Black Panther and What It Means To Me
Somewhere around Ant-Man, I became a fan of the entire MCU. I wasn’t just picking and choosing which movies I wanted to watch – I understood and fell in love with this cinematic universe. So even without knowing about Black Panther, I was excited to see the film. The trailers did their job so well that one week before it came out, I’d already bought our tickets. But I was not prepared for how it would affect me.
First of all, let’s get some things out of the way. As a comic book movie, it was amazing. Exciting story, check. Epic battle scenes, check. Impressive, magnificent, spectacular, majestic superhero? Check, check, check and check. (Fun fact: at our house we call Black Panther MajestiCat.)
But it wasn’t just a great comic book movie. It was a brilliant film. The cinematography, effects, and score were all stunning. The characters were fleshed out, and the acting of every single one of the cast was on point. And we haven’t even gone into all the other layers of isolationism and issues of colonization. (Killmonger’s line “Didn’t all life begin on this continent?” simply floored me.)
My friend and I were discussing the movie after we saw it (because you know we just had to dissect every part of it) and she talked about how inspiring it was that it brought up a discussion of refugees and how there was no sexism or trivialization of ideologies. And at the time all I could think of was, “Ummm..I just thought the movie was badass.” I felt a bit inadequate that I couldn’t articulate at first what it was about Black Panther that touched me. I needed to process its effects on me first, but I think I’m beginning to see it.
I wouldn’t even go into the history of the countries in Africa and what they’ve gone through because that’s too high for me. I don’t know enough, but now I’m reaching out beyond just understanding colonization in my own country and reading about their history as well. Can you imagine that? It took a Marvel movie to open my eyes.
The tragedy of Killmonger and his cause, and the way T’Challa treated him in the end, brought me a new appreciation for beautiful storytelling. Killmonger’s motivations are clear – his solution may be wrong, but you understand him. How often do you feel genuinely sorry for the villain at the end? Watching that heartbreaking scene with the sunset not only had me crying like a baby, but for some reason I found myself randomly thinking, “I love literature.” It was almost Shakespearean in the way the tragedy unfolded, how this challenger’s motivations led him to that pivotal moment, and how the hero has to realize that his own history is massively flawed. A great story is great, whether it’s in the context of an art house piece or a blockbuster.
And probably the biggest impact on me was the Dora Milaje. Strong women warriors who were actually the King’s guard, strong fierce fighters who didn’t take crap from anyone – how empowering is that? And they didn’t have to put down men or make clowns of them. The men of Wakanda had other roles that they performed well. The women had their own roles too, and they just happened to be warriors. And what does it say about a man who can 1) feel secure enough to be surrounded and counseled by women and 2) feel safe enough knowing that his protection detail is all female? What does it say about a culture that treats women as equals?
I wish I had these role models when I was a little girl, because I think I would have held on to that ideal and striven for it. It would have been so freeing to know that there are so many other types of femininity available in life. But I like to think that it’s not too late and I can still dream of becoming a Dora.
So many other people take away different things from the movie. And isn’t that another aspect that makes it great? Like a song can mean different things for different people, a wonderful movie can mean what you need it to mean, and give you what you need when you need it. And quite simply, Black Panther is just awesome.