Temple students, faculty hopeful for ‘Black Panther’ Oscar win

The movie is nominated for Best Picture at Sunday’s 91st Academy Awards.

The “Black Panther” played at select AMC theaters during the first week of Black History Month. The film is nominated for Best Picture at the 91st Academy Awards on Sunday. | DYLAN LONG / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The “Black Panther” era is far from over. 

The film is back in the spotlight thanks to an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture and will have the chance to snag the honor at the 91st Oscars on Sunday. 

During the first week of February, Disney offered free screenings of the film nationwide in select AMC Theatres locations to celebrate Black History Month and the release of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s graphic novel “Black Panther Book 6: The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda Part 1” on Feb. 5.

The “Black Panther” movie, based off the Marvel comic book series, tells the story of T’Challa becoming king of fictional Wakanda after his father’s death. Coates, an author and National Book Award winner, relaunched the Black Panther comic in 2016, and the debut issue ranked as the best-selling comics of the year. The popular film ranked as the second-highest grossing film of 2018, bringing in more than $1.3 billion. 

The film featured clothing from Walé Oyéjidé, a 2010 Beasley School of Law alumnus who owns an African-inspired clothing line.

Many Temple University students value “Black Panther” for shaking up race representation on-and-off camera in Hollywood. Oscars viewers have previously slammed the awards show for its lack of diversity, and Twitter exploded with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite in response to the 2016 show.

“Black Panther” could win the highest award for movies on Sunday, and is the first movie based on a comic book series to be nominated. 

“Black Panther” fans like junior film and media arts major Hann McEwen appreciate the film for the cast and crew’s diversity.  

“When we talk about the representation of people of color, usually we only see it through actors,” McEwen said. “While that’s amazing with Black people seeing themselves on screen, it’s also important to note that we have something to do behind the scenes, too.” 

The movie was especially powerful because it avoided stereotypes, she added.

“It didn’t use any Black film troupes,” McEwen said. “The fact that we can have a movie that doesn’t default to stereotypes or problematic tropes or things that ultimately hurt the Black community is great.”

To combat stereotypes of Black people in film, “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler told Time Magazine in 2018 that he wanted to highlight identity as it related to being of African descent. So, he took a trip to Kenya and South Africa to capture the idea.

Hollywood does not equally represent each group of people, said Aaron X. Smith, an Africology and African American Studies professor. By seeing it on screen, he said it inspires people of all groups to feel empowered. 

“Everybody deserves a hero,” Smith said. “You should be able to look at someone and be like, ‘I can be great. I can still reach my potential no matter what.’”

Smith added that Black people have not just been left out of stories — they’ve been caricatured and misrepresented in media.

“When ‘Black Panther’ comes out, not only are you there, you’re there in mass and you’re there on equal footing with other similar productions in terms of budget,” Smith said. “It’s putting Africa in a positive light.”

Senior mathematics and technology major Sarah Hafer said in addition to diversity, “Black Panther” shows viewers new perspectives on gender inclusivity.

“It was a really good example showing Black culture in a very positive light, and also showing not just strong Black male characters but strong Black female characters, which I think is something important which we don’t see too often,” Hafer added.

“Black Panther” has not only captured the importance of representation, but also good storytelling. Digital designer and illustrator JT Waldman commended the film’s ability to take the typical origin story and make it unique.

“It took the genre of superhero films and made it interesting because it was telling it from a different angle [and] that for me is a difficult formula to crack,” said Waldman, who curated the College of Liberal Arts’s “Graphic Thinking” Conference in Fall 2017 about how comics and graphic illustrations can be used to investigate social questions. “It stands on the shoulders of other people and it stands on its own.”

McEwen is hopeful the film will win at Sunday’s Academy Awards, but said she respects the movie regardless of the outcome. 

“No matter what happens, it’s truly owned its place as being a great piece of cinema, and that’s something I’ll always be happy about, something I’ll always be proud of,” McEwen said.

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