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Can I take my kid to Black Panther? A Parents’ Guide

A Parents Guide to Black Panther

Black Panther: The Movie America Needs

The expectations for Marvel’s Black Panther film are high. The Black Panther comics have frequently touched on race relations, he fought the KKK in the mid-seventies, and the never-colonized Wakanda is seen as an allegory for real-world Ethiopia. The current run of the comics by journalist (The Atlantic, Time, The Village Voice) and best-selling author (Between the World and Me, We Were Eight Years in Power) Ta’ Nehisi Coates is highly acclaimed, and many have made comparisons of Coates’ T’Challa to Barack Obama. Lack of representation and whitewashing are finally becoming part of our public discourse, and our current political climate is not one that is friendly to black people (frankly, America, in general, is not friendly to black people). So in this world we’re in, how would Marvel – a company known for feel-good superhero romps, deal with a character that has been pretty political – he is the leader of a nation, after all – since his debut?

I think they did it really well. (The huge disclaimer here is that these are the opinions of a white lady.) Much of the film’s conflict revolves around how black people around the world are subjugated, denied resources, and kept down by their governments. The filmmakers did not shy away from calling out colonialism, the war on drugs, and other crimes committed against black populations. In Wakanda, the residents literally have to hide their culture to protect themselves. I imagine this is something that modern people of color feel that they have to do to be successful in a society that is dominated by white people and is frequently hostile to outward expressions of blackness.

In Black Panther, like in real-life America, Black Women Save the Day

via GIPHY

My favorite part of this movie is that Black Panther doesn’t conquer any of the conflicts in the movie alone. He relies heavily on the women of Wakanda. The Dora Milaje, the King of Wakanda/Black Panther’s Royal Guards have been part of the mythos of Black Panther for the past twenty years. In the comics, they are Wakandas best women, chosen to be potential Queens for the King, and also to serve as highly trained guards. In the Black Panther movie, we don’t get a lot of background on who the Dora Milaje are, or what their history is – but what we do get is some serious ass-kicking by head guard Okoye. Okoye, like all of the female leads, saves the day more than Black Panther actually does. T’Challa’s sister, Shuri is a super-genius-Tony-Stark-like inventor who uses the Vibranuium that is so plentiful on Wakanda to create everything from a Mag-Lev transportation system to Black Panther’s suit.  T’Challa’s former girlfriend Nakia is a Wakandian spy and forward-thinker who wants to push Wakanda onto the world stage so that it might use its plentiful resources to help refugees. Finally, Ramonda, Queen of Wakanda, T’Challa and Shiri’s mother navigates the space between grieving her fallen husband and advising/protecting her newly crowned son. This is an overtly feminist film, and I was so into it.

White Parents, This is Your Teachable Moment.

White parents: There’s a lot here to talk about socially with younger kids. If you are willing to have these conversations (and you should) by all means take them to see Black Panther. They will see a world where people of color are inventors, negotiators, loving family members, queens, and heroes, and that’s something all white kids need to be exposed to more of.

Things all parents will want to talk about include themes of integrity, of taking responsibility for your mistakes, loyalty, and choosing to do what’s right over what’s expected.

So, Can I Bring my Kid to See Black Panther?

The bad guys in Black Panther use guns – the real-life kind, not cartoony laser weapons. People get shot, sometimes in cold blood. There are bullet wounds. There is hand-to-hand combat during a large-scale fight. Characters we have come to care for die. A character chooses to die rather than be jailed.

So at what age can your kid see Black Panther?  I think that if they have seen the other Marvel Movies, they’ll be fine. The motives of the bad guys are a little less clear-cut (they are even sympathetic sometimes), but this plot point could be the jumping off point for a good age-appropriate conversation about social justice.  If you really need a hard-age limit, a mature 10 years old is probably about right.


Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Forest Whitaker, Daniel Kaluuya, and Angela Bassett. It is rated PG-13 and is in theatres now.

Lego Batman: A Parents’ Guide

I didn’t want to leave my house to go the press screening of Lego Batman that I was invited to. Kitty had spent the previous three days sick, so I hadn’t slept. Nate was at Robotics, so he couldn’t join me, and Rick couldn’t join me because Nate couldn’t babysit.  I was tired, I was cranky, and I was going to have to go alone.  I was really hesitant to go, but I knew that a bunch of you would want to know what ages this is appropriate for, and I didn’t want to let you, dear reader, down (plus it was free).  I’m so glad I went.  I forgot about all of my problems for 90 minutes. Lego Batman is the movie America needs right now.

Most of the time, when I start these movie reviews I consult the good folks at Common Sense Media.  They get to see the movies even sooner than I do, and since they tend to be more conservative on what they consider potentially objectionable, I sometimes reconsider my suggestions based on what they say.  Common Sense Media and I pretty much agreed on this one. It’s very silly, but clever  It manages to be heartwarming with tons of positive messages, and  still be really, really funny.

