A Black Perspective on Marvel’s Black Panther

Shani Ogilvie

Article written by our New York RunPee volunteer Shani Ogilvie, with her cultural insights about the record-breaking Marvel phenomenon Black Panther — Enjoy!

Shani OgilvieBlack Panther was an amazing movie! Not only was it visually stunning in terms of costume, makeup, and hair, but it also had a deeper message I have never seen before in an MCU film. To me, Black Panther was what black people across the world have been waiting for.

[pullquote]Before the movie, everyone I knew was excited about it because it had a star-studded, largely black cast, in a Marvel movie by a black director. That’s why everyone, including myself, was so excited — and dressed up to see the film.[/pullquote] It was also a big deal because superheroes are never not white. As a black actor in America (and most of the world), we are siloed into very specific roles. So to see all of these actors placed into such diverse roles was already a fulfillment.

After the movie, everyone I knew couldn’t stop talking about the continued diversity of the characters. The role that black actors and women have in Hollywood are so limiting. It’s discouraging for aspiring actors, but also for children who look to the media for inspiration on what to become when they grow up.

Growing up, I remember having two role models, Michael Jordan and Oprah, but not because I had a desire to become a basketball player or an influential talk show host.  Rather because those were my options from the mass media vantage point. I wanted to be a lawyer/model, but I had no role model at that age to allow me to feel hopeful that this was something I could achieve. This movie put black people into roles that most people had never seen them in before. Aside from the black culture that was celebrated, the movie also spoke to the power of women. [pullquote position=”right”]Black Panther gave me the same feeling as Wonder Woman. It inspired many children, especially girls, to realize that they can be Shuri — the tech genius, Okoye — the General of the King’s army, or Nakia — the undercover agent. [/pullquote]All of the women in the movie were non-stereotypical black women. They were not typical roles for women all together. That’s something else that’s missing from Hollywood films –women who are warriors, women who choose their country and values over men, and women who aren’t afraid to speak up and defy.

Another point of discussion afterwards was the message the movie delivered about the identities of black people. Outside of the black community, people are sometimes unaware of the divisions that exist between black people. Externally, we are seen as black people with the same ancestry, but internally we take pride in our cultural differences. To name a few, there are Africans, West Indians, Afro-Latinx, African Americans (black people from America) plus the many other categories that black people place themselves into. This movie celebrated all types of black people and allowed the viewers to see these different perspectives. I think the movie did a great job at showing the divide between these communities, and how that divide hurts us more than it helps us. I felt the movie left viewers with a call to action — to tear down our walls and help each other, because at our simplest, we are all human — black, white, or otherwise.

— Shani Ogilvie loves watching all movies, especially psychological thrillers. On a given day, you can find her eating seafood, planning a DIY project, or finding her next travel destination.  

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