How Black Panther has changed Hollywood.

Black Panther

With an estimated three-day record-breaking gross of $192 million, smashing “Deadpool’s” 2016 box office mark of $152 million, there’s no doubt that most of us have gathered the tremendous impact that Black Panther has had on society.

Willing to investigate some of the world’s biggest moral, political and social questions that are, more often than not, abandoned on the sidelines in fast-paced action movies, the multi-million Marvel production has made quite the mark.

For the minority among you that need re-familiarising, the persistent notes that undercut the screenplay is the suggestion that “Blackness”,  “Africanness” and everything that these terms signify, are enormously undervalued attributes that have yet to reveal their full glory.

Black identity is explored, when, more often than not, it’s excluded from Hollywood productions.

The underlying message behind the films external context rings pretty clear. Wakanda, Africa is no “third-world country – textiles, shepherds, cool outfits.” Instead, it’s a country that’s built upon a base of  vibranium—the strongest metal in the world. In spite of having surpassed other continents’ technology, Wakanda’s expanse of forestry deceive outsiders. This race is not to be undermined.

A motion-picture that powerfully addressed and subverted the assumptions and stereotypes, that unfortunately still undercut our society today, was long overdue, which is probably why it’s quite unsurprising that Black Panther won ‘Top Film Award’ at the 2019 SAG Awards.

In his acceptance speech, Boseman touched upon the most glaring examples of how the production has instigated change in the industry. From the mere aesthetic level of a cast that gives representation to “young, gifted and black” individuals, Black Panther embodies a subverted reality wherein there is “a space”, “a screen” and “a stage” for this demographic to be featured on. A universe in which this demographic can be the head and not the tale, above and not below, to reiterate Boseman.

Black Panther is not the first movie to have inserted black leadership from the ground level of production.

Look at Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (2013), Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight (2016) and Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017). Each film harnesses a flurry of black talent, both on and behind the scenes.

Nevertheless, notice how this recent movie history forms as a critique on societal oppression and therefore, quite ironically, recreates them.

In spite of making positive progress in terms of giving African-Americans bigger platforms as protagonists, their ultimate depiction of black vulnerability speaks to the fact that, as Boseman suggests,

our task historically, has not been the same because, you know,  we been relegated to playing the side-kick [the inferior], or the side-show, or back-stage, or not here altogether

Whilst jointly effective in their raw exposure of past and present wounds, of being subject to debasement,  it appears that no other film has attempted to relinquish the pain through depicting a new and empowered reality altogether.

There’s intelligence in the making of Black Panther.

It doesn’t call for a conceited form of “Black Power”, which would only serve to endorse the prospect of racial supremacy.

It calls for a new representational normality. One wherein, perhaps, the idea of going to a movie theatre and seeing an all black cast in a Hollywood production doesn’t really make you blink.

Black Panther made this new reality more accessible, more tangible, by providing a vessel in which “we could be full human beings in the roles that we were playing”, in which “we could create a world that exemplified a world that we wanted to see”, as Boseman said.

A world wherein “equal, if not more talent” in BAME communities, translates to “the same opportunities […] the same doors open to you”. A world wherein the aspirations of Black people are not “outside the realm of what the world would see you doing”.

The movie has also gotten Hollywood to give greater acknowledgement to black heritage.

It’s the equivalent of somebody doing a period piece where you talk about the wardrobe in this movie.”

In spite of being known primarily as a superhero and a black movie, the shrewdly incorporated elements of black cultural heritage has been given a platform.

It plays a part in communicating the tale and brings greater significance to it’s message.

Black Panther not only subverts our perception of the black dynamic on the Hollywood screen, but, if you look a little closer, also our understanding of black history.


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