Fear of a Black Panther

One Black Guy’s Thoughts on Black Panther For People Who Don’t Get It

Unless you’ve been in a coma for the past two years, you know Marvel’s Black Panther hit the theaters Friday (or Thursday night depending where you live.) And like predicted, it has shattered the Box Office into pieces. Taking in over 200 million it’s opening weekend, and beating out Deadpool for the biggest February realize!

Without giving an actual review of the movie (since there is already a review coming), all I will say is that it lived up to the hype, and beyond! Giving us a compelling story, amazing costumes and set designs, and probably the best (cinematic) Marvel villain to date in Erik Killmonger, played perfectly by Michael B. Jordan!

But, as also predicted with a movie like Black Panther being a mostly Black cast, crew, and director, was the bullshit of racists who wanted the film to fail. Most claiming that it “wasn’t about race” even though the problems they claimed to have (about a movie they’ve never seen) were never issues they’ve had with Captain America, Iron Man, or any other “White” superhero film.They are quick to label the film as “social justice warrior nonsense,” and even had the gall to claim “reverse racism” because there were only two White supporting characters.

Many of the racists who actually saw the film (so even they spent their money, go figure?) claimed that it was too political, yet had no problem with how political Captain America: Winter Soldier was. Or they claimed it was unrealistic even though they had no problem with Asgard or Doctor Strange. Some even tried to spin it by saying Black Panther was cooler in Civil Warwhere he was one of 3 Black characters who weren’t the main focus of the film.

This is why I’m calling these people out.

For the sake of those who are genuinely ignorant as to why Black Panther means so much to Black people, I’m going to try to make sense of it for you. Whether you get it or not is really on you and your issues.

Representation. Representation. Representation. 

This has been pointed out so many times that it’s hard to keep having this conversation. Hollywood since its inception has had a race problem casting people of color in non-stereotypical roles. For too long Black people have been portrayed in films as mostly thugs, ghetto, buffoons, slaves, coons, or side-kicks to the White hero.

Case in point:  People (racist comic nerds) are quick to point out characters like Falcon or War Machine when trying to make their point about diversity. These two characters (though I’m a fan of) are basically there to make Cap and Iron Man look good. They are not the hero of their film. They are not saving the day and getting the girl. Those who bring up these characters know this and pretend to plead ignorance to this fact.

T’Challa is not only the hero, he is a king, a warrior, and most important, he is a good man! He’s surrounded by strong, intelligent, brave Black women who weren’t interchangeable or there to just be love interests! It’s the movie young Black boys and girls can watch and see themselves in positive characters they can aspire to be like!

Box Office Success In Spite Of…

There has been an ugly, inside belief, in Hollywood for years that “Black films” don’t make money! Which has been the excuse time and time again as to why Hollywood for decades has never put any real money behind Black projects.

The huge success of Black Panther opens the vault to getting more representation on the big screen and allowing actors of color more diverse roles. Not just for Black people, but many people of color. Especially in the world of comic book films.

Diverse Storytelling/Diverse Characters

Most complaints about Marvel Movies have been that they are typical and tell the same story. Black Panther, because of its cultural differentiation from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was allowed to tell a unique story and expand on a world. This is what inclusion does. It opens up more storytelling!

And with diverse stories we get unique heroes and villains. As I mentioned earlier, Killmonger is the best Marvel villain up till this point. It’s because he is a character who has a real reason for the awful things he’s done. He is a monster, but he’s a sympathetic monster that you find yourself agreeing with, to a degree.

Wrapping up…

There are many reasons why Black Panther saw the success that it has. Yes it’s a film that as Black folks we were excited about for reasons I listed earlier. Since the days of John Wayne and even before, young White kids have always had positive cinematic characters they could look at and see themselves in. If you can’t understand why people of other backgrounds need that same inspiration and relatability, that’s between you and the god you claim to worship!

But regardless of your opinion of Black Panther, there’s no denying its success. If Hollywood does actually base its decisions on dollar signs, be prepared for a lot more projects with people who don’t look like you!

 

One response to “Fear of a Black Panther

  1. When I saw the trailer, I teared up a bit. Just like I did when I saw the Batman Begins trailer, or that for Wonder Woman. Seeing these forces for good portrayed as complete characters, in big budget, well-crafted films after so very much crap- yeah. Tears.

    Saw it. Loved it. It’s one of those few films that has the potential to truly (and positively) impact the biz as usual at the mity-whity studios, and society at large. The success, dignity, and self-confidence of the project (not to mention the Afrofuturism and pro-science theme) finally give those less fortunate than I fantasy role models, hopes and dreams like this white guy had 40+ years ago in, e.g., Iron Man. And us white folks now have indelible images of traditionally sidelined groups as not just “people” but as larger than life, big-hearted, very well educated, competent people. The “goodness” is not forced, but is completely presumed and accepted in the entire enterprise and storyline. Did I add as fully respectable, cultured folks worthy of assumptions of goodness? Just like most white folks assume of most other white folks. Yeah, some aspects of the politics of these (and arguably all other mainstream Marvel/DC characters and villains) are not perfect. I mean, in in both “universes” the non-gods/magic/radioactive spider heroes are primarily those with massive, inherited wealth while the “self-made” are primarily villains.

    Still a triumph.

    If I was a unusually smart little kid (boy or girl) of color, only now could I see myself in the great scientific and/or powered heroes in pop culture. As with the recent Wonder Woman for smart girls. About damn time.

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