‘Black Panther’ raises the bar on diversity in movies
“Black Panther” conquered the cinematic world its first week out in a single four-day sweep. Chadwick Boseman plays King T’Challa, AKA the Black Panther, a king and superhero hailing from the fictional super tech African country of Wakanda.
Sidestepping direct Marvel Universe conflicts, the utopia shreds all racial stereotypes empowering the African American in ways few flicks have been able to do.
Facing attempted nation conquering subversion T’Challa eventually teams with a squad of female warriors – the general Okoye (Danai Gurira), spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and T’Challa’s tech-savvy younger sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) – to a South Korean casino. Director Ryan Coogler (“Creed”) dazzles the fight scene as more 007 or Charlie’s Angels than superhero.
Panther has earned a soulfully extraordinary amount of attendance records – with a nearly all black cast and black director. One of the white dudes is the caricature – an evil arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis). Then comes a mandatory peek at Marvel guru Stan Lee.
But the Panther is hardly the first black-skinned character to have bounded the silver screen; however, he’s the one that wears his heritage proud earning a one word “phenomenal” review from Oprah.
Superhero-wise, “The Falcon” (portrayed by Anthony Mackie in “Captain America: Winter Soldier”) came first in film and comics in 1969; his Marvel Universe history contains an asterisk (he’s not American).
Black actors have carried the title hero above the credits, as well – “Blade” (Wesley Snipes), a trilogy that began in 1998; “Steel” (1997 featuring Shaquille O’Neal); “Spawn” (1997 Michael Jai White); Storm (from X-Men, X-Men Last Stand); and D.C. casting Halle Berry in 2004 as “Catwoman” – yet the culture of these flicks remained distinctly “white”.
Back in the pre-super hero 70s, dark-skinned, costumed, kung fu kickin’, sh*t splattering and bra-bustin’ hell cats Cleopatra Jones (Tamara Dobson) and Foxy Brown (Pam Grier) headlined so-called defiant, bang, bam, pow blaxploitation social commentaries that included “Shaft” (Richard Roundtree) and “Super Fly”.
But these were undercurrents of mainstream. “Panther,” like “Wonder Woman,” has emblazoned a mystique pride in heritage as WW did for gender.