By Ryan Ricks and Karen Wang
Black Panther, a movie that came out just a mere 10 days ago, has already broken records and raised awareness. It’s been hailed for its “wokeness,” story, and villain. With all of its good qualities, it begs us to ask the question: What impact will Black Panther have on the current generation and younger ones?
One of the main points of the movie is the juxtaposition between Wakanda, the highly advanced, fictional African country that was untouched by imperialism, and the rest of the world—specifically, the rest of the black world.
Most of the movie’s praise is due to its villain, Erik Killmonger. Erik Killmonger seems to have one motivation on the surface: take over Wakanda and supply arms to the oppressed to fight their oppressors; however, his motivations run deeper. So deep in fact that they have resonated with the black community at large.
Erik Killmonger is a very accessible character. His father, also from the advanced Wakanda, was killed when Erik was only a kid. Even though his father was from Wakanda, Erik was still left behind, a policy that Wakanda seemed to embrace so they could avoid the colonization of their own country. This abandonment became one of Erik’s motivations for attacking Wakanda.
Another motivator is that difference between Wakanda and the rest of the black world. While most of the black world is systematically discriminated against, Wakanda is seemingly on another level, having the best standard of living out of any country in the world. Wakanda is easily able to raise the status of black communities across the world, and yet it doesn’t. At the beginning of the movie, Erik wanted Wakanda to help the black world fight their oppressors, but by the end, it can be debated whether he really still cares about helping the black world, or if he just wanted revenge.
Other characters in the movie also wanted Wakanda to help black communities across the world. Nakia, whose first appearance showed her helping Africans not native to Wakanda, was very passionate about Wakanda opening its arms. She wanted Wakanda to stop hiding the technology and resources it had, so they could help the less fortunate.
By the end of the movie, these motivations culminate into Wakanda reaching out to the rest of the world, ready to help all of it by supplying resources and technology.
So with these motivations spelled out, what impact will these motivations have? It’s clear that the movie has already empowered the black community, as well as other minorities in America and other predominantly white countries.
Many, many people have seen themselves in Black Panther. Whether literally, because they look like the characters, or more in mind, because they relate to them, the characters in this movie have empowered the masses. Some people have taken to reclaiming their African heritage, others have been calling for more diverse movies, and others have been praising the movie’s messages, and asking for the messages to be followed.
There is profound increase in female empowerment stemming from the movie. Shuri, described as the “smartest person in the world” by the movie’s producer, Nate Moore, helps normalize women in science and technology. The Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s all-female special forces, show that women can be warriors too.
One of the best qualities of the movie is how most of the messages aren’t shoved in your face. The women empowerment ideas are there, but the fact that Shuri, Nakia, and the Dora Milaje are women is barely mentioned, if at all. This subtleness is why the movie gets so much praise, because people don’t feel beat down by the themes. This allows the messages to stand out clearer, which causes the ideas to spread further.
While the movie will have a variety of positive effects on society, there are still some possible negative impacts. Some children, possibly misguided by the darker side of Killmonger’s character, have taken to calling white children “colonizers” in school. While being aware of the past is always a good thing, trying to live in it and essentially holding children accountable to what their ancestors have done will not help anyone. If black children try to ostracize white children, relations between the two races will just be hurt even further.
Sadly, this movie has also caused the emergence of insecure white people who are upset over the movie’s nearly all-black cast, and, if they got that far, the movie’s messages. There have already been false claims that black people beat up white people at the theater for just trying to see the movie. While the claims have been proven false, they have still caused some hateful sentiment, tarnishing the movie and even the black community for some people.
Black Panther’s message, in the end, is about unity, an all too absent concept in today’s world. So, hopefully this generation and younger can come to their senses, and unify under this message, changing blockbuster movies and even politics in the near future.