“Black Panther,” the new superhero movie that’s the first to feature a predominantly black cast, has already broken records at the box office. Its wide theatrical release on Thursday night put it at second place for a Marvel Universe opening weekend.
Beyond America’s normal frenzy for superpowered stories, the film has been celebrated for representing blackness in a space where fans of color have often felt left out. This was made clear before a special screening at Alamo Drafthouse in the West Colfax neighborhood where moviegoers showed up excited and dressed to the nines or in costume.
When she saw the trailer, Such said, she knew she had to do something special. “This is something I need to see with my people,” she said. “Any of y’all who saw ‘Get Out’ in a movie theater: You know what I mean.”
Such recalled her son’s reaction to seeing John Boyega as Finn in the most recent set of Star Wars movies, saying “Finn has hair like me.”
“That’s when I realized, yo, that stuff makes the biggest difference,” she told the crowd. “It really matters.”
“Black Panther” takes place in Wakanda, an African country that was never colonized, and grew into a futuristic society untouched by institutional racism. For many in attendance, like local activist Quincy “Q” Shannon, that unbridled potential realized on screen was also reason to be excited.
Blackness has long been represented in pop culture by negative images, he said. For black people young and old to be reflected on the big screen in such supremely positive light, he said “is just phenomenal.”
The film also breaks from normal superhero narrative structure in that it features an entire community of extraordinary humans, not just a lone, brooding hero like we’re used to. This has the effect of inviting viewers to see themselves as a piece of a larger whole; when people showed up to Alamo, many were dressed not as principal characters but as their own, personally imagined Wakandan characters.
“What I love about Black Panther is that he’s not a superhero who’s in it for fame,” Shannon said. “He does it because he wants to protect his community, and I identify with that.”
CORRECTION: Su Charles’ name has been changed to her stage name, Such, throughout.