Long before it was released on February 16, 2018, Black Panther was hyped to be not only the next great movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but also, a defining moment for black culture. After its release, the movie was praised for all aspects ranging from direction to costume design. Its popularity has led it to become the third highest grossing US film ever, trailing only Start Wars: The Force Awakens and Avatar. Much of this success owes its thanks to the movie’s undeniable political tone. Black Panther is not just another classic Marvel, superhero movie, but rather “a movie about what it means to be black” (Times Magazine). Its release during a time of a regressive political culture makes just the existence of Blank Panther feel like resistance (Time Magazine). Its representation of black people and their culture is revolutionary within the film industry, especially in a blockbuster movie. For one of the first times, it gives a voice for black culture in Hollywood and offers model for black success in the 21st century. However, the movie is just the start. Despite its groundbreaking contribution to black culture, Black Panther falls short of its supposed political goals of black liberation instead settling to appease its white oppressors. The film is a success for its representation of black culture in the mainstream offering a perfect building block for the future, but it leaves the door open, in many regards, to fully breaking free from the oppressive stereotypes of blackness.
Black Panther is by no means the first black superhero movie. Both Blankman and The Meteor Man in the mid-1990s had black superhero figures along with Blade in 1998 and Hancock in 2008 (NY Times). However, these movies were seen as partly comical or ignored the issues of blackness (NY Times). Superheroes are so beloved and powerful that the idea a regular black person could experience those traits was so far-fetched that the movies warranted humor (NY Times). The reason why Black Panther is so revolutionary is the fact it embraces its blackness and attacks the issues of black life head on.
This celebration of black culture within the movie provides incredible benefits for those who watch it, especially young black children. For many years, black people have abandoned cultural traditions, such as eating watermelon or traditional hair styles, that were once sacred to them for fear of being demonized or ridiculed (NY Times). In many cases, they have lost their identity, and Black Panther offers the opportunity for them to find it again. The movie is centered in the idea of exploring one’s reality and the personal struggle of accepting who you are (Time Magazine). Especially for black culture, it is similar to the “first time I knew I was black” movement. The struggles with identity are seen most directly in two of the main characters, T’Challa and Killmonger. These characters are mirror images of each other with drastic differences in their understanding of their own identities, despite their shared bloodline. This difference is due to their different upbringings, with T’Challa being raised as royalty in a rich African country and Killmonger being raised an orphan in poor Oakland, California. T’Challa is very comfortable with who he is while Killmonger struggles to find his true identity throughout the film (Time Magazine).
More than just the characters themselves, the film offers the chance for the audience, particularly black people, to explore their own identity. The portrayal of black culture in this populist and open setting is important, as it gives confidence to those who watch it. As Chadwick Boseman, actor who plays T’Challa, said, the movie provides “a great opportunity to develop a sense of what that identity is, especially when you’re disconnected from it” (Time Magazine). Not only does the film give black people a chance to see and understand black culture and tradition by relating to the characters on screen, but it also provides a great opportunity for others, especially white people, to see and understand black culture (Time Magazine). Alongside discovering one’s identity, the movie also gives people the chance to see a black superhero with its own kind of power rooted in strength, agility, and intelligence (Times Magazine). Instead of focusing on black pain, suffering, and poverty, the characters are portrayed as powerful and intelligent while still embracing their blackness (NY Times). This creates a perfect model for young black children to look up to providing them a path for future success. The fact that Black Panther is able to embrace black culture and provide strong, black characters in an extremely successful and widely popular film is perhaps the movie’s greatest accomplishment. Forget the fact that the movie itself is good by any normal standard, it moves beyond the traditional mold and contributes greatly to black culture.
Alongside providing an identity for black people in popular culture, Black Panther also is an expression of Afrofuturism. Afrofuturism is an idea that combines African mythology with technology and science fiction to rebuke conventional depictions of black oppression and create a future in which blacks are in power (Time Magazine). For much of their history, black culture has longed for a homeland in which they can truly call their own (NY Times). Whether real or mythical, black culture has imagined a place and a future in which they had complete freedom and were absent of all fear from any type of oppression (NY Times). Somewhere where blackness is a thing with meaning, lineage, value, and power (NY Times). This is especially true for African Americans who have fought through slavery and segregation, and live in a place that is home but at the same time isn’t (NY Times). Black Panther and Wakanda provide just this home for African Americans and black culture. While it is not real, it still offers a place that is safe and untouched by colonialism. Wakanda represents what could have been for the history of black culture. It is also acts as a model for the future with Afrofuturism, as a place not devoid of racism, but rather one where black people have an even playing field in terms of wealth, technology, and military might (Time Magazine).
While Black Panther provides incredible benefits to black culture in terms of identity and Afrofuturism, it fails to go far enough in terms of truly creating a black culture free of outside influence. The movie undoubtedly does a great job at creating a unique black identity. However, it stills displays many of the destructive myths about Africans that have been around for hundreds of years. It displays a divided, tribalized continent that is run by wealthy, power hungry, and feuding elites whose nation, with the most advanced technology in the world, still relies on lethal combat or coup d’état for power (Washington Post). While these ideas could be defended by claiming the movie is displaying true African heritage, they are still at their core stereotypes that have been used to generalize and describe Africa as a whole.
