by G. Brown
The world is the same. Trump is still in the White House, gun control is still a massive problem and the specter of police brutality still haunts Black communities, but in spite of the status quo issues Marvel’s “Black Panther” has changed the world.
“Black Panther” sprinted its way to becoming the #1 movie in the world. From the moment the first teaser hit, TRN predicted “Black Panther” would be more than a movie, it would be a movement and that prognostication is proving to be 100% true. The movie has opened the world’s eyes to truths that were there all along and opening the doors to some conversations that are way overdue.
1. Black Actors Can Draw Big Audiences When Sony Pictures was hacked three years ago, one of the biggest revelations from leaked executive emails was that Black actors and Black movies weren’t considered money makers by big Hollywood studios. A leaked email about Denzel Washington said, “He’s reliable at the domestic [box office], safe, but has not had a huge success in years. I believe whenever possible the non event pictures, extra ‘bets’ should have a large inherent upside and be made for the right price. Here there isn’t a large inherent upside.”
It’s doubtful Sony Pictures was the only major movie studio with execs who thought only movies with all White casts brought in top dollar. Vice Magazine reports a recent study by the University of California found that “The average box office for a film with 21 percent to 30 percent of minority actors took in $179.2 million in contrast to the bland-opposite that averaged around $40 million world wide.” Any doubters still out there need only look at the stats to see how “Black Panther” has shattered that ridiculous myth that Black actors as leads or a majority Black cast under performs at the box office.
2. Colorism Actress Amandla Stenberg says she walked away from a role in “Black Panther” because of her light skin. Atlanta Black Star quotes Stenberg who says, “I got really, really close and they were like, ‘Do you want to continue fighting for this?’ And I was like, ‘This isn’t right.’ These are all dark skin actors playing Africans and I feel like it would have just been off to see me as a bi-racial American with a Nigerian accent just pretending that I’m the same color as everyone else in the movie,” she added.”
Stenberg’s comments may not have sparked the chatter on social media, but it certainly lines up with what was a trending topic.
Where are all the beautiful light skin black people in black panther??? Colorism is just as hateful as racism. Do better marvel
— 🍺 (@cantstopthekid) February 21, 2018
There was no colorism in Black Panther. Shit was lit!
— #HellaBlackPodcast (@BlakeDontCrack) February 17, 2018
In #Wakanda, there are no light skinned blacks nor dark skinned blacks, no good hair nor bad hair, no colorism nor mention of color for that matter. It’s just, Wakandans…#WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe#BlackPanther
— Opel Jones (@OpelJones) February 19, 2018
Stenberg may have experienced for the first time in her young career what darker skinned African Americans have experienced everyday of their life. Lighter skin, longer hair or straighter hair are traits that are more acceptable and considered more beautiful by many. Stenberg didn’t begrudge the roles her “bi-racial” appearance got her, so she can’t begrudge the same traits working against her. She doesn’t seem to though. And the entire situation helped open the door to a conversation that needs to happen within both the Black community and Hollywood. How many movies has Hollywood made using White actors in darker make up to portray roles as African Americans, Asian and Native American characters? A bi-racial actress playing an African or in this case a Wakandan would have been as bad as hiring a White actor in darker makeup and there was a time when White actors would have been hired.
3. Hollywood Diversity One movie about a Black superhero has shown the world what 100 years of marches, protests, boycotts and recently, hashtag campaigns couldn’t convey. Namely that Black actors, directors, casting directors, writers and film makers have a story to tell that only they are uniquely qualified to tell. The comic book story may have been conceived of and written by two Jewish writers (one of whom was Stan Lee), but this was a film brought to life by a Black director and a Black cast. Stephen Spielberg, Michael Bey, Quentin Tarantino each are talented, visionary directors, but in their hands, “Black Panther” would have been a completely different movie. Ryan Coogler not only had the vision as director, but his Black perspective permeated every moment of the film–from casting, to wardrobe to music to the clicks of the isiXhosa language spoken.
“Black Panther” is a defining moment of sorts. It premiered at a time not reserved for box office smashes. Instead of being just another crappy movie that did 10 or 11 million opening weekend, Marvel’s latest superhero made more money in four days than DC’s “Justice League” made in its first few months at the box office. One magazine called it “a cultural phenomenon”(Vulture.com) The movie has shown us in the comic book lore of fantasy what is possible in reality. Audiences didn’t see the stereotypical drug dealers, prostitutes, criminals, maids,slaves or Black people who needed a White savior. They saw independent, technological geniuses, strong women, Kings and Queens who were the birth of civilization. Black Hollywood should adopt King T’Challa’s end credit quote as its new place in the world…”Wakanda [Blacks] will no longer watch from the shadows. We cannot. We must not”