I don't remember when I first heard that the movie was coming; it's kind of a blur. All I know is, I was immediately filled with excitement — and I'm not even into superhero movies like that. But just the whisper of this movie and the people signed on to it — Ryan Coogler, Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong'o — I was so ready.
Cut to February 2018, Black History Month no less: I finally get to see the film and that initial excitement is still as potent. I took my 9-year-old son to see it, eager for him to witness a grand hero who also happens to be a Black man. But I left with so much more. This movie is not just a must-see because it's entertaining, it's also edifying and serves up many valuable lessons for parents and kids of all colors and cultures.
Here are just seven reasons why parents should take their older children (it is PG-13) to see Black Panther.
1. It's a good story.
There's power in storytelling. It's at the core of what makes humans, human. And the Black Panther movie is storytelling at its finest. The film is a moving, relatable story about family, tradition, conflict, and change. All of this unfolds in a most inspired, visually stunning (the beauty of the African nation of Wakanda alone makes you wish you could fly there tomorrow), action-packed, emotionally-charged way. This movie expertly demonstrates how to keep an audience hooked from "once upon a time" right up to "the end/a new beginning," and have them begging for more.
2. It opens a window onto a different world.
Black Panther's director Ryan Coogler once said in an interview, "Everybody's a prisoner of their own perspective." Truth! We are all limited by our imaginations and can only see the world through our own POV. Black Panther breaks down those limitations and gives you an opportunity to see the other side of someone's experience, to move through the world in their skin. It creates a deeper sense of empathy, compassion, and understanding to what another person's life means. Wakanda may be fictional, but how we feel about the themes it delves into is very real.
3. It proves that representation matters.
A blockbuster movie with a Black hero and majority Black cast was long overdue. That Black Panther is further underscores this point. And it being a smart, compelling comic book movie starring an African superhero is even more significant, because the genre doesn't typically feature Black lives or Black culture at the center of anything. It's important and empowering for children of color to see themselves in these characters writ large and projected on Hollywood screens instead of pushed to the margins of the main story.
The other side of this inclusion and diversity coin on display in this movie is strong, feminist characters in the lead. One prominent example: T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has an all-female squad of powerhouse warriors called the Dora Milaje that you do not want to meet in dim corner any time of day. None of the women in this movie — and there are many — falls into the tired sexist traps that we've seen in countless movies. Not one of them is expendable or arm candy or waiting to be rescued by a man. It's refreshing, commendable, and makes it really difficult to go back to old movie tropes.
4. It shows healthy, respectful relationships.
From Black Panther/T'Challa and Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o)'s sweet connection and the teasing, but loving back-and-forth with his younger sister Shuri (Leititia Wright) to the unmistakable trust BP has in his "right hand," Wakanda's fiercest warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira) to even the underlying reverence that exists between T'Challa and his adversaries like M'Baku, the relationships in this movie are rooted in respect and honor.
5. It demonstrates that you can have thrilling action without gore and gratuitous violence.
The movie's rating is PG-13. While an 8- or 9-year-old would be fine (the s-word does get dropped once or twice), the journey to Wakanda might not be as appropriate for the toddler set. But one of the things that I appreciated as a mom accompanied by my mini moviegoer buddy is that while the action is electric, there's no gratuitous violence or blood and gore to set young ones on edge. To quote my son, "That was most action-packed thing I've ever seen in my entire life!"
6. It honors traditions and history.
Even though the movie explores and celebrates Afrofuturism, it also pays deep respect to African traditions from different tribes and indigenous people, giving the audience an authentic history lesson spanning the continent. From the specific color palettes and details of the crowns, cloaks, uniforms, and designs worn by the characters to the isiXhosa (one of South Africa's 11 official languages) the Wakandans spoke, gave the movie a healthy dose of verisimilitude.
7. It shows how to be a thoughtful leader without being a bully.
With T'Challa ascending to the throne after his father's death, he continues to lean hard on diplomacy and collaboration and doing right by the people of Wakanda. He listens instead of lashing out. Even when he comes face to face with the criminal responsible for his father's murder, the Black Panther opts to spare the man's life, thinking about "the eyes of the world" watching his actions now as the new king. (We could use altruistic leaders like that in the real world right about now!)
Nicole Blades is a novelist, speaker, and journalist. Her latest book, , is out now.