When I think about the importance of Black Panther, I strangely think about the #MeToo movement. It took a wave of brave women (and lets not forget the men) to point out the silent terrors that were happening under my and many other people’s noses. I, like other men, had no idea that so many women have been harassed and survived sexual abuse. Friends, families, associates – how could I not see it? The wave hit me like a tonne of bricks and – although the movement has had some mishaps – it has been vital in waking me up to the reality that many women face.
What has this got to do with Black Panther? Well, the film is going to kill at the box office, and while I know a lot of black folks are going to show up and show out, there will also be a lot of white people in the cinema (I was one of the few black faces at my showing).
The importance of Black Panther cannot be overstated, however, I believe its true power lies in how (dark) black women are represented – as beautiful strong warriors and the backbone to a powerful and advanced society – and how it should make white people feel. The absence of positive, impactful white faces in Black Panther is noticeable and equally as noticeable is how much the film doesn’t give a toss about that. This is how black people feel the majority of the time.
Remember, there was a Black Widow on the screen long before there was a Black Panther.
The feeling of empowerment and representation is one that white people have lived with all of their lives – the media landscape is not even close to being equal in this respect. Your Coming to Americas, Blades and Get Outs are not the rule. Another point – it took 18 films to get to a Marvel comic book film with a black lead.
If you have the stomach for it, look at Black Panther’s Rotten Tomatoes audience reviews section, search “black panther white/racist” on Twitter or check out Reddit. This is the first black superhero in the “universe” era and silent cultural war has already started. Again, you get to feel like this ALL THE TIME.
The truth is #MeToo has very little to do with me. That movement doesn’t exist to make me realise the ills women face in the world, it’s not there to make me feel upset or woke. #MeToo is about empowering women – it’s about reassuring women that their voice matters. And that is where its similarities with Black Panther are so striking. Black Panther is unapologetically a black film that tells a black story, with a majority of black faces that takes place in a black land. Yes, there has been others before it, but Black Panther feels utterly unique.