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Black Panther is more than just a superhero movie

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Black Panther is more than just a superhero movie

Xavi Golden

Xavi Golden

Xavi Golden

Xavi Golden, Reporter

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Imagine a superhero. Not any specific character, just the image that comes to your mind when you think about costumed do-gooders. You see, in your mind’s eye, a white guy who’s wearing his underwear on the outside of his pants.

Now, you’re not “racist” for thinking of the archetypal superhero as white, or sexist for thinking of him as a guy. You’ve been conditioned to see superheroes that way by movies, television shows, and comic books. The Avengers features a roster of five white guys (two of them literally blonde-haired and blue-eyed) and a white woman. In fact, every Marvel movie so far has had a white guy as a protagonist.

On Feb. 16, that changes.

When Black Panther debuts today, it will rock the superhero genre in the simplest way possible: by casting black people. The representation of men and women of color in Black Panther does more than change your idea of a superhero, studies have shown that representation has multiple psychological benefits, including greater self-esteem. It breaks down into something incredibly simple; when kids see heroes like them being awesome, they feel a bit awesome, too. Black Panther was also directed and written by black men, which is a rarity. (Unsurprisingly the vast majority of movies are written and directed by white men.) It is incredibly difficult for minorities to break into the film industry, and hopefully this film will pave the way for more of them. But Black Panther is just one movie and with few others like it to establish a precedent, there’s no guarantee it can change things for the better. However, there is a chance.

In the spring of 2017, people were saying similar things about Wonder Woman; there were dreams that the movie could increase the representation of women characters and provide opportunities for women creators. Later, that dream would come partially true. After Wonder Woman’s success in the domestic box office, Warner Bros., Disney, and other studios greenlit numerous projects with female protagonist. Regrettably, it is largely men who are going to write and direct those movies.

Black Panther can be a moment of greatness or the beginning of change, but either way, it will be truly different.

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