Most modern-day superhero movies are lauded as blockbuster hits even before it reaches the theatres. Few would have predicted that we’d enjoy a tidal wave of superhero movies today ever since Marvel introduced Iron Man back in 2008. Since then, there’s been a steady stream of our favourite superhero characters coming to reel life. Yet out of the many men and women kicking ass in tights across our screens, an unlikely hero bested them all: Black Panther.

The movie made its debut in January 2018, adapting from the eponymous Marvel Comics superhero. It pulled at the heartstrings of audiences with its direction, acting, and screenplay. Most of all, the cultural significance of Black Panther played an enormous role with its heavy influence on African-American culture. Its heavy emphasis on native African clothing and language in the movie allowed it to stray away from the typical Hollywood superhero genre, creating a demographic of its own.

The cast, director, and producers attend the European Premiere of Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith on February 8, 2018 in London, England. (Source: Getty Images)

For the average viewer, Black Panther tells the story of Prince T’Challa who will be taking over the throne from his late father for the Kingdom of Wakanda. With his father’s death, the mantle of Black Panther falls onto T’Challa’s hands as he fights to bring peace onto the nation while going up against Erik “Killmonger” Stevens in your typical family feud on an escalated scale.

With awards season coming up, Black Panther was considered a shoo-in for multiple awards, but nobody could have predicted a Golden Globe nomination. This marks the first ever time a superhero movie is receiving a nomination for ‘Best Motion Picture – Drama’.

What makes things interesting for the film is that its award nomination is centred around the field of drama, something many fans would disagree on. However, by delving deeper into the film, there is more to it than a super-powered being dressed in a panther outfit.

The River Tribe elder in Black Panther that adapted its culture from actual African heritage.

At its core, Black Panther has set itself up to revolutionise how the superhero movie industry is viewed. At best, most would consider watching a superhero movie only because it’s fun; one could never consider it to ever be ground-breaking with its typical storyline.

That’s where Black Panther differs from most.

It tackles issues that are prevalent to this day, something many movies fail to do so. It was the first ever Marvel movie to feature a primarily African-American cast, something that hasn’t been done before in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and rarely ever touched upon in Hollywood. This goes to show that not everything in the land of glitz and glamour needs to be white-washed to be considered a success.

The intense battle scene on Wakanda in Avengers: Infinity War.

This also sets up the Marvel Cinematic Universe for future superhero movies that can feature ethnic minorities who, back then, people would never think possible to feature in a Hollywood blockbuster film. While ultimately a fictional story, Black Panther tells the tale of the real-life struggles for plenty of African-Americans today. The cultural significance the movie brings towards the real world just shows how art can actually translate to something more than just entertainment.

The influence onto the real world Black Panther played has been unrivalled. Back in January, crowdfunding platform GoFundMe saw over 400 campaigns around the world to raise money for children of colour to catch the movie. This generated more than US$400,000, making it the largest GoFundMe in history for an entertainment event.

The original Black Panthers revolution.

Its cultural movement within American black history is similar to Rosa Parks’ Montgomery bus boycott as well as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Not only was it equally impactful, it gave hope to the millions of African-American youths to be whatever they want to be in life.

In the end, Black Panther did what it needed to do. On the surface, it was a superhero movie that deserves applause. Diving deeper, it brought upon a revolution of the American cinema industry for African-Americans everywhere, letting it be known that their place in this world is just as significant as the person standing next to them.

Wi-Liam Teh
Senior Writer
Wi-Liam is a geek at heart with a penchant for tattoos. Never without a drink in hand (preferably whisky, gin, or Guinness), he is also a writer by day and a keyboard warrior by night. On his day off, he masquerades as a streetwear and sneakerhead enthusiast while his bank account says otherwise.