Former first lady Michelle Obama praised the hit movie “Black Panther” on Monday, saying it allows young people to “finally see superheroes that look like them on the big screen.”
“I know it will inspire people of all backgrounds to dig deep and find the courage to be heroes in their own stories,” Obama tweeted.
It’s not surprising that Obama addressed the movie’s representation of minorities, because she talked about the important issue as first lady. In a 2016 interview with Variety, for example, she explained the need for diversity in entertainment, and the crucial role it plays for children.
“For so many people, television and movies may be the only way they understand people who aren’t like them … People who come from intact families who are educated, who have values, who care for their kids, who raise their kids — if you don’t see that on TV, and you don’t live in communities with people like me, you never know who we are, and you can make and be susceptible to all sorts of assumptions and stereotypes and biases, based on nothing but what you see and hear on TV,” Obama said. “So it becomes very important for the world to see different images of each other, so that, again, we can develop empathy and understanding.”
She added: “There are still millions of people who live in communities where they can live their whole lives not having contact or exposure with people who aren’t like them, whether that is race or religion or simply lifestyle. The only way that millions of people get to know other folks and the way they live … is through the power of television and movies.”
Representation has been no small part of why “Black Panther” has been so well received, even before its release on Friday.
As The New York Times put it, “Black Panther” is “steeped very specifically and purposefully in its blackness.” Jamie Broadnax, founder of the online community Black Girl Nerds, told the Times that the film marks the “first time in a very long time that we’re seeing a film with centered black people, where we have a lot of agency” and noted that the characters “are rulers of a kingdom, inventors and creators of advanced technology.”
Additionally, Broadnax noted that the film doesn’t dwell on the “usual topics of acclaimed movies about the black experience,” like “black pain, and black suffering, and black poverty.”
Writer Jamil Smith pointed out in Time that the film doesn’t “dodge complicated themes about race and identity,” but instead “grapples head-on with the issues affecting modern-day black life.”
“It is also incredibly entertaining, filled with timely comedy, sharply choreographed action and gorgeously lit people of all colors,” Smith writes.
“Black Panther” is currently the most tweeted-about film of 2018, and grossed an estimated $192 million at North American movie box offices its opening weekend. The film’s take over for four-day holiday weekend is expected to top its $200 million budget.
“Black Panther” follows warrior T’Challa, who has been crowned king of the African nation Wakanda after his father’s death. T’Challa is forced to protect his people as both ruler and, you guessed it, Black Panther.