Wakanda is here to stay—and white supremacists and racist Hollywood dam well better get used to it.
The long weekend is not even over and Marvel’s “Black Panther” has already broken records in both global and domestic ticket sales. According to the New York Times, on February 18th the global ticket sales alone hit $387 Million Dollars. That does NOT include the domestic ticket sales which went well over the estimates and came in at $218 Million (according to Variety).
This is just the beginning of a big, fat fiscal slap in the face (and hopefully, wake up call!) to an “Oscars so white” Hollywood system. The Hollywood system still is so deeply entrenched with racism and sexism when it comes to representation in movie themes, actors, productions crews and pay scales. Like the Black Panther trailer said, “The World is Changing.” And so are the demographics of how money flow in the entertainment industry.
Likewise, “Get Out” was a surprise box office hit that far outperformed Hollywood profit expectations. “The Wrap,” reported August 3rd of 2017, that the film received an amazing 603% return on investment, with the worldwide profits tallied then at $252 million dollars.
Another recent film industry upset came from a movie highlighting three African-American women as leads (traditionally considered a death knell to a movie’s financial success). The hugely successful “Hidden Figures,” was the highest-grossing Best Picture nominee at the 89th Academy Awards.
These unexpected fiscal successes caused a stir within Hollywood regarding the potential profitability of films representing people of color. Yet, this ultimately points towards broader changes in both ethnic and economic demographics occurring in the U.S. (and international markets) as to where film profits ultimately come from.
The success of these films is also is a testimony to the importance of word of mouth promotion within communities of color. It is a populist rejection of worn out racist’s film industry executive paradigms of what allegedly makes a Hollywood movie “successful.”
Apparently, “Black Lives Matter” when it comes to the money the film industry receives from opening weekends. A recent “Creative Artist Agency (C.A.A.)” report that “diversity sells” in its 2016, “Movie Diversity Index Report.” People of color constituted nearly half (49% in 2016) of the ticket-buyers who attended screenings during the opening weekends of many of the most successful films released within the time period of the C.A.A.’s study.
Is This More Than Just a Comic Book Movie? Or, Is This a Form of Black Cultural Protest?
We are in a time warp of returning to the sociological factors of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s that created the rise (and profitability) of a Black Cinema Renaissance, sometimes referred to disparagingly as “Blaxploitation.”
In a previous article I pointed out key elements of Black Panther having a unique position in history to act as a catalyst of peaceful protest against the racism of the United States and the Trump’s policies. I pointed out the deep shift happening in the demographics of the United States. As Trump’s “Make America Great (read, “white”) Again” years die out, Wakanda (the real one) is rising — Fast.
The blatant murder of black citizens by police has pushed back the clock of progress for civil rights and racial equality. The Trump presidential victory, his sexist and racist comments, and his administration policies have politically charged the social climate of the U.S. to a dangerous degree.
The United Nations recently issued a warning to the United States that its racist violence was reaching an international crisis point. In the past decade this dishonorable distinction has only been issued to six other countries: Burundi, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Kyrgyzstan and Nigeria.
Ironically, these factors are extremely reminiscent of the sociological conditions that lead to the commercial rise of Black Cinema in the 60’s and 70’s, known popularly as the “Blaxploitation” genre. The repression and demonization of the “Black Lives Matter” movement in broader politics and media, may be creating an undercurrent of a hunger for cultural representation of African-Americans to be portrayed positively in cinema.
These are key factors in the astronomical commercial success of the recent films by black filmmakers addressing issues relevant people of color. It is very similar to the sociological conditions that led to the rise of Hollywood’s commercialization of Black Cinema in the late 60’s and 70’s.
Black Hero’s (& Shero’s) Matter!
This cultural protest goes much deeper than the politics and the money. These films are being attended by parents and communities that want something very different for their children than then had — POSITIVE representation of themselves in popular media. Why should a black daughter ONLY have the chance to dress up as a white Wonder Woman? Why should a black son ONLY have the opportunity to dress up as a white Superman? A world predominately populated by peoples of color DEMANDS Hero’s and Sheros of Color.
There is a desperate need in these trying times for people of color to have real representation—Black Hero’s and Shero’s Matter! This is why Ava DuVernay’s, “Wrinkle in Time,” is so hugely anticipated. This is why Less is More Press is creating film projects and graphic novels highlighting black female Shero’s who are badass and fight for justice! This is why there is an amazing new “Harlem Renaissance” of Afrofuturism, Black Sci-Fi, Black Fantasy, Black Children’s Books exploding and selling like crazy.
Black Panther faced efforts by white supremacists to scare people from the theaters in the U.S. by posting “fake news” pictures on Twitter of non-existent black attacks on whites attending the film. Weeks before the film was released there were significant arguments within the black social media forums to boycott the show due to some of the actors were romantically involved with whites, the Black Panther character was originally created by white men, and white owned corporations would primarily benefit.
Yet, this first weekend of the release of Black Panther, the black community showed up strong — An estimated 37% percent of domestic ticket sales. If “Black Live’s Don’t Matter” to the U.S. power structure, then certainly black dollars do. There is nothing that is going to be able to stop this train. Superman is not so “super” anymore. Wakanda is here to stay—and white supremacists and racist Hollywood dam well better get used to it.