At this point, I’m sure most of you know that actor Chadwick Boseman tragically passed away a few days ago at the age of 43, after a long bout with colon cancer. Everyone processes death and grief differently, but following the death of a celebrity that I like, I’m usually surprised and I think something like “Well, that really unfortunate. I’m sorry to see them go“. But on the rare occasions, there are celebrity deaths that genuinely upset me. Unfortunately, Chadwick Boseman’s death has been one of them. The last time I felt something real after the passing another of a public figure like this was when Robin Williams died. I’m in my mid-30s and I feel like, to a lot of people in my generation, Robin Williams was a real cultural icon growing up. Williams starred in some of the most important films of my formative years. The fact that Chadwick Boseman, whose career was almost just getting started, can hit me as hard as the death of an icon and legend like Robin Williams speaks to exactly how special Chadwick Boseman really was.
Obviously, I’m a massive comic book fan and I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One of the characters I most wanted to see on the big screen was Black Panther, he’s always been one of Marvel’s most interesting and compelling characters. Even though he has cool superhuman abilities and bad ass tech at his disposal, he isn’t fascinating because of his extraordinary powers. In fact, he’s one of the relatively weaker Avengers, at least when it comes to his power set. But like Batman in the DC Universe, Black Panther is arguably the most dangerous man alive in the Marvel Universe. Black Panther, or King T’Challa, is unique among other superheroes. Not only does he protects the world as an Avenger (and often the leader of The Avengers at that), but he’s also a king, who rules the most technologically advanced society on the planet. He’s a genius on par with Tony Stark or Bruce Banner. He’s the guy who would make the tough calls when the shit really hit the fan. However, there was always an innate compassion and humanity to the character that added a whole additional layer of heroic depth.
Marvel found the perfect actor to embody this character in Chadwick Boseman. The actor perfectly portrayed T’Challa’s brilliance as a tactician and warrior. He was regal and he carried himself with all of the strength and dignity that was necessary to bring this incredible figure to life. Boseman has already given us so much from this character to look back on and enjoy. I was extremely excited to see what he and Marvel were going to do with the character next.
Of course, Chadwick Boseman’s performance as Black Panther had a whole other meaning to millions of people around the world, that I can never understand. It cannot be understated how culturally important Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther was to people of color all over the world. There had never been a superhero movie like Black Panther, with a black lead, an almost entirely black cast , and a black crew behind the camera. I’ve heard so many people say that both Chadwick Boseman and King T’Challa were both role models to so many children around the world. I believe with all my heart that stories give people hope, they show them what they can be, and what they can achieve. With the wrong actor it might not have worked, but Chadwick Boseman was simply the man for the job. Clearly, off screen he was a man of incredible character and integrity. He radiated confidence, poise, grace, and humility. Through his incredible talent he was able to play characters as different as Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, James Brown, and King T’Challa. It was nothing short of extraordinary that he brought so many important figures from black culture to life, even the fictional ones. The tragedy of his death is that Chadwick Boseman was just getting started. He was one of the greats in the making. More importantly, he seemed like a genuinely wonderful human being and the world is a little less bright without him in it. I think we can take solace in the fact that, in his all too short time on Earth, he touched billions of lives for the better. How few people can say that? To do all of it while he was fighting cancer showed his indomitable courage. The worst of this disease hit him during his time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but he still gave us one of the most memorable characters, in a series of films with dozens of iconic characters. He truly stood out among the pack. To do all of this, while going through what he did, is incredibly brave. Chadwick Boseman showed us all how stories can change the world. That will be his legacy. Wakanda forever.
“Reed Richards: T’Challa, if this doesn’t work… If we fail, then that will mean this is the end, and… Black Panther: And then I will see you on the other side, my friend. Trust me. Death is just a different kind of journey… To the land that I am King.” – Secret Wars #7 (2015)
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