The release of Disney’s Marvel Comics’ film Black Panther was a world-wide event. Black moviegoers dressed up, coordinated dances, and took pictures of themselves doing the “Wakandan salute.” Black people all over the world celebrated the superhero film not only for having nearly entire cast of African and African American actors and actresses, but also in its commitment to telling a story rooted in questions ongoing within the African Diaspora and for having a multitude of representations of kinds of Blackness. Additionally, the film’s director and co-writer, Ryan Coogler, ensured that much of the production itself was led by Black producers and designers. The film and its production highlighted the lack of representation of Black people in the major Hollywood blockbuster film genre and in Hollywood more generally.
In this lecture, we’ll contextualize the film Black Panther by considering its place within the history of representations of Blackness in the film industry in the U.S. I’ll introduce you to critical theories of race and representation, and together consider what we think it means for Disney and Marvel Comics to be in the business of representing Blackness to the world.