The Black Panther Phenomenon, Is Hollywood Listening?

In April of 2017, I wrote a blog about Hollywood whitewashing and how people should vote with their money if they wanted to see more diversity in films. Well, congratulations because you, the American audience, did vote and the outcome was fantastic!

Black Panther Review

First and foremost, Black Panther is an excellent movie. Don’t spaz out about it being an all-Black cast, because it isn’t or being for only the Black audiences because it isn’t that either. It is simply a damn good movie, which is reason enough to see it multiple times.

The Black Panther character originally shows up in Captain America: Civil War. The current movie capitalizes on the Captain America film and fills in the gap of Prince T’Challa ascending to the throne. This episode in the long line of Marvel movies is much better than many of the other origin tales. I found Thor’s and Ant-Man‘s beginning tales a little on the dull side, and no one has measured up to the panache of Iron Man. Yet Black Panther matches the heart-racing action of an Iron Man flick while being filled with the filmography beauty and use of color found in the Thor films.Black Panther

Chris Pratt called it a “Bond movie meets Shakespearean tragedy.” in a tweet and he was right. Royal brothers battle for the future of their country. The result of that conflict has far reaching effects on both of their sons who later battle for the throne as well. Yes the throne is in a small, hidden, and (to the rest of the world) unbelievably poor African nation, but that does not detract from the importance of the outcome. In reality, Wakanda is one of the most technically advanced and wealthy nations on Earth due to their gigantic deposit of vibranium. In their battle to rule the kingdom, one brother wishes to do only good and serve his people. The other wants to use the high tech to conquer the world. The stakes could not get any higher than that.

The Actors

Chadwick Boseman did an excellent job as the complex, brooding T’Challa, the new ruler of his nation and the most recent in a long line of panther heroes. His near worship of his father is shattered when he discovers the previous king’s mistake in killing his brother and leaving the man’s only child, Erik Killmonger behind in an impoverished area of Oakland. The comparison of his childhood in oppression as compared to T’Calla’s wealthy world is only hinted at but easily imagined by most Americans. Michael B. Jordan raged on the screen as Erik, a frightening figure of obsessive vengeance.

However, in my mind, the women nearly upstaged the men. T’Challa is surrounded with intelligent, fiercely loyal women, including his mother, played by lovely Angela Bassett; his geeky-tech sister Shuri, (Letitia Wright); the love interest Nakia, acted by Lupita Nyong’o; and Okoye, the fierce general of the all-woman guards (Danai Gurira). In some ways, this was a strong feminist film as well since many of the top advisers to the king, and in some cases the ones that handed him his victories, were all strong, beautiful women.

Breaking Box Office Records.

Still one of the really important points of this MarvelĀ film was that the crowds came out for it. As everyone probably knows by now, it broke all kinds of box office records, which is not easy in this post-Star Wars age. The movie stands on its own excellence and will possibly be the biggest hit of the year. I saw it on a Tuesday night when the weather outside was crappy enough to make people stay home. Yet the theater was more than half full with a ethnically mixed crowd, families and dates, young and older, and everyone loved it. I’m sure audiences of all backgrounds and ethnic groups will continue to enjoy it for many weeks to come.

So Hollywood, are you noting the true lesson here behind the Black Panther movie? The people have proven that ethnically diverse movies can be great in the box office. We want to see more Black, Asian, Hispanic, and other nonwhite actors in great roles that aren’t just second fiddles to all-white leads. We want really great films that support diversity. And we, the American audience, will vote with our money.

Are you listening, Hollywood?

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