I found a lot of the euphoria surrounding Black Panther’s release rather abhorrent.
Firstly, as you might have noticed if you’ve been paying close attention, I am a white gentleman. And even though I’m actually one hundred and seventy sixth Shoshone (because apparently just saying shit like that makes it true) I would probably identify as white. Despite white men being the face of literally everything, ever, I still understand the need for representation. As a glib and probably entirely offensive example, since my ‘accident’ by general bodily make up and bone structure has been so royally kejiggered that I can no longer urinate standing up. I used to think that was a disgraceful and embarrassing secret shame that nobody else could possibly comprehend. I then heard a sketch on That Mitchell and Webb Sound that referenced somebody getting so badly beaten up that he now ‘had to wee sitting down’. I was overjoyed to hear of my affliction being so universally understood and no longer felt so weird.
So, yeah, I’m practically black.
Firstly, the widely held implication that Black Panther was the first black superhero movie was simply incorrect. What about Blade, Blade 2 and, to a lesser extent, Blade Trinity?? I saw Blade 2 at the cinema! It had Cat from Red Dwarf in it! Sometimes this implication was changed to Black Panther being the first black Marvel superhero film. What about Blade, Blade 2 and, to a lesser extent, Blade Trinity?? I saw Blade 2 at the cinema! It had Cat from Red Dwarf in it! Has Wesley Snipes’s ‘tax problems’ rendered all of his work officially #cancelled??
Black Panther was instead the first movie that made a point of having a black superhero. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and that focus and the insane amount of money it made makes it an undeniably important movie. However, that focus and success wasn’t really funding or helping many African or African-Anerican causes. It was Disney (one of the biggest and whitest companies on Earth) attempting to turn black pride into a commodity and to monetise equal opportunities. Whatever good Disney did with employing and casting many black (American) talent, the end product was still to fill Disney’s coffers. Disney wanted people to proudly celebrate their blackness and the oft overlooked importance of black culture, but they wanted people to do that specifically by giving Disney their money to see Black Panther. You couldn’t give your attention and cash to other African-American made movies like The Hate U Give or Sorry to Bother You or BlacKKKlansmen or Get Out. These movies weren’t Disney, and in 2018 Disney successfully made a bid to add black pride to the franchise.
Am I the only person who thinks this is gross? Pretty much since the dawn of cinema, Disney has been central to and large cause of the problems of lack of diversity we have today. Black Panther may have been an implied apology for their past misdeeds, but the company seems to be respectfully apologising for past Songs of the South by politely asking us to absolve them of their sins by giving them more money.
Listen, I know that this doesn’t matter to the kid excited to finally see a tax-paying superhero on screen who looks like him, and that it’s definitely a good thing that a company as big as Disney is finally waking up- in 2018!- to the fact that the colour of an actor’s skin needn’t make a difference to it’s potential box office. And, yes, it’d be near impossible to find a movie you could spend money on that wouldn’t eventually end up in some old white guy’s hands, which is a far bigger problem than any superhero movie is likely to solve. I have no doubt that Black Panther is legitimately a great film* and deserves all of its plaudits. I just think it’s a little uncomfortable.
(*I haven’t seen it. I take my position as The Most Trusted Voice In Music On The Web to potentially muddy my reading of the soundtrack)
It’s a good album, I might have forgotten to mention that
(Future. He might also be on this list as well…)
(SZA. You know those comments on that piece? Yeah, they are actually legitimately from Hejjy. She some how came across the things I’d written about her and got back in touch. That’s absolutely only the start of that story…)