Lewis J. White | Film Editor
On the 29th of August news broke that Chadwick Boseman had died at the age of 43 of stage three colon cancer. The actor, best known for his role as king T’Challa the Black Panther of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was beloved by many for his talent and humanity both on an off set. Many were lost for words and saddened by the actor’s untimely death, co-star of Black Panther (2018) Lupita Nyong’o wrote: “The news of his passing is a punch to my gut every morning…I didn’t know him for long, but he had a profound effect on me in the time that I did.” The effect Boseman’s death has had is palpable but perhaps the hardest hit is that on the Black community that found solace in Boseman’s work.
2020 has been a hard year, for everybody, but this year the Black community have faced an affront on all sides. From police brutality and murder, demonisation from the news and media, COVID-19 having a disproportionate impact on African Americans and now something that no one saw coming, something that may seem unimportant. The death of Black Panther.
When audiences first saw Boseman’s Black Panther on screen in Captain America: Civil War (2016) many had no idea of what was to come, they anticipated a solo film featuring the iconic African superhero – but the reality was far greater than one could have imagined. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther hit theatres in February 2018 and broke the world. Breaking cinematic records, grossing $1.29 billion at the global box office and then going on to win three Academy Awards and even be nominated for Best Picture – the first superhero movie in history to achieve such a nomination. Many found themselves in the world of Wakanda and saw, for the first time that as black men and women – their roles were not minute but in fact vast and powerful. Boseman was the face of this change, the first black lead in a superhero movie, the first time black audiences weren’t just side characters – they were the lead; the superhero.
In response, so many fans were enamoured with the world and the film itself, adoring Boseman’s acting and seeing him as irremovable and synonymous to Black Panther. Boseman was in fact a phenomenal actor outside of T’Challa. Featuring flawless performances in films such as 42 (2013), Marshall (2017) and most recently, but also sadly his final performance, in Spike Lee’s Da Five Bloods (2020). He will be remembered for delivering some of the best and most memorable performances all whilst struggling with cancer – making a name for himself in immeasurable pain.
Boseman’s legacy is far greater than Black Panther, but even if this is all you know him or will remember him as, let his power and talent continue as he goes down in history. And in times like this what we need more than ever is a powerful figure of black power like Black Panther to inspire us and implore us to change.