So in case you have been living under a rock or just really out of touch with the movie industry, Black Panther is a thing. A REALLY BIG THING right now.
I have been following, reading and all around stalking the movie since about February of 2017. You see, I am a total superhero movie NERD! Unlike my sister, I actually do know the difference between the MCU and the DCU and which heroes go with which and how Fox actually has the rights to the word “mutants” and so on and so forth. And yes, I have opinions, favorites and diatribes galore on all of it. Do NOT get me started on Batman…it never ends well and it always starts with, “the man needs therapy!”
Okay, so back to Black Panther, but I do want to be clear, it’s important in the nerd-verse to make distinctions about what type of nerd one officially is and so it’s critical that you read superhero MOVIE nerd. I am NOT a comic book nerd. I leave that world to my husband, brother and the guys on Big Bang.
Now with that said, in anticipation for the MOVIE Black Panther which came out February 2018, this past October, I did finally start and finish my first comic book compilation, “Black Panther: The Complete Collection Vol. 1” by Christopher Priest. For a comic book it was fine. This is not my favorite genre of all time and at some point I’ll blog about why, but for now I just want to talk about the cultural phenomenon that is Black Panther and a couple thoughts about how it breaks open the superhero movie genre in a fantastic new way!
*There are NO SPOILERS in the upcoming comments, so READ ON!*
Black Panther matters because it is the first BIG BUDGET blockbuster that has a predominately black cast with token white characters (the irony of which was hilarious to me), female characters who do the saving, not the other way around and a complex empathetic villain.
Is it the first predominately black cast? No.
Are these the first token white characters? No.
Are these the first self-saving female characters? No.
Is this the first complex empathetic villain? No
But you put all of this together with a massive budget and in line with the Marvel powerhouse publicity and pervasive consumption of superhero movies and what do you have? A freakin’ CULTURAL PHENOMENON!
Now I have to be honest and tell you that after I watched the movie for the first time (yes opening weekend) I was slightly underwhelmed…I attribute this to three reasons:
- I think too much.
I had read and studied and intellectualized this movie going experience so much that I forgot to EXPERIENCE it, so that one’s on me.
- Black Panther breaks almost every superhero movie formula.
Our movie genres have templates, formulas that we can usually count on. These are really helpful in viewing because they allow us to not do so much work. We know the big picture so we can get caught up in, fall in love with, and experience the details, small changes and characters. Black Panther requires its viewers to absorb everything as new and it is as wonderful as it is unexpected. This is why I can’t wait to watch it a second time…now I have the framework so I can enjoy all the new details so much more!
- I am white.
Shocking, I’m sure :P. What I am saying here is not that those of us who are white cannot enjoy Black Panther. You will…if you like superhero movies in general…you will. It’s just a good movie but the depth of resonance it has with the black community and other communities of color woefully and systemically underrepresented in cinema and television it just doesn’t have with me and I’m okay with that…cause it’s not all about me.
So, bottom line: it was worth the wait and I am excited to get years and years of enjoyment and conversation out of this and hopefully many other superhero movies, including a whole slew of Black Panthers.
My recommendation is go see it. If you like super hero movies, you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t like super hero movies, go see it cause everyone is talking about it and it is a stunningly beautiful movie. Honestly, it’s a movie everyone should see to continue to prove to those who make these kinds of decision that stories told by and through people of color have universal appeal and everyone (including us white folks) are clamoring for this change…
…oh, and THE WOMEN are fucking amazing! So go see the movie!