Furthermore, other Marvel movies focus on somewhat ordinary people who, to the viewer, seem totally likely to be superheroes (Washington Post). Black Panther, on the other hand, must focus on African royalty and warriors to seem in the least bit believable (Washington Post). Alongside this, Wakanda’s wealth stems from a “lucky meteor strike and the benevolence of its all-wise rulers” and not from “the ingenuity of its people. (Washington Post). Despite the movie’s best efforts to provide a fresh identity to black culture, it still portrays Africa not as a physical place but rather, as a representation of blackness with people of one race sharing cultural unity and historical fate (Washington Post). To top it all off, despite Wakanda’s incredible technological advancements, a “returning” American is still able to stroll in and briefly come to power (Washington Post). This behavior follows extremely close to colonialism in the 19th century which is something Wakanda was supposed to be free from (Washington Post). The movie is still an incredibly important cultural event and is revolutionary in its representation of black people and their culture. However, it missed many chances to separate itself from many destructive stereotypes. While many of the issues above are simply “a part of the story,” their inclusion in the film feels almost like a cop-out. Instead of fully breaking the stereotypical mold of black culture, the director and producers played to the stereotype in some aspects so that the movie still be accessible to a non-black audience.
The danger of Black Panther not going far enough, in terms of breaking the stereotypes of blackness, is that it marginalized many within the African community who have little to gain from Afrofuturism. As mentioned before, the ideas of Afrofuturism within the film offer safety and peace to many within the black community. However, Afrofuturism offers little to non-African-Americans (Washington Post). Many of the ideas that come with Afrofuturism align freedom with the continent of Africa for the good of those African-Americans subjugated by slavery and segregation and not the people of Africa. They, being African-Americans, use the people of Africa and their land as props for their own struggles (Washington Post). Therefore, by failing to expel many of the African stereotypes and promoting Afrofuturism, Black Panther offers very little to the people of Africa.
The film at its core is also extremely political. It doesn’t shy away from any of the major issues that black people face around the world today. For the first time, it offers a great voice to many of these issues in a mainstream, blockbuster film. However, it fails to go far enough in promoting black liberation from oppression as it settles for uncontroversial politics. The movie follows an understanding of black liberation that advocates for bourgeois respectability over armed revolution (Canadian Dimension). It somewhat ignores the history of real-life anti-colonial struggles in Africa through its message that armed revolution is bad (Canadian Dimension). Overwhelmingly, the movie makes out T’Challa and his liberalistic approach to be good and Killmonger and his armed revolution to be bad. Yet, violence is ok for the white CIA agent when he saves the day from a black revolution by shooting down the ships carrying weapons (Canadian Dimension). This promotion of peaceful politics allows the white audience of Black Panther to feel comfortable with the movie without feeling threatened (Canadian Dimension). While a stance against full, armed revolution is not inherently bad, the movie seems to totally negate any chance of black liberation without the appeasement of whites. This message, of course, plays into Marvel’s bottom line of pleasing all moviegoers so they can fulfill their bottom line of selling tickets.
The movie also frames any person in favor of revolution in a negative light. Killmonger, the leading advocate for revolution, holds all the most hideous traits and is framed as a manic consumed by rage and violence (Canadian Dimension). This behavior follows the common troupe that “any black revolutionary who seeks to use violence to meet their aims becomes even worse than the system they’re trying to take down” (Canadian Dimension). Yet, this is not the case for all white revolutionaries. As seen in the recent movies The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner, white activist who use violence to fight an unjust system are seen as heroes while Killmonger is framed as a villain (Canadian Dimension).
Black Panther is truly something to celebrate when it comes to promotion of black culture. Its representation of black people and culture on screen in a major film is import for the identity and understanding of black life, especially for black children. However, the movie fails to go far enough in many aspects that could have shed more positive light on the fight for black liberation from oppressive white, neocolonial systems. Wakanda leaves white people free of guilt because they do not have to face the harsh realities of their history and are unthreatened by their passive politics which fall into white, colonial institutions (Canadian Dimension). Black Panther leaves a lot on the table for being a truly revolutionary film, but it offers the perfect building block for black culture to continue to make headways into the mainstream.
Director Jordan Peele’s 2017 horror film Get Out, released to overwhelming critical acclaim and massive box office success, documents the story of a young African-American man named Chris Washington who travels with his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage, to a rural country estate in order to meet her parents. Beyond the ornate interior and immaculate lawns of the home, Chris quickly discovers the innocuous-appearing family engages in a new-era form of slave trade, one which involves the transplantation of ailing white people’s minds into the vessels of black bodies. The elements of the film—including the characters, plot, and setting—weave a complex montage of suspense and social commentary. Overall, the film uniquely portrays to the audience a stylized version of the modern African-American experience. Peele strategically incorporates extended metaphors and clever subversions of conventional horror tropes to ultimately create a timely satirical critique of the systemic racism present in the contemporary United States.
The extended metaphors mentioned above play a pivotal role in the film. One of the most prominent metaphors is the literal commodification of black bodies by the Armitage family. By transplanting a white person’s consciousness into the “vessel” of a black body in a procedure referred to as “The Coagula,” the white characters in the film hope to achieve “superior” physical attributes in order to avoid illness, medical conditions, aging, or death. In this way, the white characters are forcefully possessing the bodies of the unwilling African-Americans that Rose brings home to her family. The emphasis on the white characters’ fixation with Chris’ physicality at various points throughout the film underscores the racist notion of the white characters that black bodies are physically superior. Moreover, Rose’s father plants the suggestion that people of African descent have more athletic success when he recounts the story of his own father losing to Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. The Olympic loss of the Armitage grandfather implies a long-rooted familial obsession with the physicality of black bodies and hints at the underpinning motivations behind the transplantation procedures.
