Michelle Obama has a very restrained social media presence these days. She’s tweeted less than 20 times in 2018 and almost never uses her platform for anything other than political statements and the occasional loving message to husband Barack Obama. She didn’t even post about those head-turning official portraits unveiled at the National Gallery last week. (It’s all in very stark contrast to the current resident of the White House.) But the former First Lady did find time to praise this weekend’s must-see pop culture event: Black Panther.
“Congrats to the entire #blackpanther team,” Michelle tweeted on Monday after the movie smashed all kinds of box office records over the weekend. “Because of you, young people will finally see superheroes that look like them on the big screen. I loved this movie and I know it will inspire people of all backgrounds to dig deep and find the courage to be heroes of their own stories.” Though film reviews aren’t exactly the former First Lady’s lane, this tweet is entirely in keeping with the former First Lady’s emphasis on education in her post-White House career. The majority of her Twitter feed is filled with encouraging messages to young people.
As you might expect, given Obama husband’s enduring love of comics and the empowering messaging in director Ryan Coogler’s enormously popular film, this movie means a lot in the Obama household. There’s also no denying that the former president helped pave the way for Black Panther in the first place. In a New York Times piece titled “Black Panther and the Revenge of the Black Nerds,” author Lawrence Ware outlines how the 44th president forever changed black viewers’ relationships with geek culture.
“Up until Obama, it was basically Urkel and the black guy from Revenge of the Nerds,” self-professed nerd, Obama impersonator, and Oscar-nominated director Jordan Peele told NPR in 2012. “What’s remarkable is the way ‘nerd’ is such a badge of honor now,” Obama told Popular Science in 2016. “Growing up, I’m sure, I wasn’t the only kid who read Spider-Man comics and learned how to do the Vulcan salute, but it wasn’t like it is today.”
Ware explains: “[Obama’s] eight years in office showed us a black person could simultaneously love basketball and Star Trek, hip-hop and comic books. He was a nerd, yes, but he was no Urkel. Mr. Obama was important. He expanded the possibilities for what black folks could be in America.”
And despite the fact that over the years Michelle Obama has been caught rolling her eyes indulgently at her husband’s geekier quips or confessing that she thought he might have been too “nerdy” to date in the first place, the First Lady is evidently all in on Marvel’s latest superhero. That’s partially because Black Panther has made this slice of black nerd culture undeniably cool—but Barack Obama got there first.
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