As a young black female, the lack of representation for those who look like myself in the media, television and in film is shocking.
I didn’t grow up with black Barbies being the norm. I definitely didn’t look like Hannah Montana. I didn’t even have the sleek silk press that our favourite psychic friend, Raven, did. As a result of this, I’ve grown up yearning to see my own image reflected in the platforms that I digest on a daily basis. You get tired of moulding and remoulding yourself to please a society that has already made its mind up about you.
In rolls 2018 and I’m still finding that nasty taste in my mouth that lingers after I’ve scrolled through my social feeds, feeling deflated by their absence of diversity. I’m bored of seeing the Kardashians and the Jenners with their synthetic figures, the ‘Instagram baddies’ whose lips now resemble those of the women who were shamed because of theirs for centuries. Where are the women who were born this way? I know they’re out there. Then I remember, that glimmer of hope in the form of Black Panther, a film with a cast that Jeremy Vine described (albeit innocently) as having “an overwhelmingly black cast’. Oh, Jeremy, we get you and still love you.
Watching Black Panther, I felt something that I’ve never felt before while watching a film. Sitting next to my younger sister, I thought to myself: “Yes. A thousand times yes. This is exactly what we need”. The cast of this blockbuster is overwhelmingly black, but in all the right ways. From the stunning tribal wear to the hustle and bustle of Wakanda’s streets, Ryan Coolger’s film is one that exists to empower, putting a long overdue spotlight on black culture. There are whispers that Disney will be pushing it at next year’s Oscars – and why the hell shouldn’t they?
Seeing twist outs, bantu knots and the shaved head of Danai Gurira showcased unapologetically on the cinema screen filled me with an overwhelming pride. It is a film that I will be sure to show my children – and their children – in order to keep that pride alive and to fill their imaginations with the material to go on and be the best that they can be. It may only be a comic book, but it’s a damn important one at that.
These beautiful, ethereal, strong, intelligent black men and women will be the first figures that younger generations will see, allowing them to see that their heritage is nothing to be ashamed of, but something to embrace and own with every atom of their being. Black Panther has set the trail well and truly blazing for black representation and I cannot wait to see what happens next.
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Words by Claudia Knight