Several Black Panther fans were pleasantly surprised by Chadwick Boseman while they were discussing what the movie meant to them. The 40-year-old actor has played several African-American historical icons such as Thurgood Marshall (Marshall), Jackie Robinson (42) and James Brown (Get On Up), but nothing compares to the kind of interest people have in Black Panther, where he takes on the role of T’Challa, king and protector of the fictitious African nation of Wakanda.
Despite hitting theaters almost three weeks ago, the buzz around Black Panther continues. On top of its box office domination, it has also made quite an impact on pop culture with people referencing some of the new concepts and habits that the Wakandans introduced us to in the film such as the now famous Wakandan salute. The Ryan Coogler-co-written/directed project is praised for its perfect melding of the standard superhero tropes with more serious issues dealing with racial and cultural appropriation.
A segment from the latest episode from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon features Boseman surprising unsuspecting fans who were sharing their thoughts on Black Panther. “For me, as the mother of a young son, my son’s childhood has been defined by Barack Obama and now Black Panther. So thank you,” a woman who was with her son said. Meanwhile, an aspiring filmmaker emotionally revealed how the Marvel film motivated her to keep on working with her saying: “There’s so many of us out here trying to create great things, and I was just so inspired as someone who wants to make movies one day that art can change the world, I cannot tell you how much it means to have you step into the role as our king and be holding it with such grace and poise and joy.” Everyone was clearly overwhelmed with emotions including Boseman and host, Fallon.
The five-minute clip somehow encapsulates how Black Panther is not just a film for a lot of people. While some question the hype for it saying that it’s nothing more than another superhero film, these people’s reactions say a lot about how a movie can not only entertain, but inspire as well. A blockbuster like this is proof that proper representation matters in media and its impressive box office run says a lot about how the entertainment industry is long overdue for these types of narratives. Sure, there have been other movies led by Black actors such as Wesley Snipes’ Blade and Michael Jai White’s Spawn, but nothing as critically and massively successful as Black Panther. If anything, this fundamentally squashes myths about what sells in Hollywood and reinforces that there is, in fact, a huge audience for these types of films with people already clamoring for a potential TV spin-off from Black Panther. At this point, we haven’t even touched on the thought-provoking concepts that Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole tackled in the movie, which were very integral in the flick’s narrative.
Similar to Wonder Woman, Black Panther represents what we hope to be the beginning of a shift in Hollywood when it comes to proper social and racial representation. While the DC film shone a light on female empowerment, the Marvel flick highlighted the importance of finding and owning one’s cultural identity. Interestingly, both films introduced us to strong, sustainable communities in Themyscira and Wakanda – illustrating the possibility of a better world if we start embracing the same core values that these societies live by.