On June 9, the initial trailer for Marvel Studio’s Black Panther hit the airwaves. Starring Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, and Michael B. Jordan, it will tell the story of T’Challa (Boseman) as he navigates the murky waters of leadership after his promotion to King of Wakanda after the events of Captain America: Civil War. According to this article posted by The Hollywood Reporter, the trailer had been viewed 89 million times in its first 24 hours. Upon seeing the trailer, Black America lost their collective minds. Memes were posted about going to see it in Zamunda’s finest garbs, replete with screenshots from Coming to America. Sure there were some naysayers on both sides of the spectrum, but the response was overwhelmingly positive.
On November 23rd, 2016, Walt Disney Studios released the CGI film Moana to theaters. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, and introducing Auli’i Cravalho as the titular character, it was the first Disney film to have a majority Polynesian cast; in fact, outside of Alan Tudyk, the entire cast is of Polynesian descent. Disney went to great lengths to ensure that they respected the Polynesian culture. One of the best songs in the movie features lyrics in the almost-extinct Tokelauan dialect and was written by both Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa’i. The movie was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Song and Best Animated Feature, and is beloved the world over.
Released to theaters on June 2, DC Films’ Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, and Robin Wright, is Warner Bros. and DC’s latest attempt to capitalize on the superhero movie phase after questionable outings with Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the latter also featuring Gadot. As of this posting, the film is sitting at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, with praise being heaped on all parties involved. Although the final act goes screaming into BvS territory, the movie is also beloved and cherished by millions who craved to see the iconic female superhero on the big screen for the first time.
Why am I mentioning these? Well, it’s because they all have one thing in common: they are positive representations of a marginalized group of people. Those three I listed featured or will feature a majority African/African-American cast, a Polynesian cast, and a majority female cast, and it’s a rarity that something like that happens in this day in age. Most films have cisgendered white men in the lead, with the rest being relegated to plot devices, funny background events, sidekicks, trophies to be won, or any combination of those tropes. Now, with the pronounced push for representation, all of that is changing. It’s a slow change, one that’s being met with ridiculous resistance, but it’s a change nonetheless.
If my daughter wants to see a superhero, I can point her to an Amazonian goddess played by an Israeli, a Polynesian Chief’s daughter who sets out on her own adventure, or the ruler of the most advanced nation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which happens to be in Africa. I can show her some of my favorite superheroes in Monica Rambeau, Kamala Khan, Lunella Lafayette, or Riri Williams. She can see herself in Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. She can watch TV and see positive views of people who look like her, and that’s important.
I will always be for and support representation in all media, because we need to see more positive images of our people so we can see that we’re more than just the black best friend or the funny talking Middle Eastern, or the plump and funny Pacific Islander, or the eye and arm candy who serves no other purpose. Representation matters, and I’m glad I’m around to see it in its embryonic stages.