April 24, 2019 | 63° F

"Black Panther" film beautifully provides representation for POC

Marvel Studios’ first Black superhero T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), better known as the Black Panther, made his debut Thursday night at Rutgers Cinema followed by a panel discussion. Directed by Ryan Coogler — director of “Creed” and "Fruitvale Station" — "Black Panther" is a film inspired the Marvel comic character who first appeared in 1966. With a star-studded cast and brand new storyline, critics and audiences have become captivated with the fictional country of Wakanda. 

The action film features a predominantly Black cast and vibrant costumes and makeup designs that were inspired by real-world African traditions, as well as important take-home messages that are relevant to current events and social issues people face in the real world.

The highly-researched, meticulously-detailed costumes worn in the film were designed by Ruth E. Carter, a two-time Oscar-nominated costume designer behind "Selma," "Amistad" and "Roots." In a January 2018 interview with Forbes, Carter said she drew inspiration from Afropunk, a Black person who is into hardcore rock, or any look aside from “hip-hop,” and Afrofuturism, a movement featuring futuristic or science-fiction themes which incorporate elements of Black history and culture. 

She also mentioned getting inspiration from designers like Issey Miyake, Stella McCartney and Gareth Pugh. Most importantly, she discussed incorporating African tribes such as the Masai, the Suri tribe and the Northern African Tuareg. 

“I kind of approach everything in a similar way, of research, and creating a story around a central character,” Carter said in the interview. “Knowing where they're from, where they walk. So it’s knowing Black Panther, King T’Challa, in his everyday life.”

Although the movie was entertaining and impressive as a whole, there were definitely certain scenes that were especially memorable for their stand-out performances. In a February 2018 interview with Vanity Fair, Coogler discussed some of his many inspirations including paying homage to James Bond in one particular scene. 

Coogler even got the chance to work with MGM on the movie “Creed,” where he incorporated a scene of "Skyfall" playing on television as actor Michael B. Jordan’s character — who also plays villain Erik Killmonger in “Black Panther”— falls asleep with Tessa Thompson’s character Bianca, while Daniel Craig dodges a runaway train.

Ultimately it wasn’t until Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, suggested the idea of T’Challa being the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) version of Bond that Coogler even gave it some thought.

“An African king that is James Bond-y and has that level of confidence and support. That’s something I hadn’t thought of,” Coogler said to Vanity Fair.

Having a predominantly Black cast — including Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Lupita Nyong’o and Daniel Kaluuya to name a few — allowed Coogler to address issues in and around the Black community through the representation of characters within "Black Panther."

“Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger represents both a personal specter from Wakanda’s past as well as the embodiment of Black political anger, rage and pain at the loss of ancestral homelands and kinship ties,” said Peniel E. Joseph of the Washington Post. 

“Black Panther” captivates the essence of what it means for men and women of color to have their own identity. It’s a visual representation of their exact features, the very same identities that they have been told were not acceptable.

This is a film that provides hope and gives a voice to the voiceless within the Black community. It is a step in the right direction.

“I hope things continue to open up. As more content gets made, more opportunities like ours can come about for folks,” Coogler said in a Variety interview. “But you’ve got to put your foot on the gas when it comes to that or things can go back to where they were.”

Almier McCoy

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