Opening Up the Oscars: “Black Panther” is a Leap Forward for Superhero Movies and Media Representation


“Black Panther” is nominated for 7 Academy Awards. courtesy Flickr.

By Palak Jayswal, Arts Editor


It’s been a tremendous year of representation in film for people of color. The nominees for the Best Picture category at this year’s Oscars awards reflect this diversity. Among these nominees is a fan and personal favorite: “Black Panther.” An enthralling combination of what America needed the most and one of the coolest superhero movies to date, it’s one of the most accomplished nominees in the running.

“Black Panther” is a film which knocked down every cliché associated with superhero films — that superheroes could only be white men or women from American or a European origin. It brought forth a new era of superhero films, using techniques of strong technology, stronger women and a culturally based hero. From the tradition of becoming the black panther to the different tribes of Wakanda, there’s no denying it wouldn’t be the same without the rich culture of Wakanda. These cultural roots are exactly what makes “Black Panther” different from any other Marvel movie.

Though “Black Panther” is not the first superhero movie with a black lead, it’s the first one in a while. In an era where many black people feel disenfranchised, this movie came at the perfect time. It redefines the black experience in a way which contrasts the normal depiction so starkly — a redefinition which is not only applaudable but crucial. The characters in “Black Panther” are strong, intelligent and full of heart. Wakanda is not a poor, disease-riddled country on the opposite end of the world. It is the leader in technological advancement and an impenetrable safe haven thanks to Shuri, the panther’s brilliant sister. Black women in this film are perhaps even cooler than the panther himself with their own ruthless skills.

Besides being a monumental step forward for black characters in film and representation in media as a whole, this film is notable in various other areas. The plot, like many of Marvel’s other films, is heavily rooted in family relations and themes of honor, loyalty and morality. While it’s a superhero film, what makes it so great is the humanity at its core. Between action sequences, this film addresses societal divisions and what it means to fight for the common good. This film is also a technical achievement: It is in the running for Best Costume Design, Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

As the highest-grossing solo superhero movie, “Black Panther” challenged the approach to superhero movies and representation all in one go. It’s a worthy and serious contender in the Oscars this year, but it’s also up against various films that are also leaps forward for representation in their own right. We’ll just have to wait and see what’s to come, but until then, Wakanda forever.

What do you think? Does “Black Panther” have a chance at nabbing Best Picture against its competitors this year?

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