Watching Black Panther with Youth of Color
Authors: Karen E. Dill-Shackleford, Lawrence M. Drake, Carlos Gonzalez-Velasquez, Cynthia Vinney, and Lauren N. Keller
Abstract: The film Black Panther is a popular culture phenomenon, breaking box office records nationally and internationally. The film’s opening box office weekend of $202 million makes it the fifth largest of all time in the US (Khal, 2018). Forbes(Mendelson, 2018, March) reports that, adjusting for inflation, Black Panther is the 12thhighest-grossing film of all time worldwide. Black Pantherset the example that a Hollywood film with a predominantly Black cast can not only be successful, but successful on a high level. The film also offers media psychologists a unique opportunity to measure the potential positive influence of the film on American youth, particularly youth of color.
Past research (Molix& Bettencourt, 2010) demonstrated that, for Blacks/African-Americans, greater ethnic identity is associated with greater well-being and greater empowerment. This is relevant to research on the positive influence of Black media role models on non-White youth because exposure to Black role models in media may increase ethnic identity in non-White youth as well as increasing well-being and empowerment.
In our study we extended the Molixand Bettencourt (2010) findings to our sample. Furthermore, we explored outcomes of watching the film, including well-being and empowerment, taking the race and ethnic identifications of our participants into consideration.
Exposure to Black role models in media may increase ethnic identity in non-White youth as well as increasing well-being and empowerment
In this study, we replicated the finding by Molixand Bettencourt that greater ethnic identity predicts greater well-being and empowerment in a sample of Black/African American participants. Our participants were high scholastically achieving youth, thus extending that finding to another sample.
We also found increases in well-being and empowerment after exposure to the film Black Pantherin our sample of Black/African American youth. Additionally, we found a main effect of the film on the entire sample of youth, which included a variety of races.
Regardless of race, participants highly identified with the hero T’Challa/Black Panther, while modal identification with the anti-hero, Erik Killmonger, was low. For identification with T’Challa, there was no interaction with film exposure, but people who more strongly identified T’Challascored higher on empowerment, but not on well-being. There was no significant main effect of identifying with Erik Killmonger, though there was a marginal interaction with identification with Erik Killmongeron empowerment.
Karen E. Dill-Shackleford, PhD <email@example.com>
Media Psychology, School of Psychology
Fielding Graduate University
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