One cringe-worthy scene involves the Armitages’ friends and family bluntly showering a montage of microaggressions on Chris, channeling a plethora of racist stereotypes to inquire primarily about his physical abilities. Eventually, the viewer discovers these microaggressions are not elicited for conversational purposes between the characters, but rather because the guests are evaluating how much they want to bid for the vessel of Chris’ body in a game of silent bingo. Therefore, the microaggressions planted by the Armitage family are purposefully framed as masking a violent form of dehumanization. The bingo game, conducted in the backyard of the Armitage house, eerily parallels a slave auction in its similarities. The idea of a wealthy white group bidding large amounts of money to essentially colonize a black individual’s body expresses the filmmakers’ illustration of a modern kind of slavery, one in which African-Americans are once again cruelly treated as property.
Above: Armitage family and friends gather for a game of bingo to bid on Chris’ body.
The parallels between historical slavery in the United States and the transplantation slavery of the film can also be drawn in the motivations of the blind art dealer. Later in the film, the blind art dealer asserts that he does not care about Chris’ skin color and therefore was not “racist.” Instead, in one of the movie’s creepier moments, he claims he wants the artistic photographer’s “eye” that God gifted Chris. “I want your eyes, man,” the art dealer hoarsely whispers to Chris in the holding room. The dealers’ allusion to the religious beliefs underlying his desire to take over a new body proves to be similar to the religious justification previously used by “Christian” American slave-owners to defend their own support of slavery. More specifically, many pro-slavery arguments that materialized in the nineteenth century focused on discerning religious justifications from biblical narratives to promote racism and grant legitimacy to the ownership of colored human beings. One such ill-founded belief claimed black humans were created by God solely for physical labor due to their “superior” physical abilities, something that is echoed in the Armitage family’s plans to harvest Chris’ body.
In addition to the white commodification of black bodies, another metaphor heavily conveyed in Get Out is the minority experience in a setting predominantly controlled by white people. To function in society as a racial minority, the film suggests one must conform to the expectations and roles perpetuated by the majority. The authentic component of the individual always exists below the surface of mechanical daily actions and routines but it is constantly concealed behind a false “white” front. For instance, in the midst of the Armitage family event, Logan, one of the four African-Americans present, robotically interacts with Chris around the throng of white attendees surrounding them.
Above: Logan (a white man’s consciousness invasively existing in the body of a black man) and his wife Philomena stiffly interact with Chris.
This visibly awkward strain present within Logan results from the clash between the white consciousness and the mind of the “host” individual trapped in the Sunken Place, as well as the inability of the “host” to authentically respond to Chris’ casual conversational attempts. The accidental flash of Chris’ camera then triggers the violent awakening of the person to which the body actually belongs within Logan, implying the quiet existence of someone beyond the artificial surface-level presentation. In this way, Logan’s “host” body represents the front minorities often must fortify in order to succeed socially, personally, and professionally in a society largely controlled by white people. On the other hand, the individual who emerges after the flash of Chris’ camera embodies the genuine personality traits and mannerisms minorities hide in order to fit into the limiting mold of white expectations.
A third significant metaphor is the Sunken Place where Chris finds himself after the hypnosis facilitated by Missy, Rose’s mother. While Chris and Missy talk late one night, Missy begins to scrape a spoon against her glass teacup, an action which soon places Chris in a paralyzing trance he cannot escape. This trance fundamentally shifts Chris’ perceptions of his environment and even the way he inhabits his own body. He finds himself not in the present moment but locked in a dark abyss of his own mind almost as a third-party observer to his surroundings. Missy and her family use hypnosis as a tool to directly gain control of the minds of their black victims, who are then surgically modified to harbor the invasive consciousness of a white person.
The Sunken Place becomes the state of existence the victims permanently adopt once the transplantation occurs, where the victim exists as a passenger to the operation of their bodies. On the surface level, the Sunken Place metaphorically stands for Missy’s complete control over Chris. On a deeper level, as Peele explained to Variety, the Sunken Place represents the constant “state of marginalization” and restricting obstacles long faced by African-Americans, especially the prison-industrial complex, which disproportionately targets black Americans and their communities for non-violent crimes such as marijuana possession. Comparable to Chris’ inherent inability to physically and mentally free himself from the confines of the Sunken Place, the film indicates African-Americans are too often fenced into entrapping cycles of poverty, crime, and violence.
Above: During a hypnosis, Chris finds himself trapped in a dark mental abyss where he cannot control his own body.
Along similar lines, Peele interestingly includes subversions of conventional genre tropes to produce a wholly unconventional horror film. These subversions collectively defy common narrative norms including the lack of a white savior figure and the antagonistic role of the police. Perhaps one of the most surprising twists unpacked by the filmmakers is the reveal of Rose as a key agent of the Armitage family’s body-snatching agenda. As Chris struggles to leave the estate for the safety of New York City, it is revealed Rose manipulated him to bring him back to the Armitage family so the surgical transplantation could be conducted, her character serving as a type of black widow figure. By refusing to grant Rose innocence in the situation, the filmmakers effectively dismantle the audience expectation for the innocuous white woman to save the protagonist from his encroaching fate. Besides surprising viewers, this artistic decision functions to overthrow the white savior archetype present in a vast majority of films about the African-American experience. Unlike Kevin Costner in Hidden Figures and Brad Pitt in 12 Years a Slave, Get Out does not include a white character who serves as reassurance to audience members that not every white character is a racist or antagonistic force. Thus, the film purposefully ignores the white apologist trope when the viewer discovers Rose is also involved in the transplantation process.
