Black Panther makes Hollywood history
Views 50 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 3 - 6 - 2018 | By: Nicci
Recently, in a profile with The New Yorker, actor and rapper Donald Glover, referred to our current pop culture era as, “white America [enjoying] seeing itself through a black lens.” With the emergence of shows like Atlanta, Black-ish, Jane the Virgin, and others, white people are given a lens into the experiences of people of color. Yet, Glover has deemed shows such as these as subjected to adjusting their standards to what is palatable and capable of placating the white majority.
This past year, Get Out and Black Panther have been featured on the big screen-- both breaking records and attracting media attention. Black Panther features a nearly entire black cast with only one non-black person in a supporting role. Thus, it has made a huge impact in Hollywood history. After the posters for the film released fans rushed to social media to share many memes and videos exuding excitement over what they felt was true representation for the black community. Their captions often literally read, “Is this what white people feel like all the time?”
The film itself features a dynamic cast; varying in age and country of origin. The plot centers around pan-Africanism. It fills in the blanks left by colonialism and the continent’s diaspora by telling the story of Wakanda utilizing Afrofuturism. Wakanda is a well-disguised country in Africa thats main resource is vibranium. Because of their access to this hidden resource unique to their region, the Wakandans are able to create advanced technology that is unimaginable to their peer-nations. Yet, shortly into the film, the inevitable trouble in paradise strikes as a newcomer attempts to take over Wakanda with the aim of empowering the marginalized black community to uprise.
Black Panther has an interesting perspective on power-- who gets to wield it, what can they do with it, and why. The Atlantic refers to this idea as one having “dominated black thoughts in the United States.” It also serves as an allegorical “what if.” If Africans who were colonized and enslaved were able to not only preserve their culture but also allow it to foster, where would they be right now? Would they be the underbelly of a nation that also enslaved them and currently denies the ongoing repercussions of that enslavement? Would they serve as the philanthropist's passion project or the Christian ministry’s mission work? Would they be isolationists as depicted in the film, only concerned with their own within their borders rather than their own all over-- mimicking the country that in reality marginalizes them?
This film is asking a lot of big questions. Despite its success, is it possible that Donald Glover is right? Is it merely a palatable action film adjusted to placate the white majority that are interested in an action film set to Kendrick Lamar’s music? Some white consumers appear to praise the film for its action and aesthetics without any awareness of the larger themes and implications at play. This film takes stabs at the marginalization and racism that black people have historically faced at the hands of the white majority. Still, it is thoroughly entertaining for everyone, including white people. Be sure to see it for yourself! But, make sure you’re seeing what director and writer Ryan Coogler is trying to get you to see about our society as a whole.