If ever there was a time when this bone-weary country needed the empowering “Black Panther” movie, this is it.

We realize this Disney/Marvel tale is all fantasy entertainment based on a comic book superhero, but this film cuts against the negative cultural forces we often feel so powerless to combat. And who couldn’t use a little uplifting these days?

No wonder folks of all races and creeds – Marvel fans and not – are packing movie houses in record-breaking numbers to see it. They’re connecting to its universal message of embracing your power and using it for good.

Then there is a cultural bonus: its featuring of a rare black superhero. How often do children get to see a black champion flying through the air dodging blasts?

It’s the reason thousands of dollars are being raised to send groups of young people to see it.

For those living under a rock, the plot:

Prince T’Challa returns home to Wakanda after the death of his father. The prince finds himself fighting for his crown, his country and his life when a series of adversaries arrive seeking vibranium, an alien metal that powers everything in the African nation.

It celebrates a proud Afro-centric worldview (whole families of moviegoers are showing up in African attire) without shying away from complicated issues of race, class and gender.

And here are some reasons to plunk down your $12:

Women are elevated and empowered.

Sure, it’s a movie about a king coming into his own, but women are front and center. They aren’t portrayed as defenseless victims or accessories. They’re fierce warriors who serve as the security force for a nation against every adversary – and kick major butt.

It makes girls’ passion for science and technology cool.

It’s the king’s genius sister, Shuri, who designs and builds the technological advances and spectacular gadgets featured in the story. The superhero has no protective armor suit without this girl.

What a boost toward getting more girls interested and involved in science, technology, engineering and math careers.

It busts stereotypes.

This ridiculous notion of Africa as poor Third World countries is turned on its head.

All countries on Earth believe Wakanda to be so, but it secretly hides the most advanced technological society on the planet – a secret it guards to prevent its technology and weaponry from falling into the wrong hands.

We’re not naïve to think that one movie can help solve the thorny issues that ail us in this country.

But we can hold out hope that this fun joy ride causes folks to think a little differently about them.

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