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Black Panther

Black Panther

An exploration of the artistic and political importance of a pioneering film.

Series: 21st Century Film Essentials

June 2022
Not yet published
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256 pages | 5 x 7 |

Black Panther was the first Black superhero in mainstream American comics and the first to star in a major franchise movie. Black Panther broke box office records to become the highest grossing film from a Black director. Yet it wasn’t just a movie led by Black artists—including its predominantly Black cast—but one that grappled with ideas and conflicts relevant to Black life in America. It helped redress the racial dynamics of the Hollywood blockbuster, satisfying superhero fans while attracting new audiences who were thrilled to see a hero that “looked like them.”

Esteemed media scholar Scott Bukatman examines the character and the movie, arguing for the utopianism of the superhero genre and the particular power of Black Panther. He considers the superheroic Black body; the Pan-African fantasy, feminism, and Afrofuturism of Wakanda; and the African American relationship to Africa, both historical and imagined. Bukatman further argues that understanding director Ryan Coogler’s earlier movies and the performances of Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan are central to understanding the subtleties of the movie’s fantasy of liberation and social justice. Black Panther is escapism of the best kind, demonstrating the power of popular culture to articulate ideals and raise questions—whether broadly humanist or with especial importance for its Black creators and audiences.

  • Preface
  • Introduction: Tell Me a Story
  • The Road to Wakanda
  • Black Panther’s Black Body
  • The Wakandan Dream
  • The Killmonger Problem
  • Conclusion: Why Do We Hide?
  • Appreciations
  • Notes
  • Index

Scott Bukatman is a professor of Film and Media Studies at Stanford University. He is the author of Hellboy's World: Comics and Monsters on the Margins, Blade Runner, The Poetics of Slumberland: Animated Spirits and the Animating Spirit, Matters of Gravity: Special Effects and Supermen in the 20th Century, and other works on film and comics.