Goodbye to Chadwick Boseman
A single tweet on August 28, 2020, at 10:11 p.m. shattered the hearts of Marvel and Chadwick Boseman fans around the world. The tweet sent out from Boseman’s account by his close friends and family read:
“It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman.Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV”.
Boseman was only 43 years old.
Given that his career spanned just 17 years, Boseman had established a legacy that many long-standing stars could only dream of. He ascended to superstardom status when he was cast as Jackie Robinson, the first African-American professional baseball player, in the movie “42” in 2013. It was an amazing seven-year run since then. Chadwick’s “transcendent performance in “42” will stand the test of time and serve as a powerful vehicle to tell Jackie’s story to audiences for generations to come,” according to a statement that was released by Major League Baseball the night of his death.
He played another larger than life icon in the Black community in “Get on Up,” the story of James Brown. Based on those two critical performances, Boseman was cast in his most iconic role as King T’Challa, also known as Black Panther, without even auditioning for the role.
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said in an ABC News interview when asked about the casting of Black Panther, “He is that good. He’d portrayed Jackie Robinson, he portrayed James Brown … We needed somebody to play alongside those great actors [Robert Downey Jr- Chris Evans], we went around the table, Chadwick is what we all said”.
Marvel is known for iconic superheroes such as Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor.
Boseman was the first Black superhero to powerfully lead a Marvel movie. He was not just a superhero, he was also a king. Black actors are still mostly cast as sidekicks to the white hero, or as criminals, or in need of a white savior. Black Panther changed the narrative by presenting the fictional country of Wakanda that was technologically superior to the outside world. There was no poverty, no welfare mamas, nor crack babies. The very fact that Wakanda is set in Africa and the characters spoke Xhosa, a real African language, resoundingly showed that there was more to the story of Africans than what history and movies said there was.
Semeka Smith-Williams, Director of Diversity and Equity at Packer, said the loss of Boseman was keenly felt in her household. “I’m not a comic book/superhero kind of fan, but in my household, I live with three individuals who are. There is a real sense of devastation that Chadwick is not here anymore and it’s admirable concerning what he put into it considering what he was going through health-wise is incredible.”
Smith-Williams recalled when the trailer came out for the movie, there was real excitement at Packer. “And I felt it was important to signal to the school community that this was not your average film. So I helped to organize a group of over 100 Packer folks who went to a local theater to watch Black Panther and be in it together with peers, which almost never happens. I think especially for our younger kids, it was pretty fantastic.”
For many Black children, their moms and dads, and grandparents, Black Panther was the first superhero who looked like them. Parents felt it was important for their kids to see King T’Challa, but it was equally important to them too because they mostly had to look to Wesley Snipes’ Blade (a half-vampire “daywalker” who hunted and killed other vampires.) Kevin Shepherd, 43, a father of five kids ages 21 to 7, said, “I cried when I heard the news. Chadwick was regal, he played a king, he came from a rich heritage, he was a strong character. He had influential roles before the Black Panther. The way he was onscreen radiated in real life that he was just a nice person. I was looking forward to seeing a lot more from him. We got used to seeing Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson. I expected great things from this young man, who died the same age” as he is.
Black Panther was the first comic book and superhero movie to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture. It lost in that category. The film, however, took home trophies at other awards ceremonies. In the acceptance speech for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a motion picture at the Screen Actor Guild Awards, Boseman recalled being continually asked if the movie changed the industry. His response was “To be young, gifted and Black. We all know what it is like to be told there is not a place to be featured, yet to be young, gifted, and Black. We all know what it is like to not have a screen to be featured on, a stage to be featured on. We know what it’s like to be the tail and not the head. We know what it is like to be beneath, but not above.”
The mostly dark-skinned cast of Black Panther rewrote the script for that.
The movie, which made 1.344 billion worldwide already had a sequel in the works. Unfortunately, Boseman died before it could be made. Fans have weighed in on social media stating the franchise should stop at one movie.
Whatever Disney decides, Long live the King.