Pop Culture Happy Hour, Day 24: Black Panther
Inspired by NPR, every day (gulp) from December 1st to 24th, I will be highlighting
a pop culture moment from this year that I loved. It's the final day, and I talk about Black Panther.
I write this sitting on the kitchen sink. Well, not really the kitchen sink, but on my sofa, a little tired after the pre-Christmas rush, halfway into my I've-long-stopped-counting rewatch of To All the boys I've loved before. (it's actually very festive. I'm generally not a fan of Christmas films but a big fan of a self-insert Christmas film. Truly a master of all genres, that little Netflix gem).
As much as I love stories in any form and reflect often on the impact that many had on me and my worldview, sometimes I think that the volume I consumed, especially when I was younger, did more harm than good. I read and watched a lot of stories about pretty white people, and consequently, as many have said before me, I thought they were the only type of heroes, the only ones who could have fleshed out characters, the only ones who could have gratifying character arcs, the only one who could get the guy or the girl. And implicitly, for a long time, some of that mentality seeped into my own life, my own sense of self and self-worth, what I believe I could ask for. There's a lot in that - body image, race, and gender wise, all intersecting, so of course it's not as simple as a transfer of ideas. But there's something to be said for being left out of something you love dearly. Even this pop culture advent calendar is quite white. And some of that is on me, but not all.
It's hard to believe that Black Panther came out this year. It’s so long been part of the pop culture lexicon, that it feels like it came out years ago. But it did, and it was a box office and cultural juggernaut for many reasons.
I enjoy the MCU and I really loved Black Panther as a film. I loved the Wakanda jokes and memes, the thirst, the Halloween costumes, the many careers it solidified and made. The fact that it did so well, even better than the already high expectations. But really, even before all of this, what I truly cherished was the glee from black people about being centre stage. I watched it in the Genesis Cinema in Bethnal Green with an almost all black audience and had the privilege of watching a Q&A with Letitia Wright afterwards.
When I read something I so directly relate to, I often gasp to myself, like I’m a 67 year old woman called Maeve. I’ve only ever had that a few times in my life. Watching Black Panther for the first time was like that x 1000. I’m not a supernatural superhero in a sick panther suit, but Wakanda, and all its nods to West African and other African cultures, was a real tri to watch. The sheer joy, thirst, recognition and glee from the audience was palpable, and was just so wonderful to be a part of. I don’t want to have that experience many more times because I really hope I have that kind of experience again because I want it to be more commonplace to see ourselves and our experiences on screen and the page, but it was undoubtedly an amazing one.
Thank you for reading my pop culture advent calendar. I truly didn’t think I’d make it this far but here we are. I hope you have a happy and peaceful festive period.