EU professor organizes Q&A, special viewing of ‘Black Panther’

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, February 21st, 2018 at 7:30 PM
EU professor organizes Q&A, special viewing of ‘Black Panther’ by Erica Burkholder

Dr. Rhonda Matthews, history professor at Edinboro University, opened the exclusive showing of Marvel smash-hit “Black Panther” with a small intro. She began by thanking those who helped make the event possible and by acknowledging Dr. H. Fred Walker, university president, and Dr. Scott Miller, dean of the college of arts, humanities, and social sciences, who attended the event.  

She then spoke to the fact that what we see in media is not just entertainment: “If you have been in my know that what you are watching is not just entertainment, you know that these media are deliverers of cultural messaging, [and] this is no different.”

She then gave a brief rundown of the Black Panther character history. She ended her intro with a list of things she wanted the audience to watch out for in this film, which included observations about race and class, socialism, international relations, colonialism and imperialism. 

She left the audience with this quote: “I will have you understand this. This film represents a cultural moment; middle-aged geeks like me have been waiting to see someone who looks like us in this capacity for years.” Applause broke out as she continued, stating: “This moment is 55 years in the making. So, we are just not talking about a movie, we are talking about a socio-political movement. I do not want you to miss that in all the glory the movie will have.”

Matthews led a Q&A after the movie. She began by discussing the ideologies and influences different majors should have been paying attention to. For literature majors, she pointed out the book that helped inspire the movie, for sociology majors, she pointed out the discussions about normative structures, and for those studying political science, it was Plato’s “The Republic” that she used as comparison. Matthews also talked about the movie’s discussion of race and the nonverbal discussion of gender. 

Matthews then went on to talk about the traits of the fictional Wakandan tribe and how some of the traits were inspired by real African tribes. She also talked about the Wakandan identification system being a possible nod to Native Americans. 

According to Matthews, Black Panther himself was created to fill the absence of black heroes, and he did not become a fully-rounded character on a regular basis until the ‘90s. She also highlighted the current Marvel series about the Black Panther and the one about the Dora Milaje, the fictional female special forces team of Wakanda. 

When asked how to better improve prominent black characters in pop culture, she pointed out these Black Panther characters and advised viewers on how writers should be paying attention to the diversity of personality. 

When asked about how this will affect black Americans in culture moving forward, she brought up the fact that many Americans’ first time seeing an African-American in the media that did not have negative stereotypes connected to them were the Obamas. She thinks positive aspects will be shown more, as they were in this movie, and that this movie should do well, though she mentioned Tyler Perry’s “Madea” series also does well. 

The event was sponsored by the university’s center for diversity, the office of the provost, the university performing arts series, and the department of history, politics, languages and cultures. The university programming board helped with the transportation to the Cinemark Tinseltown theater in Erie. 

Erica Burkholder can be reached at

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