a graduate of Deakin University with her Honours degree in Professional and Creative Writing. She adores words of all sorts and is especially infatuated with the medium of poetry and fiction, with publications of her work being featured in magazines such as WORDLY Magazine, Plumwood Mountain Journal and Cordite Poetry Review.
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