The Black Panther: It's Black Y'all
Typically, as Valentine's Day approaches, we talk about the type of love between one man and one woman. The type of love that can lead to engagement rings, marriages, and ultimately children. Very heteronormative and traditional, I know. While this love is lovely and held in high regard, I want to make sure that we’re also including other types of relationships. 1. The romantic relationship love of any type: Women with women, men with men, women with men, and people alone. 2. The love we have for family (chosen or blood). 3. The love we have for our friends. But for this special Valentine’s Day, we are not talking romantic or familial types of love. We are talking about the love of Black people. Because like Issa Rae said, "I’m rooting for everybody Black." What better time to root for everyone that’s Black, than right now in Black History Month!
Often times, self-love is seen as something that is ancillary or has no real purpose when we are talking about love in general. It is assumed that people are just supposed to love themselves, no question. We forget that self love and pride are HARD to do when you feel like you haven’t been given anything to shine on. MEANWHILE, we talk about earning the love of another person with whom we would like to spend our life as the only love worth considering. Like I said, that type of love has merit, but for this Black History Month, I want to focus on self love and the love of a people.
What I know and what I’ve researched, says that representation in media matters. When people see themselves in various roles on tv and in movies, they believe that they themselves can achieve something that is beyond what they know. OR at the very least feel a sense of pride that people who look like them are being considered and chosen for big roles. Think about it this way, before some folks saw Gabby Douglas Douglas, they figured gymnastics was for everyone who wasn’t Black. Before Michael Jackson, Black people felt like they could only be relegated to R&B, not pop. Before the Obamas, a Black child may have dreamed about one day being the President of the U.S., but most never really thought it was a possibility.
Black people have often been relegated to seeing our people on the news cast in the role of murderer, thief, vagrant, drug dealer, and with stunning regularity, murder victim. I am not saying we don’t have movies in which we are featured. I am saying those movies are often labeled “Black” Films and snubbed at the mostly white award shows. But I feel like we have been on a roll! Hidden Figures came to mind for me! And now this BLACK HISTORY MONTH we get our own Marvel movie: The Black Panther!! The best part is that this movie, that is not even out yet, seems to be Blackity Black Black! But the real BONUS is that It’s already outsold other Marvel films!
But ask yourself WHY? Why is THIS Marvel film already poised to outsell the others? What makes this one so special? I think it’s because of what I already said. Black people are starved to find themselves in fantastical roles where they can show a RANGE of emotions. To feel and display more than the anger that has often been ascribed to us. To see more than a few celebrated light-skinned African Americans gracing the screen, or to see white people who have been made up to look racially ambiguous, take roles that could have gone to people of color. Black people are proud to see not only a representation of them, but also to see that these people look like them. Black people of all shades are going to be in the Black Panther movie. People of all hair textures and styles. Both Black men and Black women, not a lone Black person (ahem, Will Smith).
This prose could easily be taken as something that is not inclusive of all people. To that I say Stop it. This is about celebrating young boys and girls, adults, and those in between, who are beyond excited to see The Black Panther. There is an excitement for a movie whose budget is finally somewhere useful, with producers and a cast that will make it something for the Black folk who will see it. It’s almost similar in feeling, but far surpassing, the frenzy of the latest Wonder Woman movie. Just like people (usually people who identify as ‘men’) in Hollywood thought that a woman in the lead couldn’t hold a role that would garner critical acclaim nor green money, Black movies have also been relegated to the back burner (granted, it is much harder if you are a Black woman movie, intersection matters). But Disney, who OWNS Marvel is using what some have called “white” dollars to make a movie with a Black writer and a Black Director with a Black cast. Isn’t that almost the definition of Blackity Black-Black?
And because most Marvel movies have a villain, we will have Black villains BUT we will have Black heroes. We will have brave people and we will have cowards. We will be able to see the full range of Black people. We will be able to see more than the negative perceptions that have often been foisted on all people, white and Black. Being able to see people in a different way, leads to open minds. Leads to people being able to consider that just because you saw one Black criminal in your life, does not hold that all Black people are criminals. We are many varied, and diverse.
But How is this related to mental health Doc? I don't get it!
Self esteem, self pride, and self love are important parts that make up a person's mental wellbeing and health. What it seems to mean for Black folk right now, is a bolster of pride, Black love, and self-love, as people re-examine what they know and add to their list of Black characters. I see more Black cosplayers shining bright, grinning, and happy to have more Black characters to choose from. I see pride in the faces of Black children who are excited to see this film. There is a re-examining of what is beautiful and an expansion of that definition as well. You can be dark, have extremely curly hair, short hair, full lips, dark eyes, and still be beautiful. I’m seeing it happen. It walks into my office. I hear people talking about it. I see people considering it. I see people comparing themselves to it and being happy with what they are seeing. We have so much pride in fact, that if it turns out this movie sucks, you won’t be hearing it from us.
From the Doc, a Reflective Question: What movies made you feel a sense of pride? Or changed the way you say yourself? Why?
Booking Dr. Donna for therapy to work on your self-esteem is EASY, click here to start the process that leads to loving you from the top of your head, to the soles of your feet!