At one point in Carvell Wallace’s article, he touches on superhero movies featuring a black protagonist that came out prior to Black Panther. The consensus he comes to is that these movies were either far more comedic than most MCU movies, or the lead character’s race played very little role in the plot.
Immediately upon reading this I thought back to the dozen times my parents had put on “Hancock” for me when I was ten years old in an effort to kill two hours on a Saturday afternoon. It’s true, in “Hancock” Will Smith’s race is a non-factor, and he is virtually the only black character in the film.
Films such as this merely perpetuate the use of the color blindness approach to race. A film such as “Hancock” looks more like Hollywood throwing a bone to its black audience, as opposed to actually providing an identifiable character or making a cultural statement. As Wallace says, it is also noteworthy that Black Panther was originally a character thought up by two white Jewish men. This emphasizes the importance of Ryan Coogler’s direction of the film. Having a black director provides perspective that a white director would not have been able to grasp.
Black Panther covers issues in the black community, has a largely black cast, depicts black people as intelligent and powerful, as well provides a backstory for its characters that is tied to their race as opposed to being separate from it. In terms of providing the public with the black superhero they have wanted, this depiction has been crucial not only for Marvel’s public relations, but for making a cultural statement that so many had waited for.