The Black Panther-A celebratory reclamation of the black body

Curator's Note

Skin tone, facial features, body size, and hair are attributes of the body that are interrelated and must be taken into consideration together when examining black corporeal representations in the media. One example of the relevance of positive, celebratory representations of the black body is Marvel Comic’s Black Panther movie. The film has been met with unprecedented audience anticipation; broken presale and opening weekend records and it has become the most tweeted movie of 2018 (TheGrio, 2/15/18). Organizations, schools, and entrepreneurs have bought out theaters and orchestrated themed viewing parties catered to specific audiences; encouraging them to wear Afro-pop attire; and featuring libations, MC’s, D.J.’s, poetry, fashion contests and intellectual discussions. The film has a majority Black cast that includes dark-skinned actors/actresses – at a time when white or light-skinned entertainers are often given coveted roles. It features Black men sporting facial hair and displaying warrior arts as well as an elite all-female squad – the Dora Milaje - protecting Wakanda at a time when mainstream media obscures the contribution of Black men to their families and communities; and at a time when Black women’s self-advocacy is often conflated with and reduced to being angry. The movie’s characters present unique natural hairstyles that emulate the many natural hair journeys resurging among Black women. It also displays cultural attire, unapologetically, at a time when our style, sense of fashion, and our embodied swagger is often simultaneously reviled and appropriated in mainstream media.  

The big Black Panther on the big screen makes the scene go Black. And we like it like that. Black Panther is an epitome of celebration, innovation and application of black corporeal aesthetics longed for on the big screen. In Wakanda black corporeal aesthetics are centered in ways that elevates the view of who we are and how we see ourselves – challenging the ways the black body is portrayed and (mis)understood. The excitement surrounding Black Panther demonstrates that not only do we approve of these positive, inspiring, diverse representations of the black body in the media but we crave them. Black Panther offers us an opportunity to acknowledge, embrace, reclaim and celebrate the beauty of blackness. It reminds us that we matter. Our bodies. Our hair. Our African aesthetics. We matter--- despite mediated messages that suggest otherwise. This film affirms we’ve always mattered.


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