Why BLACK PANTHER’s Representation Matters, According to the Cast

With great power comes great responsibility, and there is no denying the immense cultural power of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther or the responsibility those who made it felt to viewing audiences.

The latest addition to the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe is particularly auspicious, not only because it is the first film in the MCU’s tenth year of existence, but because it is the first film in the series headlined by a black superhero. And not just any black superhero, either; Black Panther was the first black superhero in mainstream American comics. Now some five decades later, King T’Challa, the Dora Milaje, and the people of Wakanda are ready for their close-up, one for which they have been ready for a long, long time.

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The film, directed by Ryan Coogler, is a thunderclap, making a massive impact on audiences all over the world and generating a cultural conversation unlike any other Marvel film I’ve seen. While the film is on track to obliterate box office records— with a projected opening weekend of $200 million—there is something extra special about Black Panther. One need only look up the hashtag on Twitter and read the joyous, tearful responses of audiences who saw the movie last night to understand why. Black Panther is representation in action for millions of fans all over the world. It is more than just a superhero movie; it is a chance for fans to see themselves reflected on the big screen, to feel like their stories are being told. It was something that the cast and filmmakers behind Black Panther took to heart when making this film, and the results are quite simply astounding.

To find out more about why Black Panther‘s cultural representation matters, our reporter Markeia McCarty spoke with director Ryan Coogler and stars Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, and Letitia Wright. The cast spoke about the impact they hope the film has on audiences, the aspirational qualities of the world portrayed in the film, and how it can offer a vision of what society could be.

“Cinema has an opportunity to show us where we’ve been, where we are, and where we could go,” said Nyong’o. “And Wakanda is where we could go.”

“There’s no limitation,” Wright explained. “I hope this film, being one of the first of its kind, can really open a door. You don’t just go and watch it and just let your dreams die. I want young people to go and watch it and feel inspired and feel like they can do anything.”

After seeing what not just the titular, Vibranium-suited superhero can do, but the cavalcade of ass-kicking ladies who constantly steal the spotlight, it’s hard not to leave Black Panther feeling like you too can save the world.

Black Panther is in theaters now. Read our spoiler-free review.

Images: Marvel

Additional reporting by Markeia McCarty.

Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about  Star Wars and  the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter ( @DanCasey).

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