By the time someone is reading this, Black Panther has just released in theaters in time for President’s Day weekend. It’s even more probable that you may have plans to check out the film, given its massive projection for a $200 million weekend, right up there with the likes of the recent Star Wars films. I happen to be one of those people, as I always try to make it out to the premiere of a big Marvel film and have an adoration for the superhero genre.
However, I am aware that for others, the film has much larger implications. In particular, this is the first Marvel movie to feature a cast that is predominantly black. Therefore, it is seen by sections of the African-American community and other groups as a cultural touchstone and garnered significant attention across the entire nation. Even earlier in January, a GoFundMe was created to help children in Harlem see the film, with the hope that it can serve as inspiration.
Such reactions in themselves are perfectly fine. While I cannot say I hold the same excitement or anticipation along these lines, I nevertheless see their credence in the context of America and how this film can be viewed as an important milestone.
It’s a shame, however, that Black Panther is quickly morphing into a device that enforces extreme political agendas from both sides of the spectrum. In what should have been another exciting weekend for superhero enthusiasts and casual moviegoers all around has become defined by the ludicrosity of social media.
There are two broadly defined sections of this article and both admittedly lean on the shorter side. While these may seem like generalizations, I found this the best means to communicate the most prominent oppositional forces.
Why not we start with this?
If anyone is still confused, let me confirm: these Twitter posts were fabricated as a means of stigmatizing black moviegoers and painting the picture that they are actively discriminating against other attendees of different backgrounds. For the former picture, damning evidence was found to prove it unreliable, and while I don’t know about the exact details surrounding the other tweet, I can confirm that both accounts have been suspended at the time of writing.
For someone to go the extra mile to controvert a political narrative in their favor baffles me to the highest degree, even if the pretenses of their lies are already beckoning suspicion for their lack of substance. I’m not going to deny the possibility that there are people out there that hold the thought that somehow people that aren’t black shouldn’t be able to view Black Panther in the theaters (as I will demonstrate soon) and shouldn’t be critiqued for their perspective, but the act of violence is on a wholly new level with significant criminal ramifications.
What I find even more sickening is the use of identity politics to continue pushing forth the notion of a good-evil conflict between races. In the first screenshot, the user ensures to make the blanket statement that he is white and the people who apparently (haven’t) attacked him were black youth. Such details should be insignificant on their own, but the added context of the Black Panther premiere can communicate the wrong idea. All in all, these represent some of the exceptional products of those aimed at ruining the enjoyment of the movie for others while simultaneously taking advantage of an online platform to spread demeaning messages.
The Holier Than Thou?
Like I said though, individuals are emerging from the highest ends of the political spectrum to insert their voice into this complicated affair. While I haven’t been able to find any stories about falsified violence, I came across some tweets that warrant concern:
And while not too major of a story, I did manage to come across people claiming they would boycott Black Panther because starring actor Michael B. Jordan is dating someone outside of his race…
I apologize in advance if I happen to be wrong as an uncultured citizen, but aren’t these comments inherently racist?
In all seriousness, any form of prejudice against another race regardless of their apparent status or privilege is inappropriate and should not be tolerated. In the case of John Haltiwanger, it’s especially telling how pretentious he appears by referring to his peers as ‘fellow white people’, implying that he has a high degree of authority amongst the rest of the population. Once again, it enforces identity politics when it typically should not have a place in a rational discussion.
It’s also problematic that he uses the above umbrella term of white people as if to allude to the idea that every member is attempting to interfere with the popularity of Black Panther across the nation.
With regard to Tyler Baines-Cadbury, I don’t feel the need to fully explain what’s wrong with his Twitter post, but I will quickly say one thing about the matter: if white people really can’t review, surely he wouldn’t have a problem invalidating all of the critics who wrote positive critiques for the film.
So What’s The Point?
Now at the time of writing this, I have gone out to watch Black Panther for myself, and the movie was quite enjoyable; not in line with the consensus of the professional critics, but just around the other fine films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s also probably why I am even more baffled by the extensive coverage of it over the past few weeks because it honestly is not a film worth becoming a weapon of propaganda. It’s exactly because of the debacle that the high degree of polarization lingers amongst the community, with many singing high praises and others screaming harsh criticisms.
And while I’m not going to say that these people aren’t allowed to absolutely love or hate the film, I hold my personal but unfounded suspicions that these dispositions may be partially fueled by the surrounding political climate. In the context of social media, I fear that having a moderate opinion of the film, which I and I feel many others will have, would be scoffed at when shared online.
But tying back to the point asserted in my blog title, it’s becoming extremely difficult to view Black Panther as just a fun superhero film. As I was watching it, I couldn’t help but find my mind clouded by thoughts of frustration and turmoil, unsuccessful in separating my preconceptions of the film from my viewing experience. I really wanted to enjoy the movie based on its merits alone, but it nearly impossible at this point, and it’s a result of the circumstances that I detailed earlier.
I don’t have a problem with entertainment and the coverage surrounding it to be political in some regard. After all, it is a medium capable of communicating the most challenging of messages and sparking change amongst all of us. To quickly demonstrate, I wrote a blog post on the political undertones of Kill la Kill and praised it for such, and it has undoubtedly received good and bad attention for its other aspects. These means of discourse are healthy in moderation and only serve to benefit the rest of us.
The social media conversations around Black Panther, however, are the penultimate moments of a films’ thematics and attention gone too far, where the act of having an opinion one way or the other reflected upon one’s character. And while what I say next may sound contradictory to what I have attempted to establish, it’s important that we understand:
It’s a movie.
Nothing more and nothing less. All I am conveying is that there should be no reason that one’s taste in film is inexplicably correlated to the way one thinks or acts. Let’s not worry about attempting to undermine an illusory opposition when there isn’t one. Instead, let’s rejoice in the fact that Marvel seems to have released another movie that we can all get excited about.