Above: Rose subverts the white savior trope when she is revealed to be involved with luring victims for the transplanting.
Furthermore, an additional provocative subversion is the role of the police in the film. In most horror films, the police are seen as a comforting reminder of safety and protection from the villain or monster in the narrative. Generally, the arrival of the police signals the end of the movie, the idea that the protagonist is removed from the danger now being handled by a large institutional force armed with the size and means to adequately handle the posed threat. Despite the conventional usage of police in horror films, the local police operate in Get Out as a direct source of hostility and malevolence towards Chris. The first interaction with a police officer transpires early in the film shortly after Rose’s car collides with a deer. When the cop unwarrantedly demands Chris’ license much to his discomfort, it becomes clear the police in the film are not there to rescue Chris from the terror that awaits him. In contrast, if the film centered on a white protagonist, the racial profiling and undue suspicion from the police would be a non-issue and would therefore render the presence of the local police as consoling and encouraging.
Above: A local cop confronts Chris and demands his ID.
The second and final appearance of the police comes during the nail-biting conclusion of the final scene, when Rose predatorily pursues Chris into the depths of isolated woods with a rifle. Chris narrowly escapes a violent death by awakening the consciousness of the African-American groundskeeper with a flash of his mobile’s camera, who then shoots Rose. As a wounded Chris stands over Rose’s bloodied body, and Rose screams for help, the flash of police sirens emanate from the distant darkness. At this point, it dawns on the viewer that Chris, an innocent black man, might be fatally shot by the local police for the racially-biased assumptions they would formulate regarding the scene around him: the dying white woman calling for help on the ground, the blood on Chris’ body, the rifle nearby. Immediately, the audience recognizes the police are not there to aid Chris in escape; instead, they might even prevent him from escaping the situation. The stakes at this point are that much higher since the protagonist just scarcely fled the menace of the Armitage family.
Employing the idea of the police as a threat as opposed to security references recent contemporary events of police brutality on individuals and communities of color. Similarly, the subverted role of the local police connects to the metaphor of the Sunken Place for the prison-industrial complex, in which the police perform a constitutive part. In spite of the sudden conflict presented by the police sirens, the viewers are relived to find Chris’ best friend, Rod, the primary comedic relief, behind the wheel of a TSA vehicle. The fact Rod, another African-American man, instrumentally helps Chris leave offers a supplementary subversion of the white savior trope because it completely rejects the idea of a black man being saved by a white person. Alternatively, the only savior for Chris is another black man. In any other situation, the scene would have almost certainly resulted in Chris’ incrimination, as prejudiced police officers responding to the scene might have immediately made the racist assumption Chris was the hunter rather than the hunted.
Well-made horror films effectively channel widespread social anxieties into a narrative that builds off of the audience’s fears to construct a chilling, believable story. Jordan Peele’s Get Out artfully channels the daily implications of systemic racism faced by millions of African-Americans into a suspenseful horror film satirizing racial relations. The film begins by emphasizing unpleasant interactions with local police and uncomfortable onslaughts of conversational microaggressions but gradually transitions into illustrating a terrifying form of modern slavery. By expertly lacing together extended metaphors and genre trope subversions, the film serves to encapsulate an accessible allegory on contemporary black identity and the American minority experience. It is for this reason that Get Out will stand distinguished among the most memorable horror films of the past two decades for years to come.
The #OscarsSoWhite movement started in January 2015, after April Reign tweeted about the Academy Award nominees. The hashtag she used, #OscarsSoWhite, went viral instantly on social media, and a movement was born.The trend resurfaced the following year when, for the second year in a row, all 20 actors nominated in the lead and supporting acting categories were white (LA Times). Since its debut 88 years ago, the Academy has only awarded 14 black actors with Oscars in acting (USA Today). In the wake of this realization and movement, various A-List actors announced their boycott of the event, and their subsequent revokement of their attendance. This began with Oscar honorary Spike Lee and his wife, and was followed by Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Michael Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and others. This was then followed by recognition from actors like George Clooney, Reese Witherspoon, Lupita Nyong’o, Viola Davis, and President Barack Obama. Those who did attend, but supported the movement, took to the stage to voice their opinions during the live broadcast, causing a stir online and among the media outlets (USA Today).
The Academy has made strides to improve the presence of minorities and women within its membership, offering to double it by 2020, after a unanimous vote. It was referred to as a “historic step” on the Academy’s part (USA Today). This would be impressive if it were not so sad that this small action was considered historic. In 2012, a study reported by the LA Times revealed that Oscar voters were made up of 94% Caucasian and 77% male members. It was not outlined how these statistics would fit into the new initiatives put forth by their “historic step”. But, the entertainment industry still has yet to see a stark change in this, especially in superhero movies. Despite the recent release of Wonder Woman, which quickly became a hit and a pop-cultural milestone, the motion picture was still left out of the most recent Oscar nominations (Variety).
Thus enters Black Panther, one of the most recent Marvel superhero movies portraying the comic book character of the same name. The film tells the story of the fictional nation Wakanda, a conglomerate comprised of four African tribes that hides itself as a third-world country. One soon finds out, however, that this highly technologically-advanced nation utilizes a meteorite called Vibranium to fuel the superhero, the Black Panther. The almost all-black and mixed gender cast of the film portray minorities in powerful positions, and as the heroes in the film, in addition to the minorities highlighted within the film crew. This is a stark comparison to the heavily-focused white male cast and crew typically involved in a Marvel superhero movie franchise.
