It is no secret to anyone who knows us that the Husband has a slight (super powerful) obsession with the new Black Panther movie. I mean he is into it. We have an actual Black Panther lamp on his nightstand. I am not kidding. He also does own a Black Panther mask.
I understand that some people see this as a strange and childish connection. I mean, it is a comic book super hero - and not even a big one like Thor or Ironman or Captain America. The Black Panther is not really know by most average folks. He is more like the kind of character only the hardcore comic book readers know.
But tonight, the Family went to see the new Spiderman movie (which was pretty great, btw) and before it started they showed a Black Panther preview, and I really, really had to fight the urge to cheer. I am not even kidding. I wanted to stand up and shout, and yell out (sorry, Mom), "It's about damn time!" I didn't, bu it wasn't easy. You might think that's a bit much but have you seen the cast?
Look, maybe it passed you by, but the cast of the Black Panther is almost entirely black and that might not be a big deal to you, but it should be. I know, maybe you are thinking, "What's the big deal?" or "Well, duh? If you read the comic books, of course the cast is black." But I think we need to talk about representation, like for real.
My ten year old son, leaned forward toward the screen when that preview came on, and not just because he knows his Dad loves the Black Panther. When he looked up at the screen, he could see a hero in a movie that looked a lot like him, and his father. He looked up with biggest brown eyes you've ever seen and saw a man playing a HERO in a movie (for once) who is a defender, protector and an all-around upright guy. If you think that isn't a big deal, then you can't possible understand why a man who is a bit older than ten, would look up at the same screen and possibly for the first time in four decades, see himself there.
It was the same reason that my hard-line conservative friends couldn't understand why I held my then two-year old son close during a Presidential inauguration and told him, "See, he is just like you." There is no other time in history that I could tell him that, but I sure hope it is something he gets to see again - only next time I'd love for it to be someone who looks like his sister.
Representation is important, it feeds a place in the soul who's hunger you cannot understand unless you've been starving yourself. We watched the characters in Spiderman which includes an interracial couple -- just like ours, and it felt like looking at the world as it really is - not some washed out monochrome version of life. The Husband said he read some reviews on line complaining of the overt multiracial cast -- how lame. He couldn't believe that people would say things like that and it frustrates me to no end -- the reason things are becoming more multicultural on the screen is because art imitates life: Look around, families like mine are everywhere.
I remember with vivid clarity one of the first times the Husband, (then the Fiance) went out to diner up valley with me and my parents. People stared. I am not kidding. They were looking at us because we were unique. A few years later, I waited on a very nervous family who had just moved to the area. I commented on their young daughter who could have been my daughter's twin. The husband at the table glanced around the restaurant leaned forward and said, "You are married to a Brother?"
I laughed and said, "Yes."
His eyes grew wide. "And things are okay here? You are treated all right?"
I understood both his reaction and his surprise. It's not like you see a lot of different groups of people represented on the tourist info pages. But the world has changed, which is something my Grandfather used to tell me all the time. "This world has changed!" He would say. "You can't even believe how much it is changed."
Which brings me right back to the power of representation, maybe it doesn't matter to you that there is a movie with a black man as a hero, but it matters to tons of kids all over this globe. Maybe they didn't even know how much they longed to look up at that big screen and see themselves, but the moment he appeared they felt it. And maybe it shouldn't be that big of a deal - we should live in a world where representation is so common place that no one even notices, and people don't carry titles like, "First Female Action Lead", or "First African American President" or "First Interracial On-screen Kiss". Those titles do exist though.
The Husband and I were listening to an interview of Senator Cory Booker, the 4th African American senator since the reconstruction. Seriously. I can't even wrap my brain around the math and the LACK of representation. And there are a TON of factors that have resulted in this sparse representation, but I tell you one thing, and this is why you should care about it just as much as me and my family, you want to lead intelligent, honest young men and women toward a life of service and commitment to their country, you start by portraying them that way. When my good, kind-hearted, faithful, respectful strong Husband and his son look up at that screen and see the new Black Panther, they see a man of integrity just like them; a Prince willing to commit to the hard work of making this world a better place, and that kind of representation will change a Nation because as any comic book reader knows, the most important heroes start out as small boys with wide eyes looking up.
Keep moving forward,