Rise in Representation
Many people have been raving about two new popular box office movies, Wonder Woman and Black Panther. While these films surpassed all expectations in viewer ratings, is that enough to say that there is finally equal representation in Hollywood films? Wonder Woman broke a million dollars opening weekend in the United States. Black Panther broke two million dollars during opening weekend in 2018. Both movies did very well, and many credit this to one having a strong female lead in a superhero movie and the other being the first superhero movie with a predominantly black cast.
Gal Gadot plays the title character in Wonder Woman, giving young girls a chance to finally see a strong, powerful, independent woman as the sole main character. The director of Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins, tweeted a list of comments one of the producers received outlining the positive effect this movie had on a kindergarten class. Young girls changed their birthday party themes from a stereotypical princess theme (that if often based around damsel-in-distress type characters) to a Wonder Woman theme; a group of young girls all deciding to be Amazons at recess. Rather than fight over who would be Wonder Woman, they worked together to defeat evil. If this one movie impacted just one kindergarten class in this way, imagine how the movement could shape these girls' futures. One kindergarten class. One movie that a has a female lead. One can only imagine the impact this type of movie could have on generations to come if movies like Wonder Woman continued to be made.
Black Panther incited a similar response in its young and adult audience. This movie is one of the first movies with an all-black cast that does not deal with black crime, oppression or poverty, but rather rulers of a kingdom, inventors and creators of advanced technology. This movie gave a fresh and new perspective of what a movie centered on what African American culture can be.
Twitter claimed that Black Panther was the most talked-about movie of 2017, despite not being released until 2018. Those tweets ranged from viral hashtags, plans of viewing parties and even talks of a fundraiser for a Boys and Girls Club to get a private showing of the movie. Black Panther has been a nationwide phenomenon that extends beyond the movie theater. It has started a dialogue and expressions of personal reflection of what it might mean for someone to be black in American society. The most powerful hashtag on the internet during the time of the Black Panther release date was, “#WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe.” This film gave people the courage and a platform to express personal connections they have with the overall message of this movie. Cast member Letitia Wright discussed in an interview with Teen Vogue that she believes Black Panther is an important movie for not only the black community but other minority groups as well because a black superhero movie that means there can be more Asian and Indian superheroes as well.
Do these two movies being released in such quick succession mean there is will be a permanent rise in representation in movies? Representation is definitely not equal yet, but it’s fair to say that it’s on its way. The impact these movies have had on our younger generations is what speaks volumes. These movies have provided confidence, positive role models, and a platform to talk about social issues. They have brought these issues forward to people who may not have been bothered by them before. Now, the topics are unavoidable. Giving a voice to people about subjects that are prevalent in our society is what will make a difference in our country and lead us in the direction we need to go to see equal representation in Hollywood.