Chadwick Boseman Earns Tribute During MTV VMAs: “The World Needs More Superheroes”

Chadwick Boseman
Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/Sipa USA (Sipa via AP Images)

Chadwick Boseman, whose death Friday continues to have popular culture and Hollywood reeling, received a one-minute tribute at MTV’s Video Music Awards.

“The world needs more superheroes,” a title card reads at the beginning of the segment (watch it below), which aired on the linear telecast as well as the live stream.

A clip of Boseman accepting the Best Hero award at the 2018 MTV Movie And TV Awards is the heart of the segment. It displays a characteristic gesture by Boseman, who died at 43, succumbing to colon cancer. Instead of putting the trophy on his own mantel, he used the award show moment to shine a light on someone else – bringing a man onstage to be recognized.

“Receiving an award for playing a superhero is amazing,” Boseman says. “But, it’s even greater to acknowledge the heroes that we have in real life. So, I just wanna acknowledge somebody that’s here today, James Shaw Jr. If you don’t know James Shaw Jr., he fought off a gunman in Antioch, Tennessee, at a Waffle House, saved lives. So, this is gonna live at your house, God bless you.”

The tribute concludes with a simple message: “Rest in Power.”

Before the video played, VMA host Keke Palmer kicked off the telecast with a short address to the camera saying the show would be dedicated to Boseman.

“Before we get into the music tonight, we need to take the time to talk about the devastating loss of Chadwick Boseman, an actor whose talent and passion were a true inspiration to all the fans he touched, and everyone he encountered,” she said. “We dedicate this show to a man whose spirit touched so many. He’s a true hero – not just on screen, but in everything he did. His impact lives forever.”

In part because some of the acceptance speeches had been pre-taped, no winners or speakers alluded to Boseman. In closing the show at the end of the night’s last musical performance, Black Eyed Peas frontman shouted out Boseman’s role in Black Panther: “Wakanda forever!”

Speeches generally stuck to topics common to non-pandemic award shows: managers, producers, fans, pursuing one’s dreams, and so on. Politics and social justice were all but absent, aside from a short flourish by The Weeknd: “Justice for Jacob Blake and justice for Breonna Taylor,” he said both times he accepted awards.

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