Cinematic superheroes may just be characters played by movie stars, but to children they can mean much more than that.
In the eyes of young fans, the actors who play these larger-than-life roles can be just as much a hero as the person with the fancy costume on the screen. If you need proof of how much these famous figures mean to children, all you need to do is look on social media to see how young fans are paying tribute to the late actor Chadwick Boseman.
The “Black Panther” star died on Aug. 28 at the age of 43, following a four-year battle with colon cancer. His death shocked the world not just because he was so young but because Boseman kept his fight against the disease private.
In the hours following his death, celebrities flooded social media with their condolences and tributes to the actor. Now, parents are sharing photos of their children’s self-created memorials to the superhero, King T’Challa, and the man who portrayed him in the movies.
The day after Boseman’s death, Twitter user King Westbrook posted a photo of his 7-year-old son, Kian, who set up a memorial for the fallen Black Panther in his driveway. He stood beside his Avengers action figures and held the “Wakanda Forever” pose.
— King Westbrook (@KingWestbrook7) August 29, 2020
“‘Black Panther’ was important to him simply because Kian loved seeing a superhero that looked like him,” Westbrook told Insider. “He understands that Black Panther is a fictional hero, but he made Kian believe a Black boy could grow up and be a strong Black superhero. When he found out about Chadwick’s passing, he was devastated. I’m not saying that lightly. Chadwick was his hero, and he felt like he lost a strong Black superhero.”
Many other parents shared their children’s tributes on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Boseman’s fellow Avenger, actor Mark Ruffalo, noticed the trending photos and commented on the impact his late co-star had on the children of the world.
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) August 30, 2020
Twin brothers Lenny and Bobby Homes of Mesa, Arizona found out about Boseman’s death on YouTube and the 10-year-olds their own salute to one of their favorite superheroes.
In Lafayette, Louisiana, 7-year-old Gavyn Batiste has seen “Black Panther” six times. He wrote a song to honor King T’Challa which he shared with The Associated Press. The lyrics include:
Black Panther is gone/ I don’t know what to say/ I never thought this would happen in my day/ This is sad/ I am mad/ I don’t know how to feel/ It still feels unreal/ Wakanda Forever!
Sonia Antione, Gavyn’s mother, told The AP her son connected with the “Black Panther” film because it offers Black children “a sense of hope, a sense of dreaming, and to just embrace who you are in your culture and what the culture can mean to you and your family.”