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Yes, every child can wear a Black Panther costume, say creators who helped shape the character

Chadwick Boseman in "Black Panther". (Marvel Studios / Disney / AP)

SINCE FEBRUARY, When Disney / Marvel's battered film "Black Panther" caught the attention of the public and also the cultural zeitgeist, the reporters asked: Which children are allowed to wear the superhero costume from the fictional African state of Wakanda?

Or when Joshua David Stein wondered at the time for Fatherly in a column, "Shall I dress up my white son as a black superhero?"

Jen Juneau wrote on People.com this month: "Parents of white children may want to think twice before purchasing a black Panther Halloween costume." And Steph Montgomery, who wrote this month for the online publication Romper , said: "I think it's opportune for my white children to dress up as lead actors T & # 39; Challa and Shuri or as members of Dora Milaje – Wakanda's badass women's special forces.

"Because we're a white family, I know Black Panther does not exist for us," she wrote. "Instead, I think it exists for black kids who deserve to have heroes who look like them. something that white people have long enjoyed and taken for granted. "

With the growing diversity of superheroes in recent years, films such as "Black Panther" – similar to recent animated films such as "Coco" and "Moana" – can engage in conversations about cultural appropriation issues, and who can dress as a particular dress , Megyn Kelly's comments defending Halloween's wearing of Blackface further fueled the debate over how race is portrayed in costumes. But in interviews with the Washington Post, some creators who helped shape the Black Panther character, along with other celebrity writers who have written characters in color, are relentless: any kid can dress up as a Black Panther.

"The idea that only black children would wear Black Panther costumes is crazy for me," said Reg Hudlin, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker who worked on Wakanda's side and screen projects, including the animated TV miniseries. " Black Panthers ". "Why would anyone say that? "

The two best films of the year, "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Black Panther" (worldwide together 3.4 billion US dollars), show Wakanda – and Hudlin celebrates the ubiquity of his shiny costumes.

"I think it's great that all kids want to be Black Panther or Shuri or Dora Milaje," Hudlin said of the characters of the royal court, including T & # 39; Challa's teenage ingenious sister Princess Shuri, who appeared on the comic book during the Hudlin , "These are the small steps that make the world a better place."

Photo by ERIK S LESSER / EPA-EFE / REX Textile conservator Emma Schmitt oversees the recently acquired Black Panther costume at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. The suit, worn by Chadwick Boseman in the 2018 film, is made from flexible 3-D printed matter and donated to the museum by Marvel Studios and the Walt Disney Company.

When Hudlin wrote Black Panther comics, "One of the things I loved," he recalls, was the variety of his fandom.

"Each person appeared in a book signing: black, white, Asian, Latino – men and women, young and old," he said. "It feels good to write something culturally specific that fits into a universally relative experience."

Ruth E. Carter, the Oscar-nominated costume designer ("Malcolm X", "Amistad"), created the beautifully intricate clothing for Ryan Coogler's "Black Panther", which was inspired not only by the comics, but also by real designs Africa.

She believes that creating such Afrofuturist art requires not building barriers, but building cultural bridges. Therefore, fans should be aware that the world of Black Panther is "taking its royal place in the vast comic-con and cosplayer universe."

Why are people now asking this question about T'Challa, Carter says rhetorically.

"The only reason we're asking this question now is that the Black Panther is a black guy. And I think that's what's going on with people – that's what's going on with the parents, "Carter said. "Because I see children embracing the concept of a superhero far and wide. I think they see him as someone who is majestic and powerful and doing good, and [who] has a kingdom and a heritage and is pretty cool. I do not think they see a black one – I think they see the image of a superhero, "she added," and it happens to be the Black Panther, just like Superman is. "

Carter said that it is the adults who create an issue where children do not have one.

The parents, she said, "are so foolish that children do not even focus on it – but they make the kids concentrate on it."

And given the popularity of the Black Panther – a character created in the 1960s by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby – Marvel comics "got it all under control [black] Demographics, which were not really represented, brought them in and just opened the door for everyone. It does not mean that it is now a separate world – it means that it is an inclusive one, "Carter said, reflecting on the theme of the film as to whether Wakanda should remain isolated or connect with the rest of the world.

"If we do not embrace other cultures and let other ethnic groups embrace ours," Carter said, "then we're hypocrites."

Shawn Martinbrough, a Washington-based cartoonist ("Thief of the Thieves"), who has worked on the comic story arc "Black Panther: The Man without Fear", appreciates the creative interaction of the two Kirby and Lee costumes of 60s comics and Carter's cinematic masterpieces – and think young cosplayers should feel like they're wearing every era look.

"I am glad that children across the spectrum feel so connected to the characters of Wakanda," he said. "The more comfortable people experience and accept beauty in other cultures, [that] makes it less likely that they give in to stereotypes. "

Gene Luen Yang, a Bay Area-born comic book author and former ambassador for youth literature, likes to write about identity issues – including his recent co-creation of DC comics character Kong Kenan , also known as "Superman of China". He differentiates between costuming and intention of the wearer.

"It seems to me that when little children masquerade as fictional heroes for Halloween, they almost always do it from a place of admiration," Yang said. His children "admire Superman or Black Panther or Rey from" Star Wars ", so they want to try on their clothes for a day. Perhaps in their deepest hearts they hope that the courage of their heroes will penetrate them.

"Admiration obviously crosses the boundaries of culture and gender – my children admire many people who do not look or live like them – so I think that should apply to their Halloween costumes as well."

When it comes to adults, it can sometimes happen that "Halloween can be a cover for certain people to express contempt for certain people and groups, all in the name of fun and irony," Yang said, underscoring the anonymity of a costume Cover can provide lower instincts.

"That is, I believe that people benefit from the doubts. I do not believe in monitoring adult Halloween costumes, "said Yang. "But I also believe in a honest, dull discussion when people may have crossed the line."

Keith Knight, creator of The K Chronicles and Knight Life, values ​​a great costume because he was a Michael Jackson impersonator in his teenage years. He said of the Black Panther issue, "Was that ever a question when dressing up as Batman or Superman? It's a costume! "

"And please, stop the black face," he added. "You can dress as a black figure without putting on dark make-up."

Lalo Alcaraz, the creator of comic strips "La Cucaracha", who was a cultural consultant for Oscar / Oscar winner "Coco" of Disney, believes that the "Coco character" now belongs to the pop culture of the world in terms of costuming. "

"The success of" Coco "was next to the authenticity of the universality of the characters of the film," said Alcaraz. "Of course, everyone can dress as the characters of the movie."

Alcaraz feels similar to Disney / Marvel's fictitious African world.

"If my children wanted to disguise themselves as Wakandans, I would be so happy," he said. "Of course, they would never consider darkening their skin to portray these African-inspired comic and movie characters.

"If so, I would send her to Megyn Kelly for punishment."


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