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Black Panther sets standard for “Black Excellence” in Hollywood and breaks away from the status quo

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Black Panther sets standard for “Black Excellence” in Hollywood and breaks away from the status quo

Akila Mckenzie & Justin Reece, Staff Writer

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fans and reporters alike to announce their new slate of upcoming films. As usual, there was a new Thor, Captain America and Avengers movie set to come out in the coming years. But this time, the lineup included a film that could be considered an anomaly: Black Panther. Finally, a Marvel Studios film that would be led by a black protagonist, after a majority of Marvel superhero movies starring white protagonists and their black sidekicks. Black Panther eventually debuted as a supporting character in Captain America: Civil War in 2016. T’Challa’s journey was to continue in his own movie, introducing his homeland of Wakanda, later on. At the time, the promise of an African American helmed superhero film seemed too good to be true. But Marvel managed to deliver and gave audiences what is possibly the grandest showcase of black excellence on screen to date. Black Panther centers around T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who is to be crowned king, as he returns home after the death of his father. After his coronation, T’Challa is confronted with the fact that Wakanda may not be doing enough to help the world, and struggles between protecting his homeland and making a global impact. The film boasts an all-star cast with Chadwick Boseman in the titular role, along with Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright and Daniel Kaluuya as the supporting cast. Michael B. Jordan plays the film’s antagonist, Killmonger, a U.S. operative turned revolutionary who seeks to use Wakanda’s resources to help black people around the globe retaliate against their oppressors. Black Panther combats stereotypes by presenting black people in positive roles; not as an exception to the rule, but as individuals. Throughout American history, black people have been portrayed in a less than flattering (or accurate) light. In the early nineteenth century, white people wore blackface in order to mimic black people and reinforce stereotypes. Even as society advanced, black people were still portrayed in negative ways through media. But with the debut of Black Panther, for one of the first times in history, African Americans are being shown not only in a positive light, but in positions of power in a blockbuster movie produced by a major studio. People of color have long been told the lie that they are unintelligent, weak, and inferior by the media. But Black Panther shows an opposite and empowering view. T’Challa, the protagonist, is not a criminal or a thug, but a strong king. His sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright) is not an “angry black woman,” but intelligent and playful. The film also truly shines in its representation of black women. In Wakanda, T’Challa is protected by an all female security team. His council is made up of both men and women who are leaders of the different tribes that make up Wakanda. T’Challa values the advice of the women around him, such as Okoye and Shuri, and women are shown as equal to men throughout the film. The culture of Wakanda is crucial in creating the foundation for T’Challa’s motives throughout the film, and director Ryan Coogler was met with the task of creating a new culture for Black Panther that authentically celebrated African traditions. Though Coogler was able to use the original comic books as a guide for some of Wakandan culture, in order to fully establish this new world, he combines different practices from variety of African cultures. He does so in a way that beautifully represents Pan-African cultures through the character’s outfits and hairstyles, elevating these cultures in an empowering way. Wakanda is not only a country that is rich culturally, but technologically as well. The country’s technological advancements surpass those of the rest of the world, combatting the stereotype of “primitive” African countries. Every cast member gets their moment to shine, whether it be through a cool action scene or a gut-busting joke. For this we must thank the direction of Coogler and the amazingly talented cast. Coogler’s ability to highlight the importance of black culture and the complexities within it while telling an engaging superhero tale says something about the progression of the superhero genre. It can be a bit heavyhanded at times, but the fact that an attempt was made to touch on more socially relevant themes is something that directors should take note of. Black Panther signifies the beginning of a new era for both the superhero genre and the film industry. The film is the first effective blow in the uphill battle that is Hollywood’s diversity issue. If you want to support the cause (or just see a damn good film), go see this movie; it is definitely worth your money. Rating: 5/5 stars

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Black Panther sets standard for “Black Excellence” in Hollywood and breaks away from the status quo