Representation Matters

Black Panther brings blerd fantasies to life for both black men and black women.

For those of you who might be living under a rock, the Marvel Studios film “Black Panther” dropped on February 16th and it’s the greatest thing ever!

This was probably the most brilliant comic book to film adaptation I’ve seen in my 27 years drawing breath on this earth.

A bold claim, right? Well, I mean it with the entirety of my heart.

For the first time in over a decade, I went to a film expecting greatness and received that- and then some.

This excellent film sports incredible acting, a tight, cohesive plot, beautiful set pieces, multi-layered themes/storytelling, and, most importantly, representation.

Black Panther has by far the strongest ensemble of black actresses I’ve ever seen in an action-adventure film; for the slue of black girls who might be more into skateboards, comics, and basketball rather than dolls and makeup kits, that means everything.

As a black male, it's hard to admit, but the conversation, as it relates to representation in the action and fantasy genre, is usually male-centric.

We tend to ignore the presence of black women in spaces typically inhabited by self-professed nerds. The truth is, they’re just as prevalent as any other non-white group.

So why the seemingly willful ignorance? Though sexism (and other forms of discrimination) is likely to be present here, it’s my belief that this result is brought on by… well, ignorance

The intersection of nerd culture and black culture has never really been something examined by the world at large. Now that doesn’t mean that we weren’t apart of it; that’s far from the case.

I spent the more fascinating parts of my youth playing Japanese card games or getting into heated debates about Anime cartoons with black nerds not too dissimilar from myself.

Now, this wasn’t just my tiny friend group. This was a big chunk of my homeroom a lot of the time.

Groups like mines existed in just about every grade, in every school I attended, until I graduated high school.

So why are we aloof to the idea of black nerds? I mean, they were right next to us all throughout our formative years, right? It all goes back to representation.

Anytime you saw news reports or any television coverage of nerd-themed events, you always saw happy-go-lucky white kids dressed in elaborate costumes as some sort of homage to their favorite television show or comic.

I think that created the dichotomy in our minds where, for a while, we thought that being an active, enthused participant in nerd culture was “white people stuff.”

Black kids were informed about aspects of nerd culture, but we were never shown to be engaged in it the same way our white peers were. As a result, we never realized we could employ our interests in the same way.

Despite this admittedly depressing side effect of society at large, the good news is, as much as it kills me to write this cliché, the world is much smaller thanks to social media.

Communities of black nerds can now not only converse amongst each other, (like how we did in school) but said conversations can be accessible to the nerd community as a whole.

This exposure has brought both the contemporary idea of the black nerd and our want for representation in fiction to the forefront.

As mentioned previously, those conversations seemed male-centric for a while until Marvel Studios gave us Black Panther.

 Phot source  here  

Phot source here  

Though the film’s titular hero and his antagonist still get the majority share of development, the film still gives us an effective portrayal of a brilliant scientist (Letitia Wright), a mighty general (Denai Gurira), a caring mother (Angela Bassett), and the suave spy (Lupita Nyongo)

Wright plays a snarky scientist who is similar yet distinct from Robert Downey Junior’s Tony Stark character. Bassett gives us a loving mother who, unlike others of her archetype, doesn’t dote on her son but rather trusts in him and what he represents.

Nyongo and Gurira are our stand out warrior women from the cast.

They play said roles with a fierceness and vulnerability that often left me in awe. There’s this one scene where Gurira gets into a fight at a casino and, boy oh boy, does she lay some henchman out.

I feel bad for Thanos when the next Avengers movie rolls around and he has to fight her because that woman rumbles like no other.

Nyongo is probably the more conflicted of the two as there’s a more emotional depth to her. From having ended a love affair with Prince T’Challa (Black Panther) to wanting to see the nation of Wakanda share its wealth and resources with those in need, she definitely has the most profundity of any of the female cast members.

There were moments during the film where it felt like they were grooming her for a larger role and, to put it bluntly, it will be amazing if they do. I’ll keep spoilers to a minimum here but don’t be surprised if after some actor’s contracts run out that we see Nyongo become a hero to rival others In Marvel’s cinematic universe.

You see, Sony? When you love us, we love you back.

Article by Rovell Vialva