I know, it's been forever. I've had an issue resulting in limited...geographic mobility, and then over the holiday season I got sick. I honestly didn't even get to go see the parks at Christmas, which is a first for me in a long time.
But, I'm back because I absolutely have to talk to you all about Black Panther.
Those who know me, know that I'm...anti-Marvel. Generally, not a comic or superhero person overall. OK, a little bit of Batman, but that's about it.
My recent interest in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is probably a story for another day (and a therapist), but Black Panther was certainly the catalyst. For one thing, look at this cast! Chadwick Boseman (who has inexplicably been ignored by the Academy for playing Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Thurgood Marshall), Oscar ® Winners Lupita Nyong'o and Forest Whitaker, Nominees Daniel Kaluuya, and Angela Bassett (how has this woman not won?! I blame Meryl), Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown, and Michael B. Jordan, who also has snubs on his record with Creed and Fruitvale Station.
Now, even while watching, I knew there was no way to cover everything I felt about this film and all thing worthy of discussion about the movie in one post. Plus, again, being a novice to Marvel, I'm sure I'm going to miss something (yes, I stayed for the end credits scenes, I know that much!).
Therefore, I'm just going to sum up a little, and address a couple of things I'd like noted.
OK.....first the obvious part. This movie is the story of, and populated by, a group/nation, of intelligent, strong BLACK leaders. This is a bit of an anomaly in Hollywood (I know, big piece of news here). And it's making money hand over fist.
I have kind of a mixed perspective on the concept of representation. As a kid, I didn't really need it, because there wasn't someone who looked like me. I look white, but I'm Hispanic. I just never really thought about it as much as it seems other do. When I was 8, I was a Ghostbuster for Halloween, not because I saw my race or my gender in these characters, but because I liked them and wanted to be with them. I don't know where or why my own perspective comes from (but just in case, I'll thank my mom) but I'm grateful to have such a healthy lack of concern.
On the other hand, I can understand why those who feel underrepresented feel the way they do about it. Where is your world? Your perspective? I can sympathize with that. Frankly, a good representation of the neighborhood I grew up in is Stand and Deliver! (I know, old reference. I'm old.)
While I agree representation is a great thing, I don't believe in making it the #1 priority over story. I'm a screenwriter. Story is paramount! And you see a lot of movies come and go trying to be a United Colors of Benetton catalog, neglecting the story. I feel like this sort of thing hurts the cause. If you can make a great movie with various peoples, you have the potential to do so much more in the long run.
At this point, I'd like to declare this movie a TRIUMPH of representation. These characters are intelligent, thoughtful, three dimensional, funny, interesting, and will ALL equally kick your ass. Even Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger has his own sympathetic side. He's not just a straight villain. The women of this movie aren't just set pieces (though these are the epitome of beautiful strong black women), they drive the story, and they provide the assistance T'Challa needs. Literally, Black Panther would just be an eccentric king in a lame cat suit if not for his mother, sister, love interest, and general.
Now, this is incredible for Black Cinema. I think (and hope) this signals a turn of the tide, although I also get the feeling an up tick in "ethnic themes and characters" in mainstream film and television has previously come and gone in waves. Let's hope this tide is here to stay. And I'll tell you why....
This is a victory for Black culture. No doubt. And in what I'm about to say, I am not in any way intending to take that away from anybody.
But this is a victory for ALL people of color.
I've long felt like black representation in film and television is, in a way, a representation of ALL people of color in film and television. I can only speak from my own experience, but I've always kind of perceived it that way. Any person of color represents ALL people of color.
There is a great flip side to the concept of a black superhero. Yes, it goes without saying how awesome it is that a black child can go to this movie and take their pick of role models. But even before the movie was released, star Chadwick Boseman mentioned in an interview that (white) executives in Hollywood told him how excited their kids were to be Black Panther for Halloween. And he was delighted at that response. Yes, he's gratified to be a role model to young black people, but the idea we live in a world where white kids can look at a black man as a hero was just as exciting to him. I've seen comments online from people insisting that white people restrict their potential costumes to the white characters, but these people are obviously missing the point. And I have even more respect for Boseman that he can see the forest for the trees.
In the days running up to the release of the movie, it was getting rave reviews. But there were also concerns that the reviews were so glowing just because it was a black cast and a black superhero. I can tell you, as a skeptical non-Marvel person who hates representation with lazy story, that wasn't the case. And to those on social media who insisted anyone critical of the movie is racist, shame on you (though I doubt you're reading this). This film deserves to be viewed on its own merits, and comments like that reinforce the idea that this movie was well-reviewed for reasons other than its filmmaking and storytelling.
That being said, it's a great movie. Full of action, interesting characters, snappy dialogue, a multi-layered story. If I got the impression the MCU movies were like this, I'd be more inclined to see them.
At the moment, I think that's all I have to cover at the moment. Again, if I missed something, I'm sorry. I'm new at this! Please, if you haven't, go see this movie. It is proof Hollywood can make a movie with people of color in front and behind the camera that is engaging and smart.
P.S. To all the people who went to the theater dressed as characters from Coming to America, you are fabulous!