When Black Panther finally made its long-awaited debut almost a year ago, the hype machine had been in overdrive the moment the ambitious project was formerly announced. It was impossible to escape the high-tempo climate that benefited from the affiliation with the illustrious Marvel universe, and the ultimate homage to what diversity can produce — when you go all the way.
The titans of an industry that’s still grappling to adhere to the standards of inclusion, were all fixated on the predicted returns for a superhero flick, with a Black superhero, leading an all-Black cast, under the tutelage of a Black director, Ryan Coogler; who recently opened up about the privilege of employing “a large number of female department heads,’ notably veteran costume designer, Ruth E. Carter.
There was hardly any doubt that the fictional world of Wakanda, and its legion of all-stars — Chadwick Boseman, Angela Bassett, Lupita, Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Forest Whitaker and Michael B. Jordan — would more than surpass expectations.
The build-up of excitement centered around the notion that Hollywood was finally flexing those stiff muscles in an effort to capitalize on the trend of the moment, or the year, or the decade — or whatever.
When I was a twenty-something, trying to move the concrete barricade in The Big Apple, the word diversity, was only applied to the platter of hors d’oeuvres that you were lucky to order when someone else was footing the bill. It was also a bipolar era of classic Black TV shows and movies that made the nineties dope, with the caveat that the lucky streak would end abruptly.
That eventually happened, as the early to mid aughts basically gave Hollywood permission to overlook leading ladies that didn’t resemble Halle Berry or lighter, while TV audiences and moviegoers were feted with visions of Whiteness, that occasionally offered miserly helpings of color.
But then the waves hit again with forceful reckoning, and just like media outlets are desperate for race writers who can churn out the goriness of Blackness in America, whether they can relate or not, Hollywood is starving for the blessing of Black visionaries, who have the magic touch that was considered not so magical — not too long ago.
It bites that the ones who profit greatly from the success of Black Panther are White men in positions of power, who inhabit the slots that only they are permitted to claim.
But we can’t downplay the magnificence of the present times, that has evolved into the blissful reality for young and impressionable Black audiences, who are able to internalize the splendor of a cultural movement, that’s akin to when the first ever Black family took up residence in a White House that was built by slaves.
The worldwide premiere of Black Panther was just as epically memorable as we all anticipated. Social media turned into a full-fledged fiesta, as users who were lucky enough to score invites for that early screening, tried in vain to keep the details under wraps for the benefit of the less fortunate.
It was touching to witness the vibrancy of a momentous event that was interpreted with gorgeous armors of African-inspired gems that swept up and down the filled up aisles of movie theaters across the globe. It was beautifully affecting to be updated about the bus loads of Black kids who were going to indulge in an affair, that Black celebrities financially secured.
We were all rising to the occasion of lovingly receiving a masterpiece that was conceived and executed with pure allegiance to a culture that was brutally divided and conquered for the appetite of White supremacy.
Ryan Coogler summed it up perfectly when he described his most solid venture to date:
“Black Panther,” is a movie that doubles as a movement, or at least a moment that feels groundbreaking in the same way that runaway hit “Wonder Woman” inspired millions of women.”
Coogler, isn’t new to rave reviews or box office glory, based on the critically-acclaimed Fruitvale Station and the Creed franchise. But his delivery of an unapologetically Black theatrical experience, that has major roots in Afro-futurism; with the exalting of a newly-minted African king, T’Challa, who oversees the security of Wakanda, a resourcefully opulent nation that hasn’t been poached by the betrayals of colonialism — is the icing on a very flavorful cake.
Aside from the evil mechanisms of White trolls, who stormed Rotten Tomatoes with a vengeance, movie goers, critics, and the media at large, were pretty much on the same page when it came to the glowing reviews of a wondrous spectacle, that seemed to be the assigned antidote to the issues that activated #OscarsSoWhite.
The anointed director who accomplished a formidable feat by providing the bedazzled proof that shatters the weakened theories, of how an all-Black cast can’t sale enough tickets for world dominion, was humbled by the songs of praises, and generously extended his good fortune to future Black pioneers:
“I think progress comes in ebbs and flows.” “I hope things continue to open up. As more content gets made, more opportunities like ours can come about for folks. But you’ve got to put your foot on the gas when it comes to that or things can go back to where they were.”
Those words are ominously ringing out, as almost a year after all the thunderous applause, and the plethora of think pieces that laboriously analyzed with jubilant aura — the greatness and mightiness of Black Panther — and why the intoxicating climate was here to stay for eternity — we are facing a very specific crisis that reverts us further back to where we hoped never to visit — again.
We all read the variety of takes on the significance of a movie that dares to reclaim not just the Black narrative, but also the primal African vibes that belong to anyone with Black blood, who knows what it feels like to be mercilessly uprooted via slavery or colonialism.
Actor Chadwick Boseman who supremely embodied the Black superhero to perfection — offered this assessment:
“You might say that this African nation is fantasy.” “But to have the opportunity to pull from real ideas, real places and real African concepts, and put it inside of this idea of Wakanda — that’s a great opportunity to develop a sense of what that identity is, especially when you’re disconnected from it.”
As a Nigerian-African, who fled the land of her heritage, to settle in a country that still doesn’t recognize her worth, the timing of Black Panther coincided with the journey of self-discovery, and levying accountability on White slave masters, who greedily disrupted the flow chart of progressiveness by invading fertile territories for personal gain.
Watching the glow up of Wakanda was torment because of the instinct of fathoming how amazing our existence would’ve been if my ancestors weren’t overpowered by White supremacy.