The film follows King T’Challa as he takes over the reign after his father’s death. Himself and the nation of Wakanda soon become challenged by outsiders, Klaue and Erik Stevens (later named Killmonger), who attempt to steal Wakandan artifacts that contain Vibranium. Epics battle scenes transpire throughout the movie, as T’Challa calls upon friends and other tribal leaders to aid in the defense against those who threaten their culture. But, after T’Challa falls to Killmonger during ritual combat, the King’s family and friends flee, leaving the throne to the winner. Killmonger ingests the Vibranium herb and becomes a super villain-esque leader, ordering Wakandans to ship weapons to operatives around the world. Before this could be fully executed, it is discovered that T’Challa had survived the combat with Killmonger, and he is soon restored to full Black Panther power after his ex-love, Nakia, steals the solution back from the enemies. The film ends with an epic battle scene, in true Marvel fashion, in which T’Challa defeats Killmonger and his army, with the help of the women in the movie. T’Challa then opens an outreach center in America, that he appoints his sister, Shuri, and ex-love, Nakia, to run. But, if you are a true Marvel fan, you know that the beginning of the credits is not the actual ending of the movie – Marvel always places short clips in the middle and end of the credit sequence. By staying, one learns that T’Challa visits the United Nations to reveal Wakanda as it is, and not as a third-world country; they are no longer in hiding from what one would assume to be the Western world (IMDB).
This movie is more than just a superhero movie; it is about black culture, the journey through it, and a future where this culture could be the culture. It shows how the recognition of one’s civilization is not only beautiful, but preferred. It is where black members of society can embrace their traditions and upbringings without the fear of rejection or misunderstanding. Wakanda is shown as an oasis within African culture. This is a stark contrast to the traditional Hollywood portrayal of black actors in roles displaying poverty, antagonism, and savagery, or the past mistreatment and history of black society within the confines of slavery and the civil rights movement. It acknowledges and celebrates the beauty within black culture, and a world where women are just as powerful and smart as men, all while preserving their identity. But, this film also shows the desire to keep this culture hidden away from outsiders, at the risk of the dissemination of information destroying their tradition. Coincidence is possible, but the placement of T’Challa’s meeting with the UN being after the credits roll, is an interesting concept. Although Marvel fans know of this commonality in every franchise movie, there are still a significant amount of viewers who may not even know that this scene exists within the confines of the movie. This then instigates the belief that even now, there is still a desire to keep the outsiders from getting into the inner workings of the culture, for hopes of preserving it. Cultural appropriation is prevalent throughout modern society, and this possible symbol of preservation could be mirroring hesitation within the people of color in the entertainment industry. Black culture is often times mocked or misunderstood in films, so it has found itself in a niche environment within society, just as Wakanda had within Africa. This scene can be understood as a welcoming and opening up of black culture to society, just as the nation was recognizing itself to the rest of the world.
The fictional nation of Wakanda being housed within Africa, a non-fictional location, is also a poignant presentation of ideals. A lot of other Marvel movies take place in dystopian or entirely fictional realms, thus making them inevitably impossible. But, Africa actually exists, showing Wakandan culture as something that is a very real possibility to human beings (aside from the Vibranium superhero tendencies). This strategic placement calls upon members of black society to embrace their cultural upbringings and traditions, and implement them into modern everyday life.
The simple presence of two white males, Klaue and CIA agent Ross, within the movie is also incredibly strategic. A common joke among all or majority white cast movies is the presence of the “token black character”. You see this in practically every movie. Usually they are portrayed as the sidekick or the evil villain, while exacerbating their personalities to hark on stereotypes like the “loud black friend with a big attitude”. Instead, Black Panther took the chance to portray two of the only white characters as both the villain and the sidekick. Personally, this side note was very obvious and, honestly, hilarious. This can be seen in the shift of black actors only acting as catalysts within the portrayal of a white man, rather than the focus being on other races and genders. It was time that the roles were changed, and the stereotypes fell on someone other than a person of color or woman.
So, what does this mean for the future Oscars? Seeing as Black Panther was released only mere months before the airing of the 2018 awards, it was not included in the nominations. But, we did see a stronger presence from people of color within the nominees. Possibly this was strategic on the nominating committees part, but the films included were strong pieces that deserved recognition. Get Out and CoCo both highlighted different races from different perspectives and plotlines. Call Me by Your Name explored the inner-workings of an LGBTQ member of society. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri championed a non-traditional, strong female lead. If viewership is any indication, seeing as Black Panther just surpassed Titanic, the 2019 Oscars are looking optimistic for the #OscarsSoWhite movement and its mission. Other industries in the nation have transitioned to reflect these arguments against stereotyping and gender/race gaps, Hollywood has been slow to join them. The greatest champions of the industry are still heavily white male-focused, despite the presence of incredible cast and crews that prove otherwise. As celebrities and members of society alike utilize the booming social media scene, movements like #OscarsSoWhite can gain traction faster than ever before. Their power is in the form of technology, just as Wakanda had Vibranium, and the world needs to be open to hearing of the existence of it.
