Black Panther: A Trailblazer Long Overdue
What is a trailblazer? A trailblazer is a pioneer; one that blazes a trail to guide others. Usually the trailblazer is the first one to accomplish something. Sometimes, these accomplishments are considered great, groundbreaking achievements. Make no mistake about it, the movie Black Panther is a trailblazer. It is the first movie of its kind: a movie from a major franchise (Marvel) with a black superhero as the lead character. It’s release is during Black History Month, which adds to the lore of this film.
Why is this important? For some, it isn’t important. For me, it is important. This is because all of the super heroes we all know and love are white characters. DC comics characters Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman (Wonder Woman is the obvious parallel to Black Panther as a female lead character), and many others are all white. Marvel comics has Spider Man, Iron Man, Thor and many others as lead characters who are white. Black Panther breaks this mold. He is the first of his kind: a black lead superhero.
NOTE: I must pay homage to other black superheroes such as Blade (played by Wesley Snipes) and Catwoman (played by Halle Berry). They are also important characters in the own way. However, those characters are more singular, unlike Black Panther, who is a part of the much larger and more popular Marvel franchise.
In order to fully understand, we must talk about black “firsts” to put the importance of this film into perspective. What is a black “first”? It is the first time someone black accomplishes something significant in history. It is usually a monumental achievement, due to the fact that many of these trailblazers face significant challenges on their way to success. (By the way, let me be the first to “apologize” to anyone who is tired of hearing about black “firsts”. Unfortunately, our inclusion into many American institutions occurred so late that we still have black “firsts” in 2018. You will continue to hear about black “firsts” for a long time to come).
Although it is not on the same level, this movie is the latest of black “firsts” that changed the world we live in. It is groundbreaking like Barack Obama’s ascendancy to become President of the United States. It is like Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier of Major League Baseball. It is similar to Ruby Bridges integrating an elementary school in New Orleans. Each of these black “firsts” opened doors for so many black people, as well as other minorities, people with disabilities, and LGBT as well. People like Barack Obama, Jackie Robinson, and Ruby Bridges are trailblazers: the first of their kind. The movie Black Panther qualifies as a trailblazer as well.
- Black Panther contains imagery, costumes, and scenery that will impress and delight moviegoers.
It depicts a fictional country, Wakanda, and all of its majesty and splendor. It is patterned after the imagery of many areas of the continent of Africa. I guess you could call it a futuristic look the continent that also has images of Africa’s past and present look. This is very important and groundbreaking. It gives positive images of a black civilization and what it should look like under the right direction and guidance. On another level, it shows what some black communities in the United States used to “look” like before urban blight and decay took over. The move Black Panther presents a glimpse of a thriving black community which should not be overlooked.
- Black Panther depicts a black king, along with other members of his royal family.
Their exploits resemble those of real African kings and queens. We have heard of kings and queens of Africa, yet many of us know little about their accomplishments. The lead character in Black Panther is T’Challa, the new king of Wakanda. All you need to do is research kings like Mansa Musa, Akhenaton, Imhotep and you will see the obvious parallels between them and Black Panther’s T’Challa. T”Challa’s mother Romonda is the Queen of Wakanda. All you need to do is research queens Hatshepsut, Makeda “The Queen of Sheba”, and Ann Nzinga “Queen of Ndongo” and you will see obvious parallels between them and Black Panther’s Queen Romanda. In this regard, the movie Black Panther serves as a connector to former kings and queens in Africa.
- Black Panther will instill a sense of pride and accomplishment in many black men, women and children.
Let’s face it: we need to see more images of positive black people who are doing great things. Even though this is just a movie, it sure feels good to see this character on the big screen. It sure feels good to get positive images of “Africa” on the big screen. It sure feels good to know we can be heroes too. It sure feels good to finally be included in this genre of films. The thought of Black Panther just feels good.
The movie Black Panther is a trailblazer that was long overdue. The use of a black superhero in a leading role of a major movie franchise is a remarkable achievement. For me, it is a game-changer. It is another black “first” that needs to be celebrated. I suggest you celebrate by going to see this film, and/or buying it on video. Based on most reviews, it is an outstanding picture. By the way, it will not be long before we see the second installment of Black Panther so enjoy the ride. You are witnessing a trailblazer.
The Kingdom of Wakanda awaits!