It was also incredibly gratifying to behold the power of cinema in the hands of a genius, who brilliantly transformed our narrative into a landscape of aspirational riches, with historical references that finally provided vivid appeal on the strength of how Blackness doesn’t need the weightiness of Whiteness to birth a phenomenon.
The box office receipts exploded into a goldmine, and industry forecasters were comfortable with bold predictions of how award season 2019 was going shower the “movie of the century” with unrelenting attention.
But that was then, and this is now, and so far, we can honestly say that Black Panther is getting royally screwed by awards mania, for reasons that highlight why White Hollywood can’t get past the habitual tendencies of only recognizing Black movies that center Whiteness, in ways that make White people feel good about the criminal past and present.
This is why award darlings like The Blindside, The Help, and The Butler are touted and celebrated by White voters, who relate to the themes that give White characters the authority to enlighten and selflessly rescue Black characters — in the nick of time.
This problematic practice is prevalent because of the endorsements of wealthy White producers and fundraisers, who will only green-light Hidden Figures, if the fictional “White savior” in the form of Oscar-winner, Kevin Costner is inserted to boost the chances of Oscar glory.
Black Panther’s tragically low energy during this season of Globes, SAGs and Oscars, is not shocking when you consider the presence of a serious competitor, that has all the ingredients that typically captivate the preferences of White Academy members, who can’t ever resist the traitorous backstory of a Whitewashed shitfest.
Green Book is the “Black movie” that White Hollywood has chosen to ordain, above a global juggernaut, that features an all-Black cast, and all the checked items of thematic excellence. The record-breaking heavyweight is delightfully packaged in the “For Us, By Us” wrappings, as preparation for its presumed domination of the awards circuit.
That is, until a movie that’s disgracefully described as “a symphony of lies” sneakily crept up the ladder and knocked down the worthier offering.
At this point, we can assume that the momentum that kept Black Panther lit up and magnified, for most of 2018 — has substantially dimmed beyond recognition. We can also conclude that the movie’s mandatory addition to the lists of nominations is the disingenuous way to avoid the dire consequences of not ceremoniously honoring what can’t be negligently denied.
We have to endure the pompousness of Green Book, and how its very existence is an affront to the honor of Dr. Don Shirley and his surviving family members, who are inconsolably appalled at the utter disrespect that director Peter Farrelly and co-producer Nick Vallelonga, have displayed, for the reward of dollars and cents and the win of the “Black movie that could.”
Nick Vallelonga, is the son of Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga, and his determination to profit from the big screen treatment, that wrongly captures the personal and professional relationship between his father and the Black real-life pianist, who employed “Tony Lip” as a chauffeur — prompted the scammy co-writer to seek Dr. Shirley’s permission.
And as the Shirley family strongly testifies, Vallelonga’s request was vehemently denied, but somehow that didn’t prevent two White men from nefariously exerting their White privilege; without any consideration for the outright violation of basic rights, that would ordinarily dissuade creatives from overriding the wishes of a deceased subject, that they have the option to either respect or exploit.
Following in the trajectory of its White-worshipped predecessors, Green Book is dazzling the red carpets of award season, both at home and abroad, with nominations in the categories that matter.
The ongoing battle that’s assaulting the Shirley Family, who are committed to protecting the threatened legacy of a beloved relative, who is being slandered with lies that were coerced by White storytellers, who chose fiction over the truth — hasn’t inspired an ounce of empathy from White Hollywood or the guilty parties.
But thanks to the sleuthing skills of online detectives, who can always rely on the assurance of digging up the pebbled dirt in a timely fashion, we are confidently condemning the actions and character traits of Vallelonga, who back in 2015, tweeted his support for Trump’s baseless claims, that dangerously criminalized Muslims, at a time when Muslim-Americans were being openly prosecuted over the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Director Peter Farrelly, who launched his career with earlier stunners like Shallow Hal and There’s Something About Mary, once proudly shared how his exposed dick played a vital part in convincing his leading lady, Cameron Diaz, to sign on the dotted lines when she was considering the role of “Mary.”
Unfortunately, these interesting distractions don’t soften the big blow of how the golden success of a very Black movie, that should be basking in the never-ending glow of a celebratory parade — is now damningly overshadowed by a very White movie, that attacked the real-life Black character with manufactured turmoil, that gives the “White savior” his useful incentive.
White Hollywood can’t handle the imposing authority of Black Panther because of how it intimidates the comfort level that dictates how Black narratives can’t thrive independently.
The industry was never ready to embrace a near-perfect product that overflows with Black excellence, and channels the avenues of Black love, Black pride and Black power.
It’s just way too Black for Whiteness, and that’s why the cowardly approach of dissing the gleaming prize for the generic entries will continue to be the standard default.
And it’s going to hurt until we decide to give the middle-finger to award shows that cater exclusively to White talents or efficiently infiltrate the system that has been rigged against our favor.
Either way we can’t ever take the advice of actor Michael B. Jordan, who once jokingly pleaded with fans to stop harassing fellow Wakandan, Chadwick Boseman with the requests to dutifully summon the signature gesture that means so much — now more than ever.
Black Panther is getting righteously shafted by a Black movie that White people love because it was dishonestly produced for their fulfillment.
This is a major issue that signals the regression of what what was formulated when Wakanda Forever changed the language of engagement for Black people through the unification of a once -scattered religion.
The only consolation lies in the truth of how the durability of Green Book will wane under the strain of its dishonorable conception, as Black Panther’s glorious flight remains unhampered by the glitch in the system.
Superheroes never succumb to the short-comings of mere humans. And Black superheroes are truly the embodiment of what White people fear the most.