SINGH: New film will help rectify underrepresentation in industry
Opinions Column: Got Rights?
Friday, Feb. 16 marks the release date of "Black Panther," what undoubtedly already has to be the most anticipated movie of 2018. The movie follows the story of a young prince, T’Challa, who goes back to his African nation of Wakanda, following the death of his father who was the king. The throne rightfully belongs to T’Challa but a powerful enemy stands in the way of this happening, forcing T’Challa to use his skills and powers as both a humanitarian and the Black Panther to save his nation. "Black Panther" is not your ordinary superhero movie. It is the 18th Marvel superhero-based movie, and it holds the greatest burden of them all.
The film is about the significance of being Black in both America and Africa, which holds a lot of importance in the representation of being Black. Majority of the movies in the Hollywood industry cast actors that are predominantly white, with little to no racial diversity. This is the first major movie to break the norms where most of the cast is of Black descent. Those of us that are not white have a hard time finding representation of ourselves in mass media. Representation is important because it holds the power for the audience to feel like they are understood and can relate to another’s identity, and it also exists so that others can see and understand us. It creates more awareness toward people that have been underrepresented and marginalized for a long time. The movie focuses on what it means to be Black in today’s world and also highlights the struggles of being a person of color. "Get Out" was another movie that accentuated the racial stereotypes and stigmas faced by Black people.
"Black Panther" was first announced in 2014 but what we had not known at the time was the racial regression our country was to face in coming years. The movie is being released during a time where there is more consciousness of the pernicious treatment of females and people of color in the industry. The gravity of this release also adds to the Black Lives Matter movement as the whole movie showcases that Black lives, in fact, do matter. The release is almost like a response to the hateful oppression forced upon Black people by white nationalists, making the movie a symbol of rebellion and resistance. This especially holds a lot of significance since it's a movie about thriving Black excellence after our president disregarded several nations of Africa as “s***hole countries.”
With a powerful soundtrack and good use of advertisements, the movie has already appealed to many audiences, especially minorities. The Black actors and actresses, not only casted but also those in the industry, have made excellent strides in promoting the movie as well. Actress Octavia Spencer released a statement on Instagram saying “I will be in MS when this movie opens. I think I will buy out a theatre in an underserved community there to ensure that all our brown children can see themselves as a superhero. I will let you know where and when Mississippi. Stay tuned. #KingsAndQueensWillRise.”
At the "Black Panther" premiere, there was a request for strictly “Royal attire,” and yet no one showed up to the red carpet in the basic suit and tie and dress combinations we are all so used to seeing. Instead, the cast made a statement by attending the premiere in a spectrum of African fabrics. The men showed up in Afrocentric patterns, wearing dashikis and boubous. The actresses adorned beautiful gowns and headwraps with vivid colors. Together the cast looked elegant and cultured, sparking a lot of praise for their bold statement of pride through showcasing true African attire.
This film carries the weight unleveled by any of the Captain America or X-Men movies since it caters to Black people who have been underrepresented since the very beginning. This is not to say that Black actors have not been casted in movies, but the ones that were Black-focused, were highly “ghettoized” and referred to and used as hood for entertainment purposes. Those movies marketed and profited off of using Black struggles to amuse an audience. There have not been major movies that highlight and normalize Black success in all of its greatness. It is also proof that the portrayal of a reality of something other than a white race can also rake in mass profits. This helps normalize the acceptance of people of color into our society. It brings forth pride in having melanin in our skin when unfortunately society is still learning to accept color as equal.
Harleen Singh is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. Her column, "Got Rights?", runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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