‘Black Panther’ Is Good For The Culture, But It’s Not Revolutionary
I’m excited to go see the “Black Panther” film because it looks culturally aware, has great actors, and has received great reviews by the critics.
Critics’ reviews are usually my first stop when deciding what film to see with the exception of gross/outrageous comedy. I can live with a low Rotten Tomatoes score for a “Don’t Be a Menace in South Central Without Drinking Your Juice In The Hood” or “White Chicks”. Rotten Tomatoes may not get it, and that’s OK. These film critics are not stopping me from getting a rare high on nuanced cultural laughs.
I watched the fast build-up for Disney and Marvel’s “Black Panther” on Twitter over the past 12 months. Black America has a lot of cultural equity in the film — maybe the most cultural equity invested of any film that has been released in America to date. This is measured by pre-ticket sales, media, and projected total box office sales. The optimistic establishment consensus is that Black kids will go see it and become more culturally aware — that this will be a cultural revolution, at least the start of it. They have hope. A lot of it.
Many Black people had similar hopes on the rise of Barack and Michelle Obama. Their unchecked optimism created a cultural bubble of faith. Obama was going to change everything. With Obama, there would be a cultural change in Black America. America would be better because of a Black family in the White House. Their hopes turned into a nightmare with the election of Donald Trump and the perverse acceleration of inequality coming out of liberal Silicon Valley over the last 10 years.
A certain socially conscious apprehension can come with popular art that’s expected to be groundbreaking or revolutionary. ‘Black Panther’ arrives freighted with the highest of expectations.” — Kristen Yoonsoo Kim, Village Voice.
Black people often seem overwhelmingly bullish on hoping, with slogans from Jesse Jackson in the ‘80s like “keep hope alive” and Obama’s “hope and change” in 2008. We “hope” America will change and we “hope” Jesus will change America. Or we “hope” to make it to heaven. We “hope” the Democrats will finally do something that is specific to their most loyal supporters just as they do specific things for the American supporters of Israel.
While “hope” may have helped Black people in the past, we must get beyond being satisfied with symbolism alone.
The revolutionary thing about ‘Black Panther’ is that it envisions a world not devoid of racism but one in which black people have the wealth, technology and military might to level the playing field …” — Jamil Smith, Time
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The reason why “Black Panther” is not revolutionary is that it overly relies on a “Mattel-Black-Barbie” cultural revolution that is unlikely to materialize. That, and the economic equity underpinning the film is 100-percent white. Disney has economic equity in the film. Disney’s market capitalization is $155 billion and its shareholders will surely benefit from the blockbuster success of “Black Panther”.
Structurally, Disney is saying, “You take the entertainment product and dashikis, I will take all of the profits.”
This is capitalism at its finest. It is willing to profit off an X Clan, Public Enemy, or Kendrick Lamar album. It doesn’t care. Hollywood has not changed and hasn’t suddenly found Black religion. It is just desperate for new ideas. The old formulas and playbooks are commercially fatigued and consistently losing money.
Disney has an entire library of racist films. Then it puts out one conscious Black film without any Black equity behind it and the Black establishment is ready to start crip-walking in a dashiki like we have reached the promised land.
There is nothing revolutionary about Mattel and Disney profiteering off dashikis, Black actors and Black ticket-buying. When we look at the owners and institutions that profit off our athletes (NFL, NBA, NCAA), it has always been white equity, Black labor and Black creativity.
When you look at the genius in hip hop, R&B, and popular music, you consistently have white equity With Black labor and creativity. This white equity, Black labor-and-creativity dynamic has persisted since slavery.
Black Panther tracking has shot up to $165M for the weekend. (FWIW, I still think that's low.) https://t.co/OAn1lNEPLK
— Matthew Belloni (@THRMattBelloni) February 12, 2018
It wouldn’t be revolutionary if corporations who rely on $1.1 trillion worth of Black buying power — including movie tickets, merchandise, licensing, and overpriced theater-junk-food — are pressed to open up the equity pot so Black investors can come in.
Created in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, ‘Black Panther’ was revolutionary as the first African superhero in mainstream comics.” — Hollywood Reporter
It wouldn’t be revolutionary if we organized to crowdfund these type of films, allowing Black people to acquire equity in mass while allowing Black directors and producers to fund their films.
“Black Panther” is expected to rake in an estimated $400 million, and it could pull another $400-to -$500 million from overseas markets. Marvel movies tend to do much better internationally than domestically, according to Screen Rant.
It is 2018. Too many of us are cheaply satisfied with symbolism and hope, without real economic equity. Malcolm X called for a by-any-means-necessary revolution, with arms and political and economic justice. Today there is a “Black Barbie” symbolic low bar of revolution without economic justice or economic equity.
I will be going to see “Black Panther,” but there is nothing revolutionary about it.
Let’s not make “Black Panther” more than what it is. Let’s stay focused on the real revolution. A good start towards that is finding a way for Black people to fund “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler’s next $1-billion-plus blockbuster. Let’s figure out how we can replace Disney’s disproportionate profiteering with Black equity participation and ownership.
A march towards revolution is about equity and ownership, not just symbolism and hope.
There are cultural cinematic events that happen every so often. “Jaws” broke open the tentpole. “Star Wars” redefined the blockbuster. “Wonder Woman” gave us a heroine 4 the ages. And something tells me #BlackPanther is about to carry the torch & set the whole thing on fire again
— Josh Gad (@joshgad) February 12, 2018
TWO DAYS where i live yaaaasssss. got my tix already pic.twitter.com/G4jTA8X5Zu
— Shinae (@shinaenigans) February 11, 2018
#BlackPanther album doesn’t even have any African artist on it lol. Let’s reduce the hype please.
— David (@Ifubaraboye_) February 12, 2018
nah fam u missinformed, first guy dat goes off on this song flows in zulu with a zulu harmony, his name is sjava, he kills da chorus too, straight out South Africa pic.twitter.com/CQpZb6n5aA
— Kakarot (@Gator_Da_Great) February 12, 2018
South Africa isn’t Africa bro. Don’t you get me?
— David (@Ifubaraboye_) February 12, 2018
#marvel #blackpanther inspired look.
As a stylist, black panther has challenged me to be more creative with how I put a look together. Black panther will inspire my colour palette from now on#WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe #BlackPantherMovie #cutsforhim pic.twitter.com/Q6s8iAbF8q
— Cutsforhim (@cutsforhim) February 12, 2018
As the first black superhero in mainstream comics, #BlackPanther has become the symbol of how the perception of minorities can evolve by allowing black creators reclaim the character's narrative. #BlackHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/ysvzJ19usE
— MTV (@MTV) February 12, 2018