As Black Panther is admitted into the Oscar nomination pool, a first for superhero films, or summer blockbusters as a whole, there have been a number of questions that have been raised regarding its suitability. There are discussions to have regarding the quality of the film when compared to the others in the Marvel series as well as the impact that it had overall, compared to Iron man as the originator of the series, the first Avengers film as a first for the genre, or any of the others in terms of the leap forward in CGI and visual effects.
When thinking in this way Black Panther is a product of its time, making a huge cultural impact and standing out in the media coverage for the fact that it contained the first black superhero in the franchise. Of course, it must be specified that this was the first stand-alone film for a black superhero in this franchise as Black Panther had appeared previously in Captain America: Civil War, and there had been black characters featuring prominently across the board, Nick Fury, James Rhodes and Sam Wilson being some of the more major characters.
Whichever side of the debate you fall on, whether the Marvel films belong in the Oscars or not, the quality of the film etc, you have to admit that there has never been a better example of trolling than has been provided by the Black Panther film, especially when taking into account the very left-leaning politics of Hollywood.
This behaviour began early. I was first aware of it when reports of twitter campaigns began springing up declaring that the premiere and opening weekend of the film should be a ‘black only’ event as it would be a celebration of black culture. This seems like a strange campaign since a film’s success is judged on its opening weekend and trying to make sure that only a small fraction of the US audience saw the film in its opening weekend would make it very difficult for there to be another film made.
The story of the film is a bizarre contrast to the publicised politics of the American left wing. The story boils down to the politics of a familial dictator who has maintained his country as an ethno state, allowing no immigration and surrounded by an impenetrable and secure border ‘shield’. This could be reminiscent of the Kim Jong Un model for ruling a country as we still see today in North Korea, itself a country that the wider world doesn’t know much about that is developing sophisticated weaponry.
The adversary to the ‘hero’ is a person who wishes to take over the country and spread across the world using this advanced technology to create a global ethno state of his preferred race. The parallels to Hitler here are quite obvious, though they never get as far as building camps, however you get the feeling that they weren’t too far off.
The, now familiar, superhero movie tropes are seen through, death, resurrection and the triumph of good over evil, themselves rather religious themes. However, in this success by the protagonist we see that he then decides to open up his country to outside trade. The first move that is made, that we see on screen anyway, is that the disadvantaged youth in America are given a new youth centre. This should be considered troubling by all as apparently, the African super state has decided that it should focus on issues in inner city America rather than on its own continent, once again Africa is ignored and left to its own devices for the benefit of the US.
All of these issues, should be antithetical to the left wing ‘inclusiveness’ that we hear so much about, with the issue of race being brought up in every avenue that is possible. It may be, however, that this is the point. That the use of race here is a surface manoeuvre designed to capitalise on an instant emotional reaction and recognition rather than a thorough understanding of the issues themselves. Such is the paper-thin politics of Hollywood that simply having a majority black cast and African setting is enough for the Academy to break the mould and allow a member of the superhero franchise onto the list of potential winners, while ignoring the actual substance of the film, as many would argue most do in the social media world of political debate, or lack thereof.
What would be made of the film, for example, where the symbol for the ‘evil’ black tribe is a gorilla and its followers make monkey noises as a battle cry? Surely this would be seen as a racist portrayal, lazily relying on overt stereotypes and old fashioned racist mocking behaviour, surely this would not be shown in an ‘Oscar worthy’ film… well, it was.
With all this in mind I would be very disappointed if this film does not win an Oscar, simply because there are so many issues with the overall story that I would quite look forward to the overall analysis of its content in future years. I think it is amazing that Disney managed to make a film where they were able to amplify the most derided and criticised policies of the Trump administration to ‘comic’ heights (pun intended) and sell it to the very audience that claim to despise him so much (the left-wing media and Hollywood) as a potential Oscar winner.
I don’t know when the Oscars are, I have never watched them and this is the first time I have taken any notice of the nominees, but I am in for this year just to see how many little golden trophies this film can pick up.
The Oscars ceremony will be held on Sunday 24th February 2019, with Black Panther being in with a chance of being the first superhero film to win a Best Picture Award.