Ever since the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, erupted in 2008 with the release of “Iron Man,” audiences have become accustomed to the massive scale that the MCU employs with each of its movies. Moreover, audiences have grown attached and familiar with characters such as Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk. Each of these characters bring something unique to the MCU, but there isn’t a great deal of diversity with their corresponding films considering each of these characters are white males that receive most of the screen time. Although there is some diversity with characters such as Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and the Falcon, they are primarily used as secondary characters. Until now.

With the release of “Black Panther,” the MCU has done something unprecedented. Marvel has allowed one of its more diverse characters, who has rich roots in comic history, to not only have more screen time, but to have an entire movie. Just as impressive and unprecedented is the predominantly black casting of the movie and its embrace of cultural diversity which has long been ignored, specifically in the blockbuster and superhero era of movies.

"Black Panther" is now the highest-rated Marvel movie ever released, according to Rotten Tomatoes. In ticket pre-sales alone, “Black Panther” surpassed all superhero movies, despite the massive financial successes of some of the preceding superhero-movie giants such as “Captain America: Civil War,” “Marvel’s The Avengers” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” With the immense success of “Black Panther,” there now lies a strong precedent for more culturally diverse movies, especially those that are big-budgeted. “Black Panther” demonstrates that these culturally diverse movies can be well-received by majority-white audiences.

All of this is to say that “Black Panther” is not only here to entertain, like all of the MCU movies, but also to send a message. Now, children and adults all over the world can feel represented in a movie industry that predominantly represents the interests of those who are white and male. This has become dispelled with the relatively recent release of “Wonder Woman,” which was lauded by fans and critics alike, and now with "Black Panther."

Every time I have gone to see a Marvel movie, I couldn’t help but look up to some of the characters like Captain America and Iron Man. I want others, who don’t look like me, to feel the same level of representation in superhero movies. We look up to superheroes and the more diverse they become, the more that everyone feels as if they are being recognized and included. “Black Panther” has shown that superheroes don’t have to fit the mold of the past and look or behave a certain way to please viewers or to generate revenue.

What’s significant about Marvel’s release of “Black Panther” isn’t simply the fact that the protagonist is black, but that it showcases African culture and demonstrates that it can be just as “cool” as the world of Captain America and Iron Man. Thus, “Black Panther” is much more than just a movie. It is social progress.

Contact Opinions writer Alex Rigsby at alexander.rigsby@richmond.edu.