For those who still question whether representation matters and why it does, Djimon Hounsou has an answer. As ecstatic as we are over Ri Ri Williams and what it’ll mean for little black girls to have a black female superhero they can look up to, black boys still need to know they can be superheros too.
Hounsou recently spoke to The Guardian about playing Chief Mbonga in The Legend of Tarzan and the excitement of having other black warriors and superheros like Luke Cage and Black Panther on TV and the big screen now, to which the Beninese star responded, “It’s about time!”
“It’s absolutely great news to have a hero that black folks can identify with,” Hounsou told the site. “Could you imagine my misfortune when my son told me: ‘I want to be light-skinned so I can climb the walls like Spider-Man’ – just because he has seen Spider-Man and Batman and all these superheroes who were all white. The minute he said it, I was like, damn. My whole self was shattered. I was like, wow, what sort of comeback do you have for this? It’s important to recognize yourself. It’s absolutely important. That’s the value in telling stories. There’s a reason why we create fantasy stories, so we can surpass this life condition.”
Kimora Lee Simmons gave birth to her son Kenzo with Hounsou on May 30, 2009, and at 7 years old he’s already internalized the message that light and white is right. Undoing that type of messaging can take a lifetime if parents aren’t diligent about showing their sons and daughters strong characters who look like them — and it would be nice if Hollywood would be complicit in providing that imagery.
We won’t hold our breath on that. But it’s little girls like Marley Dias who can see through the propaganda that give us hope. Dias is the 11-year-old girl who started the movement #1000BlackBooks because she was “sick of reading about white boys and dogs.” If the entertainment business won’t do their part, at least pre-teens like her will so black boys and girls know they can be anything they want — including Spiderman.