It has not been officially confirmed if Black Panther will be transitioned into a sequel, but there is still more content within the original comic book that could be tapped into. Seeing as Marvel typically produces sequels, prequels, and crossover movies without as strong of following as Black Panther has, it can be easily assumed that a sequel is inevitable for the franchise, just from a financial standpoint. But, it should also be evident from a societal standpoint as well. This highlight and championship of black beauty and culture has caused a movement within the industry, and society alike. Black children of all genders now have someone to admire that looks just like them when they look in the mirror. Black women now have role models that show traditional African clothing, hair, and makeup as desirable, especially in contrast of white America. There is no doubt that there were resources within local communities that have been showing this for decades. But, there is a difference in seeing it on film and among Hollywood.
Black Panther now stands as the future of what can become of the American entertainment industry, and its ability to champion all members of society. #OscarsSoWhite outlined the deep rifts within the industry, and Hollywood’s perpetuation of the workforces tendency to think twice when hiring a person of color or woman. One box-office hit is not going to change this problem overnight, but it sparked a fire within the souls of those trying to make a difference in this fight for equality.
Reset. Once more, I hit reset. I needed five more minutes. It was 9:30 am, and I had hit snooze for the fourth time. With my class starting in about 30 minutes, I begrudgingly rose from my bed, reluctant to start the day. On any other day, I would have brushed my teeth, washed my face, changed out of my pjs, and flown out the door, but today was different. Today, was I had a physical disability, which I had the privilege of easily forgetting, as I had that morning. In fact, I didn’t remember it was my day of disability until I approached my bathroom door. To enter the bathroom in my residence hall, Hinton James, you have to cross over a step. For some disabilities, this would not be a problem, but for others, this would be an impossible task. From that moment on, and through the rest of the day, I remembered that I would have to throw my privilege away, and begin to think like one with a physical disability. To make the challenge more personal, I decided to picture my sister and what her experience might look like if she attended my beloved Carolina.
My 17 year old sister, Anna, was born with type 2 Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA II), a form of Muscular Dystrophy that weakens the muscles over time. Usually, those living with this condition cannot walk, have trembling fingers, feeding and skeletal issues (“Spinal Muscular”). If she had wanted to use my bathroom, she would need to have someone carry her in or have access to a ramp, assuming that the door was wide enough to fit her electric wheelchair. With Anna in mind, I quickly realized that I could run as late as I did on a weekday; many of those who suffer from chronic diseases have daily treatments that are essential to their well being. From personal experience, I know that Anna does not need to wake up on time but wake up early to do her breathing treatments that take at least 20 minutes, and this is all with the mandatory help of a caretaker. I could only imagine being a college student living away from home but still needing assistance on a daily basis. This is just one of many obstacles that students with disabilities face.
My first step out of my building, and I had already broken the rules of a day with a disability. The main entrance has steps in front them, which I used out of habit; again, I had the privilege of forgetting about my temporary disability. Thankfully, all the 3 buildings I had classes in that day had wheelchair accessibility, which is not always the case at UNC (“Building”). Because I was running late, I decided to take my usual short cut to the Stone Center, where my first class of the day was. I didn’t realize until today, but in order to take that short cut, I have to walk on mulch. Although some disabilities would find no problem with this, someone with a wheelchair might have a bumpy ride ahead of them. Once in my first classroom, an auditorium, I quickly realized that I couldn’t sit just anywhere as I normally would; if I were in a wheelchair, then I would have to sit in one specific area made for wheelchair accessibility (I didn’t here because I have a classmate that actually uses that space). For other disabilities, it might be important to be close to the door in order to exist with easy access. Once I was settled in, I followed the class as I normally would. However, it is important to note that if I had a disability such as my sister’s, I would not be able to take out my notebook from my backpack, move chairs, nor use the bathroom without the help of an assistant or friend. Many students with disabilities are sometimes if not always dependent on another person.
Though most of the buildings I went to were handicap accessible, I found little inconveniences every on campus. For example, Bingham’s wheelchair accessible entrance is on opposite end of where the elevator is; a minor problem to us, but annoying nonetheless. Also, one building’s accessible entrance may not be in the same vicinity as another. When I left Bingham, I had to take a long route around Greenlaw to get to Lenoir, all to avoid stairs. Stairs aren’t the only problem; so much of UNC’s campus is not just brick, but broken, lopsided brick that does not make for smooth travels for wheels. In addition to driving over unreliable brick walks, it would prove quite difficult for a wheelchair to effortlessly maneuver through a sea of people during class transitions. I have enough trouble walking through people as it is, often left with no other choice but to walk on the grass. Concerns like these are only the tip of the iceberg.
As mentioned before, my residence hall would certainly not suffice as easily accessible for students with a disability, not only in its architecture, but in its location as well. Hinton James is quite far from main campus. Considering residence halls near north campus are mainly hall style and on campus apartments are all on south campus, I could imagine it would possibly be best to live in off campus housing for someone with a physical disability. However, if you were a first year, that would require special permission as all first years are required to live on campus. After that, the student would apply for medical or non-medical mobility to access the necessary parking required, assuming the student has access to their own transportation. Otherwise, the university has exclusive transportation for students with physical and mental disabilities called EZ Rider. These applications are all on top of the general information one would include in the application to the university admissions office and the formal registration post admittance to the Accessibility Resources & Services department. That is a lot of extra time and effort put upon a student that not only lives with the everyday stressors of having a physical disability, but bears the same stressors of an average college student. It would certainly be enough for me to want to give up on my dreams, take the easy way out, which should never be the case for a student with a disability. In an article written for the ADA Legacy Project at UNC-CH, Lindsay Carter not only highlighted this struggle, but offered solutions:
It starts in the classroom. Professors and faculty can learn to work with all students in a way that makes the classroom an easier and more comfortable environment for students with learning disabilities. Training faculty in these techniques would be cost-effective, and fewer students would need to seek individualized accommodations. We can also offer trainings to students about how to advocate for themselves.
