Tessa Hughes is a journalism junior and a Mustang News opinion columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
On Aug. 28, 2020 actor Chadwick Boseman tragically died after a four-year-long battle with colon cancer. While most celebrity passings typically shock fans, Boseman’s stands out. Not because he kept his cancer a secret and his death was sudden, but because his death was a loss for everything he portrayed. Across the country, children are mourning Boseman because his acting gave them so much: representation.
The legacy Boseman is leaving behind is incomparable to many great actors, because the roles he chose to assume carry great weight and depth.
In 2013, Boseman stepped up to the plate and portrayed the late Jackie Robinson, the first Black Major League Baseball player, in the film “42.” In 2017, he took on the role of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice, in the film “Marshall.” Then, in 2018, Boseman took on what would become his most well-known role of all by entering the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the King of Wakanda, T’Challa, in “Black Panther.”
Not only did Boseman create a name for himself by playing the roles of significant Black men in our country’s history, but he became one himself when he became the titular star of a big-budget superhero film with an African-American director and predominantly Black cast.
He was a positive figure who many young Black children could look up to, allowing them to see themselves on screen as opposed to the sea of stereotypical white, male superheroes.
Modern media today is streamlined and whitewashed, and it is a struggle for people who aren’t fit, straight, white, cis-gendered men to see themselves on the big screen. The same craving for diversity in stories was shown in the films “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Wonder Woman” for Asian-Americans and women, respectively.
Boseman acknowledged this need in the movie industry and served as the King of Wakanda in later installments in the Marvel franchise, despite his taxing battle with stage III and eventually stage IV cancer. He continued to show up because he knew the roles he played were so much bigger than himself.
Millions of people around the world honored Boseman by sharing kind words, which confirmed the cultural impact his career held.
Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris (who, if Joe Biden is elected, would become the first female, African-and Asian-American vice president in U.S. history) tweeted, “Heartbroken. My friend and fellow Bison Chadwick Boseman was brilliant, kind, learned, and humble. He left too early but his life made a difference. Sending my sincere condolences to his family,” along with a photograph of the two of them together.
Actress Cicely Tyson also tweeted out her condolences, “God of our silent tears! A brilliant & talented actor, gone too soon. @chadwickboseman you leave this earth w/a beautiful body of work. When you graced our screens you brought the dignity & grace we could all be proud of. My prayers are with your loving family. RIP my dear son CTD.”
Barack Obama, who was the first Black president of the U.S., even offered up his own sentiments through Twitter like many others, asserting the power Boseman gave to Black Americans.
“Chadwick came to the White House to work with kids when he was playing Jackie Robinson. You could tell right away that he was blessed. To be young, gifted, and Black; to use that power to give them heroes to look up to; to do it all while in pain — what a use of his years,” Obama tweeted.
Representation in media proves to children that they can do or be anything they want to be. Society likes to pigeonhole specific races, genders and sexual orientations into categories or boxes, but actors like Boseman provide diversity in media and influence audiences.
Boseman was not only an on-screen superhero, but he was a real-life one too. He constantly used his power for the betterment and inspiration of others. The legacy he is leaving will not be forgotten. Hopefully, the body of work Boseman is leaving behind further validates the need for nuanced Black stories to be told. His inspiration will outlive him and cement his place in history.
Rest in power, King. You will be missed.