April 8, 2020

Why Was Black Panther Controversial?

I finally got around to watching Black Panther (2018). I waited so long because of how tired I have become of superhero movies. I figured that I should at least partially get over that or I'd not be able to give another one a fair shot. I knew I'd have to watch it eventually, though, because I was curious to see if I could figure out why the film was as controversial as it seemed to be. After all, some vocal White conservatives seemed to think it was the worst thing ever. I found myself in agreement with them on Ghostbusters (2016). It wasn't that I shared any of their concerns with the gender or race of the cast, but I thought the film was one of the worst I'd seen it some time.

My impressions of Black Panther turned out to be far more positive. I thought the cast was fantastic. While I didn't know all of their names, I recognized most of them from other roles. I repeatedly found myself exclaiming "hell yeah" when someone I didn't know was in the film but recognized from another role would appear for the first time. They were all great here too. The other thing that stood out as a big positive was the world that had been created for the film. It was visually stunning and reminded me a bit of Avatar in size and scope. For a film like this to work, the world-creation had better be top-notch. Fortunately, it was. In fact, I thought it might have been the most interesting one I'd seen in any of the countless superhero flicks.

Unfortunately, Panther fell apart for me in two key areas: the villain and the story. I found the villain far too boring to do the rest of the film justice. It needed someone more evil and dramatic. The film deserved a much better villain. What was even worse was that the story just wasn't compelling enough to hold my attention. Despite the visuals and strong cast, there didn't seem to be much of substance going on here. It felt like the same movie I had seen several times. There was lots of flash but little substance. I found myself wanting more, but at least I didn't find it boring.

While I didn't love Panther, I can't say I had any luck figuring out why so many White conservatives seemed to be outraged by it when it was released. Aside from the fact that most of the cast was Black, I wasn't sure what they might be objecting to. Was it really just the Black cast that upset them so much? Even if one wanted to argue that the entire point of the film was the Black cast, I'm not sure why that's a bad thing. They were all good (aside from the villain, and that didn't seem to be a casting problem); it was the story that faltered. And besides, why shouldn't there be more superheroes of all races? How is it not a good thing for Black children to have superheroes that look like them? Isn't better representation of real-world diversity a good thing?

Perhaps the outrage over Black Panther was little more than racism. And perhaps there was something else there that I was just oblivious to the entire time. Either way, I suppose I shouldn't squander my time trying to figure out why others get outraged about whatever they are determined to get outraged over.

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