• Will

Chadwick Boseman and The Hero That Looks Like Me

When I was a child, I watched Batman: The Animated Series EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I had all the movies on VHS, and most of the episodes. I had toys modeled after Batman, Robin, Nightwing, and Batgirl. I had several Batmobiles. I was Batman every halloween.

I remember an episode that expressed the importance of fiction inspiring young people, "Beware the Grey Ghost", The Grey Ghost, fittingly played by Adam West, was a fictional superhero within the fictional world of BTAS. Bruce Wayne watched his show as a kid, and he inspired him to become Batman. An important plot point is when Batman meets the actor who played The Grey Ghost, only to be disappointed in him. Its important we have characters on screen and in pages that inspire children to want to be the good guy in every situation, these characters don't disappoint us because they don't live outside of their stories. Children don't comprehend that what they're seeing is a character portrayed by an actor, they just see Batman, or Spiderman, or Wonder Woman, or Black Panther. Batman didn't even necessarily teach me specific principals and lessons, he didn't turn towards the audience and give a speech on ethics. His stories subliminally suggested to me what right and wrong is, he was compassionate (Even to villains), fair, honest, and selfless. Like it or not, that was the first influence to shape my values, and since it was so early in life, arguably the greatest influence on my values.

Maybe because in my head I looked like Batman, or at least Robin. They had dark hair, like me. they were boys, like me. They were white, like me. And Robin was a kid, just like me. I would drink hot chocolate and pretend it was coffee just like Batman at his computer. Jump off a step and feel like Batman descending from a rooftop. I felt that way because Batman, Robin and Nightwing were heroes that look like me.

Its so important that we create and do justice to heroes that look like kids who don't look like I did. Chadwick Boseman brilliantly portrayed characters who do just that. Emulating Jackie Robinson, Floyd Little, and James Brown. Bringing to life Black Panther and joining the ranks of The Avengers. Because of Chadwick Boseman, some kid will choose a more exceptional life for themself than they otherwise knew was possible. If it wasn't for Boseman, a kid may have never known Jackie Robinson was the first black man to step out of the negro leagues and change Major League Baseball. Boseman may be the reason a young kid is inspired by superheroes at all.

Not only an inspiration to children of color, but to actors, filmmakers and other creatives to know how celebrated and important their work can and should be. I was stunned by the overwhelming response to his passing, mostly because he's not being honored just as another celebrity, but as an artist who's work will be remembered for centuries. Filmmaking is a collaboration, its not like other arts. That's why there are credits and not just a credit. A great director can't bring their work to life without great actors and their performances. Prop/set/costume designers, effects artists, stuntmen, editors, musicians and actors; they make the film. I hope that those in the more narrow-minded bunch can begin to understand this as I have, when we're all locked down in quarantine at our houses, we turn to art. We rewatch every episode of The Office or have a Robin Williams movie marathon. We may not even realize how much film has educated or influenced us in our own morality.

I'll never forget Black Panther standing before an army, shouting "Wakanda Forever!" and sprinting into battle.

Rest in peace, King.

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