“Black Panther” made it on the cover of “Time” magazine, and here’s why that’s so important

The importance of seeing yourself in the stories being told in mainstream movies and media can’t really be overstated. For many women, watching Gal Gadot walk into a war zone in 2017’s Wonder Woman with the confidence and strength they’d only seen in movies about white male heroes was emotional. For black audiences, Black Panther is poised to offer a similarly game-changing experience — and that crucial shift in representation isn’t just happening in theaters.

Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman appears on the cover of Time magazine this week, paired with a story about the cultural significance of the Marvel movie (out February 16th). It’s apparently the first time a Marvel movie has made the magazine’s cover, and the fact that it’s *this* Marvel movie is further proof that Black Panther is a big deal — and long overdue.

As writer Jamil Smith describes in his Time cover story, Black Panther‘s release is not only momentous because it marks the first time an African-American director (Ryan Coogler) has led a movie of this scale with a predominantly black cast, but because it’s a really good movie and people of all races are eager to see it.  The film initially earned a coveted 100% percent from critics on Rotten Tomatoes (the film now sits at 98%), and it broke Fandango’s record for first quarter pre-sale ticket sales.

For decades, “black movies” have been marketed as a specialized genre, Smith writes, while movies starring white casts have long been assumed to be the mainstream default.

Black Panther could change all that.

"Those of us who are not white have considerably more trouble not only finding representation of ourselves in mass media and other arenas of public life, but also finding representation that indicates that our humanity is multi­faceted," Smith writes. "Relating to characters onscreen is necessary not merely for us to feel seen and understood, but also for others who need to see and understand us."

Boseman showed up on Time this week, his co-star Michael B. Jordan is featured on GQ‘s cover, and stories about the movie and its significance are being featured in countless other corners of the media. That this movie stars a black superhero and a black cast is being noted, of course, but more than that, people are pinpointing the fact that a superhero deliberately depicts his black identity as part of the movie’s magnetizing power.

"It’s a movie about what it means to be black in both America and Africa — and, more broadly, in the world. Rather than dodge complicated themes about race and identity, the film grapples head-on with the issues affecting modern-day black life," Smith writes. "It is also incredibly entertaining, filled with timely comedy, sharply choreographed action and gorgeously lit people of all colors."

The conversations surrounding Black Panther‘s release shine a light on how much Hollywood gains — culturally and financially — when it opens its blockbusters up beyond white male storylines, and features actors and moviemakers it has traditionally overlooked for high-profile projects. Boseman’s cover story will help people continue talking about these issues, and that can only make things better moving forward.

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