I feel like every time I think about the movie Black Panther I nearly pass out from the sheer dopeness of it all.
A week ago I went to San Diego for Comic-Con. This year I was more hype than usual because I knew that there were some critical releases happening this year that would make my usual geeky fandom go from acute to excessive on the scale of fanboy. I mean…walking into the Convention Center, I was looking forward to…
- Updates on all the Justice League movies
- New content from Thor Ragnarok, Avengers Infinity War, and the Defenders.
- Game of Thrones updates
- Westworld Snippets
- Updates on animated Batman movies
- All the cosplay I could see in one place.
Last but certainly not least though…was BLACK PANTHER. When I attended the year before, Marvel Studios did a quick introduction of the director and the lead actor. Even without a single plot thread or detail revealed, I was already overwhelmed. That year, seeing all that blackness on stage in a sea of traditionally non-diverse panels, casts, and stories, stirred something in me. It wouldn’t fully awake though until this year.
When Marvel Studios dropped the Black Panther panel this year, they don’t even know what they did to us. From that moment, I decided…this movie release is bigger than the Marvel Universe. I no longer cared about whether Black Panther would team up with other Avengers. I didn’t care about the big build up to a threat greater than anything any one person could face.
I literally only cared about how many moments I would be able to raise my fist for in solidarity when the cast in the movie did something for the culture.
Because I am a blerd (aka a black nerd), this world is home to me. I love the storytelling; the characters; the interconnectedness. But what Black Panther has effectively done is translate this movie and experience into something relatable to a culture beyond the halls of a Con. And when I saw the panel, the advance screening of some of the movie footage, and the excitement of the cast, I knew that Marvel had stumbled on something, perhaps unintentionally.
Comics and sci-fi and geekdom have always been a white world to me. Even in the world of anime, which is its own unique culture within the world of geekiness, Japanese animators draw characters with lighter skin tones, or straight-up white features. Any representation of people of color in these shows or manga is often done with stereotyping or just straight up racial insensitivity at its core.
However, as soon as the cast and director for Black Panther came out on stage, I felt refreshed. To see a main cast on stage with multiple women, multiple black people, a black director, and one white lead antagonist was profound. There was no cultural tokenization here.
More important, the movie scenes and trailer really depicted a careful homage and depiction of real cultures and traditions that exist within our world today – cultures that often are maligned by stereotypes and xenophobia about the African continent or the black diaspora in general. Seeing the story of Black Panther take on a largely tribal story line with a “save the world” plot line taking the backseat is unique in the superhero genre, and a chance to showcase cultures that often only get shine in media and entertainment as the undereducated, underwhelming locals that need saving by a white hero.
Once they got to that footage reveal…I almost passed out from the hype. It took me a full week to realize that what I had experienced was not actually a religious awakening and just a scene from a movie. The power, beauty, and badassness of the characters floored me.
To see the black women as strong; to see the black men as leaders; to see the black people as intelligent; to see the black community as skilled; to see the black experience as desired and sought after by others in the world was more than refreshing. It was life.
These black men and women were warriors. They stood for something not only on par with the rest of the world but something set apart and above it. The people in Black Panther fought fiercely to protect their way of life.
And that is why this movie is not just another Marvel movie. This movie is for the culture. It is a celebration of what it means to be black and proud. Blackness and black culture is nothing to be ashamed of. And if we need to have cookouts in the parking lot of the movie theater to celebrate the release of the film, then so be it. Because a gem like this has not come often enough in cinema or film. The fact that a major studio is putting the money up for it while also allowing the director to take a decidedly “black celebratory” direction just adds icing to the cake.
I have been a blerd since I can remember – watching Star Wars, discussing which captain on Star Trek was the best, reading comics, and watching movies that take place in magical realms. Seeing a movie like Black Panther less than a year away is like the payoff for years of faithful dedication to the geek culture.
Come February 2018, Geek Culture everywhere and black culture will be synonymous…and I dig it.