Black Panther dispels stereotypes

Genaro Mauricio, Guest Columnist

Batman, Spiderman, Captain America, Thor and Iron Man — What do all these superheroes have in common? They’re all white. Hollywood has always maintained the same homogenous perspective while making films. Very rarely has a person of color been able to keep their foot in the door long enough to make an imprint on Hollywood but Ryan Coogler, a young man from Oakland, is doing just that.

“Black Panther,” directed by Coogler, has surpassed all box office predictions and is changing the future of cinema. People of color have always played secondary roles that usually paint them in a negative light, i.e. gang members and drug users. “Black Panther” has shifted that paradigm. The film showed black actors in positions of power where they dominated technology and civility. This is huge not only for shifting Hollywood, but that shift is also going to have a positive influence on adolescents.

“Black Panther” shattered box office predictions that already seemed a bit farfetched. According to Forbes Magazine, “The movie earned a $201.8 million Fri-Sun weekend and $241.9m over the Fri-Mon holiday”. That makes this movie the biggest opening weekend in February ever, the biggest non-sequel opening ever, the biggest solo superhero launch of all time and of course, biggest opening weekend for any movie not directed by a white guy ever.

Hollywood once argued that black movies don’t translate well to the public — meaning they don’t make money. They also asserted that black movies don’t travel well past the United States. Black Panther proved both wrong by racking up a whopping $184.6 million overseas, outperforming both “Ant-Man” and “Thor: Ragnarok.”

With the world now seeing how impactful films directed and casted by people of color can be, it’s going to be impossible for Hollywood executives to cut off the streamline to future projects that would have been deemed unfeasible in the past. There is now a new standard that Hollywood must meet. People now know what they’ve been missing and what they deserve, but they have just had a taste of what directors and actors like Coogler and Michael B. Jordan have to offer their communities.

Ultimately, when you look past the numbers and a bit deeper into the societal impact that this movie has on the adolescents in America, I think this movie has got every other superhero movie made beat by a long shot. Something incredibly important that it does implicitly is show young people that they have agency. No longer do black people, and other people of color have to view themselves through the lens of a white superhero that they have nothing in common with except for the fact they want to save the world.

This movie means a few things for us. Firstly, people of color now know the mainstream media can’t brush them aside anymore because their films do make money. Secondly, this is a new avenue for the disenfranchised to get their stories out without having to sell out. The possibilities are endless.

Now, without spoiling the film, it does a phenomenal job juxtaposing two distinct lines of thought through T’Challa and Killmonger that was impactful and topical. Coogler does a good job at illustrating that the two have very similar goals, but two different ways of achieving it. Moreover, the numerous references to Oakland give it an A++ in my book. Overall, if you’re looking for a movie to watch, don’t sell yourself short. “Black Panther” is the only film out right now that needs to be seen.