Black Panther is an origin story for a hero in the Marvel Universe who became a hero for mankind. Families resonated with the story because it showed both people of color and women in roles that hadn’t been highlighted in blockbuster movies before.
After the death of King T’Chaka, T’Challa rises to the post of King of Wakanda, a supposed African farming nation that is really a highly advanced country filled with technological advancements that aren’t seen in Western Civilization. It turns out that another heir, T’Challa’s American cousin, Erik, wants the throne in order to disperse the technology to the rest of the world. (Note to parents of younger kids, this movie is rated PG-13 for action violence.)
Black Panther is about family, nations and loyalty, and shows women in high-ranking roles in government, science and security. What to discuss with kids:
- Western Civilization doesn’t know everything; learn about other countries by exploring them and their people. Wakanda is a hotbed of vibranium, the (fictional) strongest metal on Earth, and the Wakandans have hidden it for centuries. So, the world sees Wakanda and its people as third-world farmers. What it doesn’t see is that the people have advanced beyond the Western world in many technological achievements. Just because one person proclaims that a country is something (a farming community) doesn’t mean it is; teach kids to explore the world they don’t know and learn about cultures that aren’t their own.
- Do your best, then keep working. Princess Shuri is a master inventor and developer. She knows how to create new weapons and toys for Black Panther to use in combat and for the Wakandans to use in their daily lives. She also says “Just because something works, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.” She doesn’t stop at “this works great!,” she keeps moving forward with how it works in different situations to improve even what’s working. Teach kids that just because a method of organization “works” doesn’t mean it can’t always be improved. Keep thinking of new ways to use what they know to try things that haven’t been tried before.
- Your past doesn’t dictate your future. In the end, King T’Challa buys the building where his uncle was killed, turning the block into a Wakandan outreach center. It marked the first time the country would give its knowledge and technology to other parts of the world, and he was giving it to kids in an inner-city community. The move also honored the sacrifices of his uncle and cousin. Mistakes in our past – or in our family trees – are only mistakes today, they don’t write the future.
Now that you’ve seen Black Panther, try these screen-free activities inspired by the movie.
- Read the book. Just because the movie is rated PG-13 doesn’t mean that younger siblings can’t learn the story. Read the Little Golden Book version of Marvel’s superhero to younger kids so that they know the tale of the Wakandan king. There’s also a second book, Warriors of Wakanda.
- Make your own puppet. With a printer and some fasteners, kids can make their own Black Panther puppets using this template.
- Make your own holograms. Princess Shuri uses holograms to help her drive a car from thousands of miles away. How do holograms work? Kids can learn the STEM of holograms using this kit and parents can explain it using these plans.
- Learn about actual black panthers. Check out this National Geographic film about black panthers to learn about the big cats and why they were such an impact on the Marvel universe.
- Seek out classes about coding and STEM. The movie gives great examples of women in places of leadership in STEM, a security force, special operations and more. Encourage your kids’ interest in science and find coding classes at locations like Code Ninjas or find online programs with Girls Who Code.