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Essay: Black Lives Matter: Positively Progressed by Marvel's Black Panther Film

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  • Published: 6 May 2019*
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  • Tags: Essays on racism

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Critical Text  By Megan Studholme.

Hypothesis: Black Panther shows a positive movement of the Black Lives Matter in big Hollywood films.


In the film The Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler, the black lives movement is shown in a light that that has never been done before. This Marvel film was made to show the modern day American society and compare it to the utopian society of Wakanada. It covers the issue of racism and how it needs to be improved to improve our society. In summary , after the death of his father, T'Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When an enemy reappears, T'Challa's mettle as king (and as Black Panther) gets tested when he's drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, T’Challa must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his enemies and secure the safety of his people.


In this film, the movement of Black Lives Matter is seen throughout the film and pushed by the director Ryan Coogler. The audience is able to see a change in the typical white based, white directed film and see a positively progressive film. This is especially important for the current american society as the Black Lives Matter movement is so prevalent and this is pushing that message forward by having powerful black role models for that community. It is giving a sense of empowerment and community for people of colour. This idea is seen through Jamil Smiths point of view of “It hasn’t even hit theaters yet and its cultural footprint is already enormous. It’s a movie about what it means to be black in both America and Africa—and, more broadly, in the world. Rather than dodge complicated themes about race and identity, the film grapples head-on with the issues affecting modern-day black life.” This furthers the point that this film will make a big statement for the Black Lives Matter movement and could forever change how big hollywood films operate.


In this film, the idea of Black Lives Matter is predominantly seen through another minority of women. The woman in this film as viewed as powerful warriors as well as highly intelligent beings that contribute greatly to the Wakandian society. According to the author Alisha Harris “Black Panther confidently performs the tricky balancing act of writing fully realized women characters into a traditionally male-centered narrative by wholeheartedly believing that they are integral to the storytelling.” This raises the point that the storyline of the film is not just central to the main characters. Wakanda is seen as the utopian society and the women in this country are viewed very highly and have their own storylines separate to T’Challa as they are just as important. This point is raised further by Sherronda J. Brown by “The Black Panther narrative allows black women to be both angry and tender, both strong and vulnerable, both independent and interdependent on each other and those around them.” Therefore Brown arguess the point that Black Panther is a positively progressional film for black women and the view people have on them. This furthers the argument that Black Panther is not portraying black women in an uncivilized and powerless way like many Hollywood films have done in the past. She is expressing her excitement of having black women not just being side characters but having main plotlines in the film and being a powerful role model for younger black women. We are seeing black women in power showing how to Black Lives Matter could turn into this utopian society like Wakanda.


In this film, it is argued that the storyline and characters are doing the opposite of progressing the movement of Black Lives Matter. According to Alease A. Brown, a Southern African author, “hollywood’s history of racism triggers the question, why was the first black superhero identified as an African and a quasi-animal? When the original Black Panther comic appeared in the sixties, featuring a black person who was not inferiorised was groundbreaking”. So the point is raised of, is Black Panther actually negatively affecting the movement of Black Lives Matter, by portraying the black characters as animalistic and uncivilized. Another point that is raised in this article is that, T’Challa is a not so super superhero as he is having to depend on the purple flower potion for his powers. This is then compared to the Hulk and Ironman who had scientific brilliance or was transferred genetically. However, from other articles we could see that this was due to other female characters taking some of the spotlight and power rather then it all being about T’Challa.


Overall, in the film The Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler, there is a big movement seen for Black Lives Matter. However, as we can see there are aspects that we can see which might not be the most progressive for some people. Therefore going back to my hypothesis, the film has made a statement for equality for people of color especially females. This is because it is empowering people of colour and giving them powerful role models to look up to. However, there is always work to do for equality and has some outlets have expressed they could do better in some areas.

Works Cited

Brown, Alease A. “Black People Beware: Don't Let Black Panther Joy Mask Hollywood's Racism.” The Conversation, The Conversation, 26 Aug. 2018, theconversation.com/black-people-beware-dont-let-black-panther-joy-mask-hollywoods-racism-93095.

Brown, Sherronda J. “The Black Feminist Argument for 'Black Panther'.” Wear Your Voice, 27 Feb. 2018, wearyourvoicemag.com/more/culture/the-black-feminist-black-panther.

Harris, Aisha. “In Black Panther, Wakanda Is a Feminist Utopia.” Slate Magazine, Slate, 23 Feb. 2018, slate.com/culture/2018/02/black-panthers-feminism-is-more-progressive-than-wonder-womans.html.

“How Marvel's Black Panther Marks a Major Milestone.” Time, Time, time.com/black-panther/.

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