Students with disabilities should not feel like a burden to others nor themselves; however there were times during the day where I would feel bad taking the elevator up to the second floor and asking my friends to sit somewhere more accessible. These are only two instances that I could experience, but if I were actually in a wheelchair, I’m sure the list would go on. Once, my bus was stopped to load someone’s wheelchair onto the bus. It was a hot day and I had somewhere to go, but I was understanding of the situation. I never considered how the woman in the wheelchair felt, but I hope that she did not feel burdensome. Other moments I reflected on were classic college experiences that I would not have if I were bound to a chair. For example, many students like to climb over the gates at Kenan Stadium late at night and walk on the football field. Obviously, this would be completely impossible for someone in a chair. Another carolina tradition is rushing Franklin Street after a win against Duke. Besides the fact that it would be difficult and time consuming to get to Franklin, it would be nearly impossible to move freely among the swarm of people, tightly packed like sardines. Even during the week, when schedules tend to be set by classes and extracurricular activities, there are countless times where spontaneous plans are made. For someone with a physical disability, that spontaneity could easily turn into another headache.
The experience of being a student with physical limitations is not all encompassed within this post. There is so much more to be discussed on the matter, and there is so much more for me to learn. Because I grew up with my sister, I have a heightened awareness of the issues these students might face, but that does not mean that I did not learn from this experience; I certainly did. In fact, there is still much I do not know. That being said, I cannot express how thankful I am for this project for the insight it offered into opening the door for discussion and understanding on issues of disability. So often, these are the voices that are the softest, and it is time someone raised the volume.
Carter, Lindsay. “Neurodiversity in the Classroom: One Student’s Proposal.” The ADA Legacy Project at UNC-CH, WordPress, 13 May 2014, http://disabilityrights.web.unc.edu/2014/05/13/neurodiversity-in-the-classroom/.
“Building Abbreviations/Accessibility.” Office of the University Registrar, UNC Chapel Hill, https://registrar.unc.edu/classrooms/course-schedule-maintenance-information/classrooms-building-locations/.
“Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2.” Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/4945/spinal-muscular-atrophy-type-2.
A disability can be defined as “a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities”. One’s disability can change perception of the world around them. This is exactly what happens in Abrose Bierce’s Chicamagua.
In this short story, the main character, a little boy who is a deaf mute, has no idea that his entire world is crumbling around him until he walks into his dead mother and sees his house on fire. Bierce does well to portray the boy as a normal child enjoying a day of make believe in the woods throughout the tale. When the boy falls asleep, he cannot hear the war that is going on around him. His world is peaceful. When he awakes and stumbles upon the wounded men crawling toward his plantation, he does not hear the chaos of the battle or their cries of pain. He can only rely on what he sees, and all he can relate their crawling to is a “horse play” game that workers on the plantation would play with him. He uses the soldiers as a means of fun and plays alongside them as they are dying around him. They are an exciting new development that allows him to join in and “play fight” alongside them, leading them into battle as they crawl slowly behind him.
It is only at the end of the tale that the boy’s disability is made known and that he discovers that his world is crumbling. He finds his plantation in flames and his mother fatally wounded by a shell. Had he been a abled boy, he might have heard the battle happening as he played in the woods and come home in time enough to warn his family. Unfortunately his disability also highlighted his lack of awareness of the situation and that he had no idea of the tragedy occurring around him. He experienced a moment of joy and fun while those around him were dying.
The boy with his impairment is constructed to be thought of as able. as the plot goes on, making his jumping on the bodies of dismembered and disabled soldiers seem even more grotesque. His disability highlights his innocence and the innocence of children in general, especially during the violence of war. In the end when he discovers his family home is destroyed, he becomes an object to be pitied, as many disabled persons are portrayed in narratives. His naivety due to his deafness is “true” of many children as a whole during times of war.
Our privilege blinds us to see the reality of others, it creates a wall that cuts us off from showing true empathy. All we are left to show is pity and happiness that that isn’t our situation. In A Thousand Splendid Suns there was a lot of diversity in different types of privilege. I took note of my privilege, because of my own past. I grew up in a rural village in Mexico. Many of my cousins, including my mother, married at a young age, had children while they themselves were still children, and married men older and less kind the they themselves.
While I try to stay aware that not everyone lives in a society where women have more rights about their bodies and support systems, at times I fail and fall behind that wall. I know that at times, I think to myself that they could do so much more than just have children. Sometime I truly believe that they could just walk out and live their lives as strong independent women. After reading this book, I feel like I saw my privilege for what it was. I got angry with myself for feeling pity and frustration at Mariam’s and Laila’s hard life. It was not that I thought these women were weak, I saw their strength in fighting to maintain some sense of normality during a time of war for their children and themselves. I cried during the escape chapter and admired their intelligence for coming up with their plan. My mom did not have an escape as tough as Mariam’s and Laila’s, but it did parallel a lot. I was a child when it happened, so I don’t remember much about it, but now I feel like I have a greater respect for my mother. My realization was partly on a level as Mariam’s when she realized all her mother did and why her mother hated her father so much.
