Updated: Feb 16, 2019
The movie Black Panther comes out in 4 days in theaters all across the country and the world and is released to tremendous critical acclaim. It has broken pre- sale records for any movie in history with sales of over $150 Mil in pre-sales weeks before its release. To add to this "Black Panther" has received an almost perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes, and the critics of this movie continue to give it high praise for its actors, story & cinematography. Tremendous accolades for an all Black Cast, Black Director; and a soundtrack scored by the voice of Kendrick Lamar; seems like a lot of planning and effort went into the production, marketing and distribution of an essentially Black Super Hero movie released during Black History Month. Who could ask for anything more? Well, maybe I can. How about more Black Superhero movies like this that celebrate our ancestors, our spirit, our creativity and our genius. I asked the listeners of Thinking Out Loud Radio Show last week, why has all the Superheroes in comic books and in the movies always been "white" Which typically pushes the narrative that everything "white" is "right" and everything "black" is "whack." Superheroes from Superman and Batman to the Thor & The Incredible Hulk, and most Superheroes in between have the White Anglo-Saxon Europeans that have come to dominate the media in every way shape and form. I wonder was this done to push the narrative that the more they are seen in popular culture the less they will be viewed as an adversary or a villain but rather we will start to see them as a hero or better still a friend.
In some ways this could be looked as a tactic used during the Apartheid, where censorship in the media was directly tied to the Ruling Party to ensure that they were always portrayed in a favorable light through print, audio and visual media. This was one of the ruling elites most effective tools that was used to psychologically disarm the Black South Africans and continue to propagate the belief that their oppressor was not really their enemy but their friend. That the system of Apartheid was in place to save the Black Africans from themselves. So, in a sense the white ruling class was doing the Black South Africans a community service by ruling over them and pilfering and pillaging their country all in the name of "white righteousness." How noble. And, yet the psychology behind the Apartheid, the psychology behind Slavery was far more damaging than any physical brutality that Blacks had to endure. Some might say that the Apartheid comparison may be a bit of stretch, but if you think that the marketing campaign behind this movie, which includes it being released during the "Blackest" month of the year was an accident, then you are sadly mistaken. But, all of the themes associated with our "blackness" is directly and indirectly associated with the greatness of this movie.
Why hasn't there been more diversity in comic book characters? We seem to have been fighting for equality and diversity in our real life situations and circumstances that we failed to recognize an obvious ethnic disparity in our comic book characters. But, is there really something here or is this really much to do about nothing? Should we be vocally advocating for more diversity in our comic book characters or should our focus just be relegated to what we experience in real life. Further still, is this a matter of art imitating life or vice-versa? Is the art a reflection of what's happening in the real world? Is what we see in movie and TV as it relates to the ethnicity of our Superheroes a mere reflection of what power looks like in the real world? Is that the real message that is being conveyed by the lack of diversity in comics? Or, is something far more sinister taking place and that is the art itself is a reflection of the way things should be? I like to believe that this is not the case and this is just a matter of coincidence and not apart of a highly classified, secret society of individuals who want nothing more than to write African Americans out the annals of history. This is NOT, what I believe to be taking place. What has happened; I believe, is more systematic than sinister. it is ingrained in our social construct to expect to see more White Superheros than Black ones. To expect to see a white Batman instead of a Black one, to see a white James Bond instead of a Black one. But, what effect does that have on 14 and 15 years Black young boys and girls who grow up in Urban American where the real lives are hampered by poverty, criminal activity, inadequate schools, and low income homes. The reality of life causes some youth to look to movies as a temporary escape and when they don't see anyone that looks like them with super human ability, when they don't see Superheroes that have Super Powers that has to wain on their mentality as youth growing up in Urban America.
This is why Black Panther is a BIGGER motion picture than people realize, because not only is it a continuation of the Avenger series in the Marvel Franchise, but it is an opportunity for young black boys and girls growing up in Urban America to see a Superhero that looks like them. A Superhero that can not only be a temporary escape from a very present hopeless reality for some, but also an inspiration and motivation to aspire to reach super humanly beyond where they are to where they can be. To see beyond where they are to where they can be. Some might say that this blog is a bit of stretch to make the assertion that the lack of Black Superheros in popular culture negatively impacts the growth and development of young Black teens in Urban America. But, the lack thereof certainly doesn't help them either.. I'm curious to know what your thoughts are on this controversial subject. I'm sure some are going to disagree with our analysis of the situation, but we welcome this healthy dialogue and debate. We want to know what you think of this? Do you think we are completely off base? Are we making too much of this movie Black Panther and the potential impact it could have on Black America?
Is our comparison of the disparity of Black & White Superheroes to the mental and emotional health of young Black youth in Urban America, as irresponsible as the reckless White Republicans who tried to draw a correlation between Gangsta Rap and gang related crimes and violence? You remember doing the late 80's and early 90's when White Republicans tried to erroneously draw the comparison between Gangster Rap Music and gang violence in this country. Not realizing that there were more factors at play than just what the youth listened to and watched, but the impoverished neighborhoods they grew up in and the poverty stricken families of of these communities that had fallen prey to the rich Republican capitalistic "trickle-down" economics of the richest 1%, The system itself was aligned against them and in sense they were really trying to find a place in a world that they seemed to be unwelcome guests. So, there were a lot of factors definitely at play, all of which had improperly characterized the Black Youth of America as thugs, criminals and degenerates that society needed to lock up and throw away the key. But, Black Panther seeks to overturn those negative presuppositions about Black culture and demonstrate and express the greatness that our ancestry and heritage projects. For me Black Panther is "Roots" on steroids; it is Django Unchained, Coming To America, Malcolm X, and every celebrated Black Film all rolled into one. I believe that positive images that movies like Black Panther project only help our Black youth to see what never seem to be possible. Just the availability of these kinds of possibilities in popular culture will work wonders on the psyche of today's Black youth. In this movie Black Panther, I see a new hero rising not just in Hollywood, but in Black homes all across not just this country but all over the world.
Thinking Out Loud...