As #RecastTChalla began to trend on Twitter this week, it must have been hard for Marvel to know where to turn.
For those who have no idea what this hashtag means, T’Challa is the king of Wakanda, a fictional world in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Wakanda is home to much of the world’s resources of the equally fictional vibranium – an extremely powerful mineral, and T’Challa is better known as Black Panther, a major character in the pantheon of powerful superheroes that Marvel has brought to cinema screens in the past few years, and one who has a habit of helping to save the world frequently in the ever growing MCU.
When Black Panther was released in cinemas in 2018, it looked like Marvel, and its owner Disney, had cracked the “diversity in Hollywood” code. Here was a film, with a mostly black cast, and an undeniably black lead in Chadwick Boseman playing T’Challa/Black Panther, the ruler of Wakanda, with a side job of slaying supervillains.
The film was nominated for Oscars and, although it was never going to win any of the big ones because superhero films simply don’t, fans of comic books and diversity alike were excited by the possibility that, technically, it could.
This was, of course, in the wake of the #OscarsSowhite campaign, but the Academy Awards of 2018 wasn’t in terms of diversity of its voters where it is now, so Black Panther didn’t win. The Shape of Water did.
Black Panther was ultimately still a superhero film, and it may not have won Best Picture, but it did prove to Hollywood that it could make money from films that aren’t about white men. It came out in the same year as Crazy Rich Asians, which showed that Asians had box office draw, too. A year before, Wonder Woman had smashed it at the box office and showed that a female superhero film can also sell tickets, possibly to Disney’s equal delight and dismay as their own female superhero, Captain Marvel, wouldn’t hit screens until 2019. Hollywood was clearly changing, however.
Unfortunately, Boseman died from colon cancer in August 2020, leaving Disney in something of a quandary.
Having recently presented the world with its first blockbuster black superhero, Disney had a big decision to make, and Marvel boss Kevin Feige seemed to make it in December 2020, when he stated that rather than recasting T’Challa he would “honour the legacy that Chad helped us build through his portrayal of the king of Wakanda. We want to continue to explore the world and all the rich and varied characters introduced in the first film."
T’Challa would be retired, and we’d explore some of his friends. Many of whom, it should be noted, have already been killed in other MCU films.
A year later, social media seems to have decided otherwise, as fans demand a return of Black Panther and #RecastTChalla refuses to leave Twitter’s festive trends.
One Twitter user wrote that Boseman himself fought through cancer to play the role, and claims his own family would rather see Black Panther recast than retired.
Another, meanwhile, felt that Boseman’s time as Black Panther should be the beginning of a new era rather than the end of one.
Reviewer Eman had an interesting take and said we were all denying our kids their favourite character in order to deal with our own grief with T’Challa’s death. "Never lose sight of why superheroes were created. They were mainly for kids. Think about how selfish it sounds to suggest we wait 10 years to give them back their fictional hero because we adults can't emotionally deal," Eman wrote.
That’s certainly an interesting point, but one could argue that dead or otherwise, the likes of Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig would confirm that a character can continue with just as much love, even if the actor changes.