FILM FRIDAY: "Black Panther" Marks a Huge Cultural Shift You Don't Want to Miss


As a culture geek, I have many reasons to be excited about "Black Panther." A key one is my belief in the power of film to move hearts and change minds.

Bias is really a lack of imagination. Inability to imagine another's experience. Inability to imagine a better alternative. Inability to imagine others to be more, to be better. Inability to imagine ourselves to be more, to be better.

That's why films and storytelling are such important tools for fighting bias. They introduce us to characters we learn to care about and root for. We learn to empathize with someone else's hopes, dreams, fears and suffering. We feel empowered to expect more. We focus on our common humanity rather than our differences. Stories create alternate worlds that show us possible futures that are better, more splendid and more magnificent—pushing us to question the status quo and hope for more.

This is why "Black Panther" (directed by fellow American Film Showcase alum Ryan Coogler!) is a big deal.


If you are reading this and you are white, seeing people who look like you in mass media probably isn’t something you think about often. Every day, the culture reflects not only you but nearly infinite versions of you—executives, poets, garbage collectors, soldiers, nurses and so on. The world shows you that your possibilities are boundless.

Those of us who are not white have considerably more trouble not only finding representation of ourselves in mass media and other arenas of public life, but also finding representation that indicates that our humanity is multi­faceted. Relating to characters onscreen is necessary not merely for us to feel seen and understood, but also for others who need to see and understand us.
— Jamil Smith, Time Magazine


By the way, I highly recommend reading the full Time article—it's thoughtfully written with rich historical and cultural context.

The film is also revolutionary in how it portrays women—strong, complex, and beautifully dark-skinned.


Every single woman in T’Challa’s life is either dark-skinned or brown-skinned: His sister. Momma. Bodyguards. It’s a huge deal! And perhaps the biggest deal of all is Nyong’o, a dark-skinned woman, playing T’Challa’s love interest.

I know many people in real life that have mothers, sisters and friends with skin darker than 100 percent cocoa, and who are the same hue themselves, yet wouldn’t be caught dead getting romantically involved with a dark-skinned black woman. Loving dark-skinned black women is not seen as lucrative, beneficial or valuable when it comes to amassing cultural, social, economic or even political capital.
— Clarkisha Kent, HuffPost


"Black Panther" breaks from casting norms in Hollywood, where light-skinned black women (think Halle Berry) are often preferred. (Clarkisha writes passionately about colorism in her HuffPost article about the film—another great read.)

Of course, you can always fight bias with the sledgehammer of reason instead of stories. Speeches, essays, books and documentaries (like Ava DuVernay's powerful "13th") often fight social issues head-on. But that's when you're also more likely to encounter resistance—reason invites argument.

Stories and characters, on the other hand, draw you in, make you care, and slowly melt away bias by creating empathy. That's why there's immense power in a blockbuster film like "Black Panther." Mainstream audiences who don't want to sit through a lecture about race but want to enjoy an awesomely-made superhero movie will now get a powerful lesson in race hidden in their entertainment!

(By the way, the Director of Photography for "Black Panther" is Rachel Morrison, who recently made history by being the first woman to be nominated for an Oscar for cinematography!)

Here's the official trailer. Are you excited to go see this film? Tell us why!

The Big Flip–Stories from the Modern Home Front is a documentary and movement that champions stories that expand our expectations of what men and women, boys and girls, should do and can do. . Click here to learn how you can bring the film to your community for an inspired discussion on gender equality at home and at work.