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Fear of a Black [Panther] Film

17 Jul

I saw something and had to stop and read it.  It was a quote from Marvel Studios’ co-president Louis D’Esposito.

“[Black Panther] has a lot of the same characteristics of a Captain America: great character, good values, but it’s a little more difficult, maybe, creating [a world like Wakanda]. It’s always easier basing it here. For instance, ‘Iron Man 3’ is rooted right here in Los Angeles and New York. When you bring in other worlds, you’re always faced with those difficulties.”

The blogger I read this from went on to say some interesting stuff.  Originally from blackfolksmakingcomics:

thinks creating a fictional African kingdom like Wakanda is more difficult than, say, a fictionalized version of Afghanistan, the alien realm of Asgard, or the alien worlds that’s going to be in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film?

How exactly is creating a fictional kingdom on Earth harder than creating a fictional kingdom of deity-like beings or of alien creatures?

I’m not sure I’m buying that. I mean, it’s not that difficult.

“I want to recreate something created in comics in live-action.” Boom! It’s done. People do it all the time. It’s not rocket science. It’s movies. You can create anything your imagination allows you to. It’s not hard at all.

You can create beings who transform into giant monsters smashing up buildings. You can create robotic suits capable of traveling from Los Angeles to Afghanistan in mere minutes. You can destroy an entire metropolitan city with alien creatures with relative ease. You can create alien realms and dimensions. You can create a floating carrier base with more machines than humanly possible. But to create an African kingdom with real world physics? That’s impossible to you guys?

It’s not that hard. I mean, filmmakers have made fictionalized African worlds since the beginning of film. We have the talent and the technology to make it look and feel real. That’s not a problem, so I don’t know why Marvel Studio’s co-head would think that’s a problem.

The problem that they refuse to acknowledge is this:

Marvel Studios fears that a Black Panther movie will be classified as “a Black film.”

That’s … that’s it.

Considering Marvel likes to do origin stories to introduce a character, the fact that his entire origin story takes place in the African kingdom of Wakanda may be a hard sell in Marvel’s eyes. And to do that, you’re going to need a majority Black cast. There’s a belief in Hollywood that you can’t put more than three Black actors in a film in leading roles because the general perception is that it’d be seen as a Black film,

Todd McFarlane stated that the producers of Spawn turned Terry Fitzgerald (Wanda Blake’s new husband) into a White man and developed a White woman named Jessica Priest to be the killer of Al Simmons instead of Chapel (a Black man) largely because the studio didn’t want too many Black leads in the film. The first Blade move has Wesley Snipes, N’Bushe Wright, and Sanaa Lathan, while the other films only had Snipes in the titular role. Steel (ugh) had Shaquille O’Neal in the title role, Richard Roundtree as his uncle Joe and Irma P. Hall as his grandmother.

Remember M.A.N.T.I.S? Great television movie about a paraplegic doctor and brilliant scientist named Miles Hawkins (the last name, had the series continued, wasn’t a coincidence and he would have been in a crossover with a Milestone character who also shares that family name) who created an exoskeleton (the costume design was created by Hardware co-creator Denys Cowan) that not only restored his ability to walk, but gave him enhanced abilities.

Carl Lumbly, who later played Martian Manhunter in various DC animated productions, played Dr. Hawkins. Gina Torres, who’s known by many as Zoe Washburne from the Firefly/Serenity series and the voice of Vixen on Justice League Unlimited and Wonder Woman in the DC Universe Online MMORPG, played Dr. Amy Ellis. Bobby Hosea played reporter Yuri Barnes while Wendy Raquel Robinson (you may know her as Principal Regina “Piggy” Grier from The Steve Harvey Show sitcom and Tasha Mack on The Game) and Christopher M. Brown played a pair of African students who interred for Dr. Hawkins.

When the film became a series, only Lumbly remained. Everybody else was gone, replaced by different actors, all White. Much of the African elements removed from the series. And it was canceled with the lead character getting squashed by an invisible dinosaur. Critics noticed the changes made from the well-received pilot and the rather lackluster series, mostly savaging the lack of diversity the series had.

That said, it’s kind of telling that nearly 20 years after M.A.N.T.I.S. premiered, Hollywood still fears creating a serious action-adventure property with a predominately minority cast and the perceptions of it being a “Black film.” There’s no such thing as a “Black film.” There are comedies, dramas, thrillers, and adventure stories with a mostly minority cast, but they’re just comedies, dramas, thrillers, and adventure stories.

The whole thing about Marvel not wanting to make a Black Panther film because they can’t recreate the kingdom of Wakanda seems farfetched and weird to be believed. Guess that’s just Hollywood being strange and woefully ignorant again.

And I had to add in my own two cents, because I think it is an injustice when a good story doesn’t get made, just because it happens to be about black people.  It’s sad that when something like this comes up the biggest concern is “will white people like it”.  We aren’t in a post racial society that embraces equality when we try to consider how “white people” will view something if it has black lead roles or characters.

Anyway, here’s my take posted originally from timholtorf.tumblr.com:

Really?  There’s a fear that a black lead cast would be seen as a “black film”?  As though “black film” in it’s represented scare quotes would be seen the same as “Muslim”.  That its something scary and different and people wouldn’t know how to treat it.  Which is complete bullshit.  Sure it’s a black film, but it’s still a film.  It just has black people in it.  People who eat, breathe, live, die, fuck and all other sorts of things (well, perhaps not fuck, unless it’s a porn).

I really don’t think it should be something feared, because that’s how it looks to me how Hollywood is approaching it.  How long did Red Tails take to get made?  Several years, and I thought it was awesome when I saw it.  Does it have black people in it?  Sure, but it’s also got fighter craft and air battles and explosions and other cool things.  And it talks about history, a very real history that happened that should never be forgotten.

As for creating a fictional African nation, I agree with the above.  How freakin’ hard would that be?  There are several nations in the African Continent that you can choose from for research and history.  And please, oh please, don’t decide to make the government of Wakanda corrupt and needing to be saved.  Because that plays into a Western centric stereotype, that everyone outside of North America and Europe (outside of the old Soviet bits) is corrupt and evil.  Saying it’s easier to make a film about a character in the States is basically saying you’re too lazy to create something new and different.  Also, it’s really fucking bigoted.

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Posted by on July 17, 2012 in Life, randomness

 

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