Just a few thoughts on this Wakanda Weekend:
Anyone who has known me any length of time knows I am completely in the tank for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’ve seen every film in theaters, I own a vast majority of the films on home media, I have ridden with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. since day one, I grit my teeth and rumbled through Iron Fist…I’m all about the Marvel life, is what I’m trying to tell you.
However, I was never blind to the fact that there were no protagonists that looked like me. Sure, there were a few deuteragonists sprinkled in here and there (Rhodey Rhodes, Sam Wilson, Heimdall, Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie, Luis, Karl Mordo), but – up until Luke Cage, there were no male leads of color. For women of color, it was even worse; didn’t really see one until Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. brought in Ming Na Wen, Chloe Bennet (birthname Chloe Wang), Christine Adams (for a little while, at least), Henry Simmons (“Mack” Mackenzie), and Natalia Cordova-Buckley (Elena “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez). People of color in the MCU were barely ancillary characters and generally were seen as a random extra in the background.
This began to change, starting with TV and Netflix, but the overwhelming cinematic versions were all white. Which is fine; this is the source material from whence they were created. But, we have always had to see ourselves as Tony Stark or Steve Rogers, or Natasha Romanoff. With the advent of Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther, that’s changed. In Thor: Ragnarok, Tessa Thompson is billed as Valkyrie, a kickass Asgardian warrior. She has her own agency, she doesn’t serve for the king, and she’s all about that action.
Then, there’s Black Panther.
In it, we have a cast that is 98% African descent, and it tells a story that is immediately relatable to anyone with half a brain. But, the important thing in all of this is the representation: we see all sorts of beautiful black people, not just within the cast, but within the walls of Wakanda itself. It is something I had an intense need for; the feeling of belongingness that I didn’t know I had missed out on. There was an intense feeling of pride watching the opening narration fade into the Marvel Studios logo; this is a big budget blockbuster filled to the brim with men and women who look like me, and it is a wonderful sight to see. There were geniuses (Shuri), generals (Okoye), spies (Nakia), matriarchs (Ramonda), and rulers (T’Challa); no stereotypes; just beautiful, wonderful, brilliant blackness.
I’ll never forget the feeling of sheer bliss of watching my people on the biggest of screens with the biggest of budgets and expectations that can only be described as gigantic. The movie is shattering records left and right, and deservedly so; everyone involved poured their hearts and souls into a very stunning film, and it’s one that deserves to be seen on the big screen. I’ve already seen it twice, and there will be more times to come.