The newest film from Marvel Studios is getting a lot of well-earned attention. It wows with its creative visuals, exciting action, compelling story, strong characters, and stellar acting. The fictionalized African nation of Wakanda is a richly imagined world with innovative technology, and powerful and principled leaders. As many are taking note, Black Panther’s impact goes beyond its entertainment value and blockbuster success. With its predominantly black cast, production crew, and director, this film makes history because it expands and widens representations of Africa and African Americans in the media. Research shows that seeing images from one’s own cultural and ethnic background increases self-worth and contributes to a sense of hopefulness and possibility. When popular culture offers up positive representations of people who are often stereotyped or overlooked, we all benefit. Youth from diverse backgrounds are provided with models to which they can aspire, and research has found that depictions that better reflect the humanity of marginalized people promotes greater empathy among the rest of us. In contrast, when there is a lack of representation, it can lead people to feel like they are invisible, or that their existence does not matter.
People across the globe are taking notice of Black Panther due to Marvel’s tremendous fan following. I wanted to take a moment to highlight some other family friendly movies, shows, and books that can have a positive impact on mental health and wellness through their inclusive representations that may be lesser known. These titles can uplift and promote a healthy self-concept through the visibility and inclusion of underrepresented identities.
Movies: Meet the Patels, Akeelah and the Bee, Hidden Figures, Moana, Los Punks, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
TV series: Born this Way, Fresh off the Boat, One Day at a Time, Huge
Comic books: Ms. Marvel, Black Panther, El Deafo by CeCe Bell
Young Adult Fiction: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo, Antisocial by Jillian Blake and Tara Sands, Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson, The Garden of my Imaan by Farhana Zia, The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera, Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, This Book isn’t Fat, It’s Fabulous by Nina Beck
Children’s books: Wings by Christopher Myers, Skin Again by bell hooks, Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee, Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino
Part of our vision at CCERC is to offer world class, multicultural, social justice counseling. As advocates for media that is affirming and improves mental health, we applaud these efforts. We also call for more stories and heroes that reflect the wide spectrum of human diversity in our society. Maybe it’s time to tell your story!