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OAKLAND - JaVale McGee is into movies. Under different circumstances, he might have become the tallest director in the world. The Warriors’ 7-foot center wanted to major in film as a collegian, he said, but the University of Nevada didn’t have a film program. This season he has been videotaping a series called “Parking Lot Chronicles,” in which he interviews teammates, fans and random passers-by outside Oracle Arena.

JaVale McGee is into Marvel Comics, too. He has seen most of the company’s recent films, and he soaked up Marvel superheroes as a kid. Did he collect comic books?

“I didn’t really have room in my house to collect things, or the financial stability to do so,” he said with an arch smile. “But if I could have, I would have.”

JaVale McGee is into culture and politics, too. He started a nonprofit called Juglife that promotes proper hydration and raises money to help provide clean drinking water around the world. And while he might not be as professorial as David West or as biting as Andre Iguodala, McGee isn’t one to shy from political topics.

McGee’s passions converged Sunday afternoon at the corner of Grand and Lake Park avenues in Oakland, at the gorgeous, circa 1926 Grand Lake Theatre. He played host to 150 kids from East Bay Agency for Children for a screening of “Black Panther,” director Ryan Coogler’s visionary tribute to black potential. Each kid got a bag of popcorn and, McGee hoped, some perspective.

“I wanted to do it a while ago,” McGee said before the movie. “Time permitting, it had to be now, after the road trip. And I’m glad I could do it. It just felt right, because it’s an all-black movie, all-black director, and I just feel like that’s really empowering, especially for kids in the inner city to see seeing people of our color doing great things.”

McGee is not alone in his enthusiasm. “Black Panther” is a rousing action flick, with evocative sets and lavishly choreographed fight scenes that honor kung fu masters as much as crimestoppers. And that’s just the surface.

“Black Panther,” like Jordan Peele’s film “Get Out,” has emerged as a culture flashpoint for African-Americans. The director of “Black Panther” is black. (Coogler, previously best known for “Fruitvale Station,” grew up in Oakland.) Most of the cast is black. The mythical kingdom at the center of the film, Wakanda, is in the heart of Africa, and many of the costumes are based on African traditions. The soundtrack includes cuts by hip-hop artists like Kendrick Lamar, Run the Jewels and SOB X RBE.

And people are lapping it up.

With its third consecutive blockbuster weekend, “Black Panther” was expected to pass $900 million in gross ticket sales Sunday. It will shatter $1 billion next weekend, putting to rest the idea that “black movies” occupy too narrow of a niche to garner huge profits.

“And I love the way that the director was from Oakland,” McGee said. “He was like a real kid, and it shows anybody can do it with a chance. So you give somebody a budget, they could make it happen.”

But it’s more than that. “Black Panther” seems to be having a profound effect on its audience.

Like McGee, I loved Marvel Comics when I was a kid. Unlike him, I did collect — Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Daredevil. All of them. Those magazines were long ago lost to the dust, but they made up part of my pre-adolescent universe. And as I got older, I saw many of those ripped do-gooders leap from the page to the movie screen. Marvel remains a big part of youth culture in America.

And until Black Panther, none of our big-budget superheroes were people of color. That may sound like a trivial point to some people. Not to African-American parents.

Consider what superheroes represent. Their depiction can be ridiculous, and the heroes of “Black Panther” are no exception. They perform feats of agility and strength that bear no relation to reality. They stare down deadly weapons as if they are blow dryers. They don’t flinch, they don’t equivocate, they rarely make mistakes.

Because superheroes aren’t supposed to be realistic. They represent our ideal form as humans: In a perfect world, this is how strong we would be. This is how good we would be, and how brave. And until now, those ideal representation have all been white.

Wakanda tells African-American children that they, too, have perfect selves to strive for. What a thing.

“Sometimes as African-Americans, we’re depicted as thugs, or always doing bad — or as athletes,” said Ruthie Snowden, program coordinator for East Bay Agency for Children. “But it’s amazing just to see people who look like us on the big screen, and not in a bad light, but as a superhero.”

“It’s just a strong representation of black people in general, and I love that,” McGee said of “Black Panther.” “Strong black women in the movie are fighters. I was watching something on Facebook or something, and the director was talking about how women aren’t using any guns. In one scene, she literally takes someone’s gun and hit him with it, not shoot him with it. So that’s definitely a positive something we need in our lives with the things going on now.”

I don’t want to overstate the gravity of the moment on Sunday. These were kids. They chattered and wriggled during the movie, subjecting themselves to a constant stream of shushing and warning from their chaperones, and occasionally laughed a little too hard when extras got their heads blown off. And McGee, who briefly welcomed the audience at the front of the theater before the curtain rose, didn’t stick around for the whole movie. He sat in the very back, in a handicapped seat that gave him a small chance of sitting without his knees touching his chin, and ducked out during an action scene.

Another interesting twist: Rise Community School, the campus most heavily represented at the “Black Panther” screening, is not a black school, per se. It’s very diverse, and highly Latino. So Coogler’s film might not have had the same impact on all of Sunday’s viewers.

Still, there was impact. These kids came to see a superhero, and they saw one before they even entered the auditorium. Here was McGee, improbably massive and representing the Golden State Warriors, arguably the best sports team in America. Rise Community is only a couple miles from Oracle Arena. Few of the families there can afford Warriors tickets, but one of the players had come to mix with them.

McGee, dressed casually, declined photos as he stood in a carpeted hallway before the movie. But several kids approached to shake his hand, looking upward in awe. “You play with Stephen Curry?” one boy asked. “This is like the dream of my life.”

McGee had been assigned a supporting role. But this was his scene, and he made the most of it.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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