Marvel’s latest blockbuster movie, Black Panther, has smashed box office records and is widely considered one of the greatest Marvel movies over the last ten years. After seeing it I do understand the hype as it has a great story line, looks stunning visually, and has a great ensemble of performances from Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) to the show stealing Michael B. Jordan (Killmonger). And obviously I’m not alone in this opinion as it has grossed 700 million globally in 60 countries.
Outside of the critical acclaim it has also gained a lot of attention from a political standpoint. From ABC, Huffington Post, to Good Morning America and beyond the picture has garnered recognition as revolutionary film for African Americans as the first black superhero movie and giving black children in America the gift of seeing a superhero they can be.
These stances, despite being widely believed and advertised, are simply not true and completely inappropriate and foundationally wrong. This movie is the not the first black superhero film because of movies like Blade (1998) with Wesley Snipes. Others argue it proves black superheroes work in Hollywood, but that was proven twenty years ago. Blade was also clearly successful as evident by the making of two sequels.
My biggest problem with this situation is the idea that Black Panther suddenly gives black children “permission” to be superheros or an example of a superhero they can be. There have been viral posts on social media about “this is how white people feel all the time” describing how black people feel in reaction to seeing a dominantly black cast in Black Panther or funding campaigns to get black children to see this movie so they can see their unlimited possibilities.
No white person goes to a movie theater and thinks to themselves about how Captain America is a white superhero and that is why they love the movie. They go to see the movie because they like action, explosions, and superheroes not the idea of a white lead. That’s how the characters were portrayed in the comic books, it is not because big movie studios don’t think a black superhero will do as well as a white superhero in the box office. They do not pick to make movies about the white heroes they go with the characters who were more prominent and popular in the comic books.
Anybody being any superhero is not a new idea, the idea that a hero like Superman is not relatable to people who are not white is preposterous. You see black athletes like Cam Newton, Dwight Howard, and Shaquille O’Neal donning that Superman logo, doing Superman celebrations, or calling themselves Superman nicknames with pride because they like the qualities of that particular hero.
You may not feel as relatable to a particular hero because of his personality, powers, or even his outfit, but I argue race simply does not play a role in that equation. People who are Asian, South American, or any race still relate to superheroes who do not necessarily look like them, because that is simply not meant to be noticed.
If a black child doesn’t like a panther looking superhero and instead likes the one that shoots webs or looks like a bat, they should and will not like the panther looking one just because there is a black man under the mask.
Acting like we have come so far because of Black Panther’s release is just ignorant to movies with black leads that have come before and to the idea that anybody can be any superhero. Pointing out that black kids should see this because it is a black superhero is making a distinction between races and that is the very thing we are supposed to be avoiding on the path to a society where the color of your skin is completely irrelevant.