On the afternoon of January 10th , I stopped everything I was doing and went on a break to purchase my long-awaited tickets for Black Panther, the newest installment of the Marvel Superhero films. After I hit the confirm purchase button on Fandango, I did a little twostep happy dance for snatching up these coveted tickets for a movie that captivated me from the first time I saw the trailer in the fall of 2017 and whose lead character drew me in since I witnessed his commanding appearance in the Avengers: Civil Wars film of 2016. I shared my elation with everyone I could about obtaining my pre-sale tickets for Black Panther and the response was the same: a Black power fist in the air, an “alright, alright!” verbal reply to convey their happiness and even the “so whachu wearing?” suggestive question just to confirm I would in fact dress-up and show out for such an electrifying occasion.
Still overjoyed from my ticket purchase for Black Panther, I was talking with one of my coworkers the following week about how I couldn’t wait to see the film next month and how the movie had already made over $100 million in presales. As she and I were talking, another coworker walked over and asked, “What movie is this?” I responded, “Black Panther.” In an underwhelmed and snarky tone, he immediately replied, “I don’t understand the appeal of Black Panther; he wasn’t a big character in the comic books so why would they make an entire movie about him?” Sitting there with the epitome of a blank stare on my face, I said to him, “Are you stupid? No for real, are you?!” I continued by saying, “how do you NOT understand the importance and impact this film has already had on a global scale?” His “defense” was, “I grew up reading all of the comics, so I know each of the characters and Black Panther was not a big hero! He didn’t have any special abilities and he wasn’t an important figure in the Marvel novels…I just don’t get why everyone’s so excited for this film.” “Don’t be daft!,” I said with rage and quickly proceeded to educate this mid-30’s, White, heterosexual man from Baltimore, Maryland.
I explained to him, in my stern, fervent, African-American woman’s voice that, Black Panther is one of the most revolutionary films our world has been blessed with, due to it’s powerful visual imagery of a non-colonial African nation ruled by African royalty, protected by DARK-SKINNED AFRICAN FEMALE WARRIORS and that the nation’s people live off of their indigenous resources, without the influence of European colonialism, (i.e. European terrorism.) I continued my fierce dialogue by shedding light on how this film is vital because 1) it presents diverse African traditions through a) the striking attire worn by the characters and b) scarification, a body modification cultural practice found in many tribal communities on the Mother continent, which symbolize rites of passage into adulthood, as well as conveys qualities of bravery, strength and a commitment to your community and 2) the stunning visuals of Afrofuturism convey the tangible reality of what Africa and all of her children can be in decades and centuries to come, given our innate ingenuity and expanding global Pan-African collaboration. I concluded my dissertation-like defense by enlightening him on the fact that millions upon millions of African, African-American and Black-identified children around the world will see this film and instantly see themselves! They will see their Africaness and Blackness as central characters that are powerful and intelligent leaders and know without a doubt that they can be ANYTHING they desire, not merely sidekicks to the White protagonist for comedic relief.
His half-assed, knee-jerk pedestrian response to my profound illuminating speech was, “well what about Blade? Has everyone forgotten about him?” “Are you kidding meeeeeeee?!!!!!!,” I said quickly with my arms thrown up in the air. I told him that Blade was not a superhero in the classical sense and fought vampires, NOT White supremacy! I continued by telling him that, the fact he could only mention ONE Black character in a quasi-superhero role proves how essential Black Panther is due to the chronic, institutional lack of African/Black representation in films as superheroes, heroines, leaders, scientific inventors and royalty and how, despite his self-proclaimed “feminist” and “liberal” mindset, he sees the world and a fundamental film like Black Panther, through the lens of White, male patriarchy.
Naturally he became a wee-little upset after hearing my scathing, but precise analysis of his outlook and quickly said, “Ok, what about Luke Cage?” Now, as someone who believes deeply in the power and sacredness of words and their vibrations, not even I could halt myself from blurting out the next five words. “Are you f*cking kidding me?!” Rapidly firing off point after point, I explained just how “White” and diminishing his response was:
1) Luke Cage is a character whose story consists of his body being genetically tampered with by scientists for “experimental purposes,” which parallels to the nightmarish atrocities innumerable Black men and women experienced for thousands of years at the hands of European and European-American researchers in the name of science…remember the Tuskegee experiment?!, 2) Luke Cage is portrayed as an ex-convict who is wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Once again, a recurring experience of modernday institutionalized slavery Black men encounter, 3) Luke Cage is a Black man in American, NOT Africa, 4) Luke Cage is a series on Netflix, NOT a feature length film on the silver screen in theatres across the globe and 5) the Luke Cage series contained the nword, “nigga,” in virtually every….other….sentence, making it yet another stereotypical Black media program, despite the fact that the main character protects his community from gangs, drug lords and police brutality and can go on living after being shot several times.
Standing there with a deflated and upset look on his face, I interrupted him before he could utter his next typical and unimaginative White fragile remark, by asking him, “So how do you feel about the other Marvel superheroes? Did you like those films?” “Oh yeah, I loved them. I thought they were great and stayed true to the characters in the comics,” he said. Returning to my dumbfounded blank stare, I said, “Oh really? So you liked those films, but can’t understand the appeal or importance of Black Panther?” I finished the conversation by saying, “Alright man, it’s been real talking to you,” because unfortunately, the experience I had with this guy is the very real encounter so many people of the African Diaspora, and other non-White communities, have every, single day.
My outrage over his sentiments was not because I wanted him to be an eager supporter of the Black Panther film. The rage I felt was due to his flippant, willful ignorance rooted in his entitled Whiteness. He simply could not grasp the concept of a non-White superhero of royal descent, a character who isn’t the central figure in a slave narrative or a stereotypical gang member whose vocabulary is comprised primarily of “nigga,” “bitch,” hoe,” and other trite colloquial slurs or the prevalent storyline of “the Black kid from the ghetto who wants to get out of the ‘hood, but can only achieve his dream is through the help of his ‘White-savior’ teacher or ‘White-savior’ coach.”
In this one conversation, he showed me that, not only did he refuse to acknowledge the unequivocal significance of this film, but that he would never envision, let alone support or even value future films that center on characters like an Indigenous American female President, a Latino astronaut that discovers a new portal in the time-space continuum, a queer-identified biologist that discovers the cure for cancer or a brown hijab-wearing Muslim refugee girl living in New York, born without sight, who invents a device that gives people the full sensory experiences she has daily to understand the impact of intersectional racism, gender discrimination, Islamophobia and ableism. Imprisoned by his own White, male entitlement, this coworker of mine revealed why films like Black Panther are unquestionably critical and vital to transforming oppressive spaces, places, historically endorsed faces and the White man-made hierarchy of races.
There is a reason why Black Panther has earned over $100 million in presale tickets, the highest in presale tickets of the Marvel films to date. There is a reason why the trailer has received over sixteen million views on YouTube and nearly 3 million views on Facebook. There is a reason why the students of the Ron Clark Academy in my hometown Atlanta, Georgia became ecstatic and danced with sheer joy when they were told they would see the Black Panther film and how that video of these happy children dancing received well over eighty-nine thousand likes on their Facebook page, 140,000 shares and over 6 million views since its posting on Friday, February 2nd. There is a reason why I, and millions of people that look like me, in addition to those from other ethnic groups, are excited to see this film. It’s simple: Black Panther is a movement. Black Panther is a revolution. Black Panther is what our world needs to see now in this sociopolitical climate of hatred and White patriarchal Supremacy. Black Panther is the present and Black Panther is our future. And it will be televised!