Black Panther film’s cultural impact

With over 15 feature length cinematic films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has amassed over $7.1 billion in the last 10 years, yet not one of those films have cast a person of color as the main protagonist — until now.

Marvel’s “Black Panther” is their newest feature film that is set to release on February 16. The title includes a majority of its main cast of African ethnic background, a first of its kind.

This has captured the attention of a lot of people, especially from some students and staff here at Oregon State University.

Jason Dorsett, the Associate Director of Diversity & Cultural Engagement, will be speaking prior to the screening of Black Panther on February 15th at the Lonnie. B Harris Black Cultural Center at 9:30 p.m.

“This film is so monumental and for many reasons, so when I was approached to speak about the film, I decided that I will center my talk around African Americans and black folk in cinema as well,” Dorsett said.

In Dorsett’s speech, he wants to express how the release of the film can make a crucial difference in communities and cinema industries around the world.

“I want to talk about how extremely important it is to see black or African American superheroes in film. As we think about cultural appropriations, Hollywood or the producers could’ve easily had a white male put on a mask and be depicted as the Black Panther.”

After his speech, students are invited to join Jason in previewing the movie at AMC Corvallis Theater. Tickets will be handed out at 10 p.m. and the movie starts at 11 p.m..

“I am a really excited about this film. I’m a Marvel comic person myself, I grew up reading a lot of comics. I love Batman, that’s my favorite.”

When Dorsett was growing up, he wanted to be like Batman. There were moments where he would try to dress like Batman, and in his mind he wanted the fictional character to become real. However, he was black. His hair was coarse and curly, whereas Batman’s hair was straight, and he was white.

“I was sort of the superhero I wanted to be, but sort of not,” Dorsett said.

Within Jason’s organization, they have a motto known as “What they see, is what they’ll be”. This is directed towards the kids who watch movies like Black Panther. He believes it provides additional inspiration, additional hope, makes the aspirational desires, and goes a bit more attainable because they can see someone that looks like them.

There are some people who have told Jason that he is the first African American they’ve ever seen. This surprised him, but he understood that people come from all part of the world.

“Corvallis is diverse, but we are not as diverse as certain cities as it relates to race. I think that this film will help all residents, all citizens of the fine city, and of Oregon State University to see African/African American folk differently,” Dorsett said. “We don’t see a lot of black superheroes, so I am going to celebrate Hollywood for doing this, but I am also going to challenge Hollywood to do more and to highlight (black) superheroes in a positive way. I appreciate the fact that Black Panther isn’t starting the movie out with this very deep dark narrative of a drug addict, bum, or worthless individual.”

Jason believes that the Black Panther comic is different from the civil rights activists in the 1960’s. The Black Panther party was action-oriented, whereas the comic has a make believe spin to it. To him, those are really two different things: real life and make believe.

Dorsett thought it was ironic that Marvel is releasing Black Panther on Black History Month.

“First off, black history is American history, so I celebrate it all year. Some people might think it’s a conspiracy, but I could care less, I’m just excited to see the movie.”

Jason thinks this movie is prime-time, and really helps them in terms of their efforts of creating a much more inclusive community. He said it reiterates everything that President Ed Ray and student leadership believe. It underscores their core values around embracing diversity, embracing cultural change and being bold.

“Yeah it’s just a movie, but it’s doing just that. Pictures can tell a thousand words,” Dorsett said.

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