A Book by Dr. Sheena C. Howard
When Ryan Coogler’s 2018 mega-blockbuster Black Panther slammed into theaters, the highly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) entry broke a whole slew of barriers. With a cast made of almost entirely of black actors, directed by a black director, and depicting one of the first successful black superheroes on the big screen for the first time in his own film, it was a force to be reckoned with both critically and financially. To many it was just another Marvel film, to others it was almost a religious experience. Why? some were asking. Why did Black Panther pull a 1.34 billion dollar box office? I won’t go into so-called “woke” territory here, but most of these people (some I even knew) didn’t understand the big deal for many black filmgoers. This was a film explicitly made for and marketed as a BLACK FILM, and it became a cultural phenomenon simply because that doesn’t happen in Hollywood. I mean we aren’t too far away from numerous cases of white actors being cast as Asian or black people in real life. Most produced black films are no-budget romance films or stereotypical crime movies – not exactly a wide breadth of choices. But something changed in 2018.
“Black Panther introduced viewers to the stunning world of Wakanda, a fictional African country with incredible technological advancements, and to T’Challa, a young man stepping into his role as king and taking up the mantle of the Black Panther title from his late father. The unforgettable story, coupled with the film’s mega-success, has undoubtedly shaped the future of superhero cinema, in addition to genuinely changing viewers’ lives. Why Wakanda Matters gives this iconic film the in-depth analysis it deserves under the lens of the latest psychological concepts-as well as delving into the lasting cultural impact of this unforgettable story.”
This book is a series of essays from many academics, that go towards answering all of those questions. Care is taken to get the reader up to speed with the why’s and how’s of the black film experience, and why Black Panther was sadly a long time coming. I wish people asking those questions or trying to demean the film for malicious intentions (coughracistscough), but sadly they will ignore something like this. I got tired of explaining it to fellow white people that I knew. While Black Panther was an important film for Hollywood, I would argue this book is similarly important for film and sociological studies. Understanding some of the ideas in here, can hopefully pave the way for a far more diverse film experience for all.
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NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.