Black Mental Health

Black Panther: A Mental Health Perspective

February 21, 2018

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The Ryan Coogler film, Black Panther, has been breaking records and making waves in the media. A Marvel Entertainment big budget superhero movie that is set squarely in the Marvel cinematic universe (Black Panther is an Avenger) but has become a movement all its own. As a movie buff and a big superhero fan, the excitement and anticipation for that movie was so inspiring to watch, and just plain fun to be a part of.

The movie sports an almost all black cast, with strong individual characters, and clearly depicts the African continent in all its glory. The movie covers so many different themes from self-identity, power, family, betrayal, forgiveness, tradition, modernism, futurism, politics, and so much more. I saw the movie a few times during opening weekend in different locations and it was interesting to observe the various audience reactions to the movies. In the urban and mixed areas, the reactions to the movies were relaxed, engaging, and responsive throughout the movie. In the suburban area, the audience was reserved and quiet, barely laughing at the jokes.

As a therapist, there were more than enough of themes in this movie that affect the mental health of the black community. So, I realized that I had to write a post on this moment in pop and black culture.

Spoiler Alert – Please note that the post below contains spoilers from the movie!!


Mental Health Perspective

Black Men – Can we talk about the power of seeing black men in positions of power and authority? In the movie, T’Challa is a black prince who becomes a king. The black men in the movie are seen with grace, humor (M’Baku), authority, power, and self-control. They are not shown as the media tends to portray black men – as criminals or social outcasts.

Love – There are different variations on the theme of love. There is romantic love between T’Challa and Nakia. Nakia also shows her devotion and loyalty to T’Challa by protecting his family. There is romantic love between Okoye and W’Kabi. And even a bit of spiritual love between Ramonda and T’Chaka, underscoring that love can surpass death. There is, of course, familial love in the form of parent and child, and sibling love. There is also an essential point that is highlighted in love of country, spawning the hashtag “#Wakandaforever,” which show the characters fighting for what they believe in at all costs.

Technology – In reality, blacks occupy a small percentage in technology. In Wakanda, the country flourishes with technological advances powered by vibranium. Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, is the brains behind all of this. We get the chance to see a nation of blacks thriving and flourishing instead of being viewed as the ones always seeking aid.

Royalty – Black Panther gives us the chance to see a family of black royalty, something that probably hasn’t been seen since the Eddie Murphy movie, Coming to America. What does it do to little boys and girls seeing a family that looks like them, governing their nation with beauty and grace?

Black Women – The women in this movie are just incredible. They are complex, devoted, beautiful, strong, vulnerable, and powerful. The men may rule in this movie, but the women are their equals. They are not standing behind powerful men but standing with them. The flawless way in which the women fulfil their roles without question from the men is doubly special because it is clearly part of their identities. Coogler talked about the importance of women in the black communities and this is demonstrated clearly in the movie. Black women appeared graceful, proud, adaptable, powerful, and feminine. Let us also address the fact that we now have a real Disney princess! Shuri is royalty by birth and is a woman who is witty, technologically savvy, wonderful sister/daughter, and clearly comfortable in herself.

Mental Health Impact

What does it do for the black community to see ourselves portrayed as powerful, beautiful, self-governing, and advanced? Black Panther showcases an African country that is vibrant and colorful with beautiful prints and colors, detailed jewelry, embellished outfits that told their own stories. Then, the relationships are complicated and beautiful. The characters are clear on their purposes in life and live their conviction throughout the movie.

Black people got to see themselves in a world where colonization never happened. We had the opportunity to see what it is like to know our history, to be the storytellers of our history, to be proud of what we represent without prejudice and shame from others who want to be in control of our narratives. In the movie, Africa is seen as this majestic and proud place instead of the stereotypical narrative that the continent needs to be saved, as do all blacks. In addition, dark-skinned complexions were celebrated along with natural hair, thick lips, and curvy bodies. These concepts have clearly been adopted by the black community as there were various reports of people fully dressed in traditional attire attending the film’s premiere.

Black Panther is a celebration for the black community because it showed us all what a thriving black nation could look. likeClick To Tweet

Black Panther is a celebration for the black community because it showed us all what a thriving black nation could look like. It has mental health impact because it embraced black culture, black beauty, black power, black hair, and the black body and showed us what it could look like if we accepted ourselves instead of judging ourselves based on narratives given to us by others who want to tell our stories.

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