If your kid is extra sensitive, it might be hard to see the characters constantly in peril – but other than that it’s family-friendly flick. A friend reported that their three year old lost the plot and got bored about half-way through, but getting bored is a pretty common thing for a three year old. There’s no real bad language, though there is mild name calling and teasing (someone gets called a loser). There are a lot of explosions, injuries, and explosions, but since it’s all Lego, it all gets put back together pretty easily.  I really enjoyed that the filmmakers highlighted Batman as a “master builder” who uses his skills and creativity to solve his problems. I also really liked that Batman showed a lot of personal growth over the course of the movie.  Finally, as the sister of adoptees, and as a family that has close friends we call aunts and uncles, I loved the message that families are made of the people who love you.

Want to hear my thoughts on movies as soon as I see them?  Follow me on Twitter!

 

 

 

Living our Values in 2017 – Media Edition

This was originally going to be an article about a bunch of ways you can involve your kids in your politics and beliefs, but I got a little carried away with my media suggestions, so we’re going to start there, and I’ll be back soon with the other things the Parenting Geekly Family is doing to live our values in 2017 – including writing a Family Mission Statement!  I kept these suggestions as mainstream as possible to keep the barrier to entry low. You should be able to borrow or find most of these things on Amazon, streaming, or your local library.  (Note: Post conatians Amazon affiliate links).

Media

It can be intimidating to think about “resisting” or “revolution” or protesting when you have children. The good news is that you can teach your kids about justice, inclusion, diversity, activism and social justice without ever leaving your house. The easiest way to incorporate the ideals of equality, social justice, representation, and action is to make sure the media your family consumes showcases those topics.

Here is a very brief list of some of the media we’ve consumed recently:

Books
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls – Kitty received this as a Christmas gift from her Aunt Karen. It features an intersectional (white, black, Asian, trans, cis, young and old are all represented) selection of women who did what they felt was right, all delivered in short one-page stories with beautiful illustrations. This beautiful hardback book is currently on back order until February 2017 – but if you just can’t wait Amazon has a Kindle version.

Kitty’s Rad American Women Lantern

Rad Women series – I was introduced to the Rad American Women and Rad Women Worldwide books by my daughter’s fourth-grade teacher. Every year their school holds a lantern festival before winter break. Each child designs and creates a lantern. Some years the classes make punched-tin lanterns or lanterns from clay or decoupaged milk cartons. This year every fourth grader picked a woman from one of these books and decorated a vellum lantern with her portrait. It was a super cool project, and these are super cool books. Kitty’s Rad Woman was Bessie Coleman, the first African-American Woman and first Native American woman to become a licensed US pilot!

Ms. Marvel – Kamala Khan is a teenage Pakistani-American, and Marvel’s first Muslim superhero. The team of creators is diverse, and according to writer G. Willow Wilson: “A huge aspect of Ms. Marvel is being a ‘second string hero’ in the ‘second string city’ and having to struggle out of the pathos and emotion that can give a person.” It’s appealing to wide range of ages. My husband and I enjoy it as much as 9-year-old Kitty does. This trade paperback collects the first issues into a single volume.

Movies
Star Wars – Not only do the Star Wars movies feature strong women and (at least in the two most recent films) racially diverse casts, they show a group of people fighting against evil. When you watch these beloved classics, make sure you point that out!

Captain America Civil War and Civil War comic books – Marvel showed two sides fighting for their strong opinions about social justice in this comic book series (which you can buy as a collection). The film is a condensed version but shows the same message of friends fighting on opposites sides for what they think is right. This could be a great entry point for conversation if you have close friends or relatives with opposing political opinions.

TV

The cast of Murdoch Mysteries

Murdoch Mysteries – This period police procedural from Canada was my big surprise love this year. Available on Netflix, it premiered in 2008 and take place in the 1890s. While the main cast isn’t diverse, it deals with issues of racism, women’s suffrage, social justice and progressive politics on a regular basis. There’s even an episode about abortion. I watch it with 9-year-old Kitty, but it does have some mild violence, mild gore (realistic dead bodies), and touches on adult themes (murder, sex, religion) – so maybe pre-watch it before you get the under 12s involved.

MUSIC
The Hamilton Soundtrack – If you can’t find something to talk about after listening to this race-bent take on our Founding Fathers you’re not trying. The creators and the racially diverse cast has talked about not feeling ownership of the story of the founding of our nation because it was done by a bunch of white guys. By casting people of color as the Founding Fathers, and using hip-hop in the soundtrack, they hope to make the story of the American Revolution accessible to all.
More easy ways to incorporate inclusive media? Listen to music from genres and cultures you don’t normally include. The recent inclusion of jazz to our repertoire has introduced our kids to Nina Simone, and her “Young, Gifted, Black” performance on Sesame Street. Seek out movies with racially diverse casts, or films that feature minority casts. Watch international films and TV (streaming has made this super easy!) Avoid films and TV that whitewash. Talk to your kids about diversity in their media and why it’s important. Don’t understand why it’s important? Here, let me Google that for you.