Why it’s Important to Let Black Panther Live Despite Chadwick Boseman’s Untimely Death
The sudden announcement of Chadwick Boseman’s untimely death was a huge blow to the Black Community. His portrayal of T’Challa, the King of Wakanda otherwise known as the Black Panther, gave people in general and black children in particular someone to look up to as a hero. He gave hope that Black people could be depicted as superheroes thatwe all can be proud of — expanding the art of the possible for black boys and girls around the world. Black Panther introduced the African diaspora to many Black Americans who were not familiar to the rich cultures of their ancestral home, Africa. The fictional country of Wakanda is wealthy in culture, resources, and technology — much like real African countries of the past and some today. Tribes able to unite for common interests yet able to maintain their individual identities, cultures, and traditions.
Many people took the news of Chadwick Boseman’s death very hard. Children in tears, photos and memes of action figures surrounding Black Panther in a form of a funeral, and adults seeing their own fragile mortality. He was so young and for four years he fought stage three colon cancer without the public knowing about it. While the news of the actor’s death is heartbreaking, I would argue that his fictional character should continue to endure. Don’t kill Black Panther as well. For the sake of context, the remainder of this conversation is focused on the cinematic character Black Panther, not Chadwick Boseman.
Many are familiar with the origin story of Black Panther from the comics and the cinema screen. The Black Panther never really dies. It is a mantle for the protector of Wakanda, passed down generationally from parent to child or mentor to mentee. It can also be passed via challenge with the victor assuming the mantle. Black Panther is not a person. Rather, he or she is sort of reincarnated into the ranks of chosen warriors that transcend decades of Wakandan history. On the silver screen, T’Challa assumed the role after his father was killed in Captain America: Civil War. Because he was the son of the previous king the mantle was passed down along with the crown. In Black Panther he actually lost his position,albeit temporarily, to his newly discovered cousin, Eric Killmonger. Technically T’Challa was killed during the challenge but brought back and reclaimed his position. Like the crown, Black Panther is a mantle of responsibility; intended to protect the people and interests of Wakanda. In the comics, he along with other heroes die multiple times and then are eventually brought back, all while introducing a new hero to hold the title temporarily.
In the real world Black Panther II was set to start filming in 2021 with a scheduled release of 2022. Several fans are demanding that no other actor is recast to play the character and that the Black Panther should die along with Chadwick Boseman. I would argue the mantle should continue like all the other comic book heroes — honoring both the character and the actor who portrayed him. In the movie industry, comic book characters are taken over by a new actor every couple of years — often as a reboot. Examples include but are not limited to Batman, Spiderman, and Superman. Others may use Wolverine as an example to not recast the actor. But many don’t understand the politics behind the scenes in the movie industry.
Don’t let the real world death of a symbolic king and actual hero deprive future generations of Black children of an example to look up too. There are already too few heroes of color on the big screen. Let Black Panther live on through another actor or actress. During an interview Chadwick himself disclosed he is not T’Challa or the Black Panther. The character should not be exclusively his. Since comic book stories and character deaths are never permanent Disney and Marvel have a lot of range on writing the character’s story and plot. This would not be disrespect; rather, it is a way to continue the legacy the first movies brought to the people. We must be realistic; there is the person/ actor and then there is a fictional character. Both are not the same. As parents we must remind ourselves and children the two are not the same. In the end it’s up to the studio executives to balance staying true to the source material, appeasing the fans, and continuing the legacy.
My deepest condolences to the family and close friends of Chadwick Boseman. May his legacy of purity and kindness for others continue to be an example for many to follow and adopt. Let the Black Panther live on and establish a legacy that transcends film into real life. To come together as a collective and carve out a real-world Wakanda for our future generations that celebrates our culture, our history, and our potential to be great
Wakanda Forever! Black Panther Forever!