Because of my privilege I can’t imagine myself letting a man take my future, but in these book it was so common. “A dry, barren field, out beyond wish and lament, beyond dream and disillusionment. There, the future did not matter”, Mariam is thinking about her life and it seems so empty (Hosseini, 256). But, through her husband’s eyes she lives the life other women would kill for. Through the “eyes” this book provided me with I can see the imaginary world that is the norm for others. The importance of diversity is to show those who live a bubble the rest of the world, so they can have a greater understanding of it, this book accomplished that.
Hosseini, Khaled. A Thousand Splendid Suns. Riverhead Books, 2007.
In Raymond Carver’s Cathedral, a fear reinforced by stereotypes and the unknown prompts the husband of the blind man’s ex-caretaker to be bothered by the blind man’s arrival. Due to his lack of interaction with blind individuals, the husband’s perception and fear of the blind was unjustified. He was bothered by the blind because in movies, “the blind moved slowly and never laughed” (Carver 1). These preconceived judgments only lessened his enthusiasm towards meeting his wife’s friend, demonstrating how the unfair portrayal of the blind in movies can procure false images of people with physical impairments in viewers’ minds. If the wife had not forced her husband to meet her blind friend, Robert, her husband would continue to remain fearful of the blind due to his ignorance. The author, Raymond Carver, creates this story and highlights Robert’s strengths in order to confront the prejudices against the blind and demonstrate that those with this disability are misunderstood.
The husband’s lack of interaction with the blind causes him to be surprised upon Robert’s arrival. Since the husband had never met a blind person, he was surprised to find Robert without dark glasses. According to the husband, he “had always thought glasses were a must for the blind” (5) due to its prominence in the media. Furthermore, the husband continues to be shocked by Robert when he sees him smoking a cigarette and finding his food on his plate. The husband had read that the blind did not smoke because they “couldn’t see the smoke they exhaled” (6), but clearly this was not the case. Robert smoked like any other man, despite his disability. Throughout the narrative, Robert’s preconceived views of the blind are continuously challenged by Robert’s actions. Robert is blind, but that does not stop him from drinking, smoking, falling in love, and participating in activities that other individuals engage in on a daily basis. The author creates Robert in order to challenge the flawed views some individuals have of the blind and to reassure readers that those who are blind function and go through life like everyone else.
In the narrative, the Robert is not feminized nor infantilized. The author strategically creates Robert this way so that Robert does not seem inferior to the other characters in the narrative. Despite the fact that Robert is blind and cannot read, see food in front of him, or watch TV, the author does not focus on the obstacles he faces. Instead, the author highlights the actions Robert is capable of and his ability to learn despite these setbacks. Robert may be unable to see the cathedral that his ex-caretaker’s husband describes, but this serves an impetus for him to learn about it and try to imagine what it looks like. By holding the husband’s hand while he draws a cathedral, he is able to almost visualize a cathedral through these motions. If the author had constructed a blind character that let his disability negatively affect him, the husband’s imperfect views of the blind would have been confirmed, Robert would have been portrayed like one of the blind people in the movies, and he would have been pitied by the characters in the narrative. However, by creating a character that is willing to learn despite his disability, it serves as a way to demonstrate that the blind will do anything to view the world as much as others do. Robert may not be able to physically see a cathedral, but it does not mean he can’t understand what it looks like. Robert’s character ultimately demonstrates that the prejudices that the blind are subject to in the media are not accurate representations of the blind. By confronting these stereotypes, Robert is able to show individuals that blind people are just like those around them and that they use their body to their full potential, even if they do not have full capacity of their vision.
Carver, Raymond. Cathedral. 1981, http://www.giuliotortello.it/ebook/cathedral.pdf. Accessed 13 Apr 2018.
Raymond Carver’s Cathedral is told through the first-person-perspective of our narrator. In the beginning, he has misconceptions about the blind, but as the story progresses he slowly “opens his eyes”.
The narrator starts off with describing his apprehension towards the blind man who would be visiting. He is antagonistic towards the idea of a stranger living in his house. The stranger being blind only makes the unknown seem even more unknown. However, our narrator warms up to Robert as he feels pity for him and tries to make him feel more comfortable.
In the story, the narrator’s pity for Robert comes from two main sources: his blindness and his recent wife’s death. These two factors together seems to intensify his pity for Robert. Perhaps influenced by his wife’s actions (in that she wants Robert to be as comfortable as possible), our narrator also tries his best to accommodate the blind man.
The narrator’s lack of understanding of the blind is reflected in his relationship with his wife (when he says that he doesn’t understand her poetry). Yet, at the end of the short story, we see that he opens up Robert. Perhaps after this our narrator can also improve his relationship with his wife. If we were to draw conclusions from this, it would be that meeting new people and getting to know them might help our other relationships too.
The narrator admits that his impressions of blindness mainly comes from watching movies. On the other hand, his wife maintains correspondence with a blind person through listening and recording tapes. These are two very different mediums of communication that form distinct understandings of blindness, much like the difference between a black-and-white TV and a color TV.
Later, the narrator attempts to describe a cathedral using words but finds difficulty doing so. He seems much more comfortable drawing it with Robert though, even if he is not a good artist. This is because the best way to communicate is through direct contact. Which is how most blinds get around the world. The narrator begins to feel the connection with Robert when he starts drawing blind. (and then our narrator will divorce his wife for Robert. a true love story.)
All in all, this short story is about a disgruntled man who opens up. I forgot to analyze the disability which was supposed to be the point of this reflection. The blind man is introduced as a love interest to our narrator. I forgot