At a recent media screening of Black Panther, I happened to be one of three African Americans present. Although I’m sitting right in the middle of the theater rocking a heather gray sweatshirt with T’Challa mimicking the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics, a few white movie critics must not have noticed me and have made the rather interesting exchange I hear – hustled. It went a bit like this…
Review A: I’m really sick of the hype.
Review B: I know, that’s a lot.
Review A: Think it’s going to live up to the hype?
Review B: If not, I won’t be this guy who writes the bad review.
Review A: I say. With all the “moves” going on, even if it’s not that good, you can’t write a bad thing about it.
Review B: Exactly.
Once the credits rolled, a sense of pride swelled in my chest considering that, in my humble opinion, Black Panther Lived up to the hype. However, I couldn’t help but listen to the movie critics who spoke before the movie to get their thoughts.
In the end, they thought the movie was good but not great and ranked it somewhere in the middle of the 18 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies released since 20o8.
I left the cinema wondering how many other film critics felt the same way about Black Panther but refused to be those reviews. After all, everyone has seen how Irish Independent’s Ed Power was raked on social media after his negative opinion apparently broken down Black Panther’s 100% Positive Rotten Tomatoes Rating. Is a poor review of a film with so much hype and cultural relevance to a community worth the perceived backlash?
And with that, does that mean that Black Panther was leveled on a curve?
It’s important to note that it wasn’t necessarily Power giving the film a negative review. Instead, it’s the criticism’s rationale (T’Challa hasn’t beaten enough bad guys) that has fans angered.
Unfortunately, there may be other critics like the ones I’ve heard at the theater who believe that black people are unwilling to accept criticism and will therefore rate the film on a fear curve of being attacked on social media . This way of thinking reduces African Americans to an irrational collective that shares the same mindset. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Not everyone in the African American community liked Black Panther, for various reasons, and that’s fine.
Surely, a scan of your social media timeline will find plenty of debate as to whether the movie lived up to it or not. That’s what makes Black Panther such a cultural phenomenon.
The fact that we can debate a successful superhero movie with a mostly black cast, a black lead, and a black director is of great significance. Make no mistake: we can accept a negative review from a non-black film critic as long as the words back up the rating.
On the other hand, there are contrarians for the sake of being contrarians in the African-American community who decided long ago that they wouldn’t like the movie. One black film critic who tore the film to shreds was National Review’s Armond White (film’s Jason Whitlock, if you will).
For the uninitiated, White has long been considered a contrarian troll in the film review community. He is responsible for the first revision to break Get out’s 100% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes and served negative reviews for universally acclaimed films, including The dark night and Toy Story 3, while praising other poorly rated films such as Jonah Hex and The adults.
“But the Oedipal conflict is too serious for the Marvel Comic Universe, so careerist [Ryan] Coogler is distracted from his real subject and creates a sort of ideological retreat in which Afrocentrism becomes opportunistic madness. writing of Black Panther. “Unlike the biracial Vin Diesel’s The Chronicles of Riddickwhich translates racial and political consciousness into near-classic drama, Black Panther marginalizes its white personas: “Another broken white boy to fix,” a Wakanda scientist rhetorically pitches an outsider to the CIA. It focuses on what masculinity means to heartbroken black boys.
You read correctly. He compared Black Panther at The Chronicles of Riddick in terms of how these films dealt with the subject of race.
Until there are more African American movie critics who are part of the Rotten Tomatoes algorithm for balancing nonsense like this, there will remain a curiosity as to whether those reviews are 100% honest. on a mainstream film that is by and about black people.
Some white critics may not be able to identify with the themes presented, and the film may not resonate with them. Plus, it’s not a stretch to think that some white critics might have racial biases that affect how they review a movie. But that’s pretty much how black people felt about the vast majority of movies we can’t relate to, but movie critics are heaping praise on.
Hopefully, a balance will eventually be struck between the racial makeup of films and the writers who critique them. Fortunately, Black Panther received its fair share of praise from people who needed that escape in a world where Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric regularly plagues our news shows. And that’s really all that matters.