Let’s get some facts out of the way first.
By the time this post goes live, Black Panther will have been out for a little over a week. (I’m writing on Friday, 2.23 and the film was officially released on Friday, 2.16). As of right now:
- Black Panther has the highest Rotten Tomatoes rating (97%) of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, and it’s tied with The Incredibles for the highest rating of any superhero film ever.
- BP broke an overseas record (in the UK) before even opening in the US.
- It’s garnered the highest IMAX ticket pre-sales for a Marvel movie and the highest ticket pre-sales in general for any superhero movie.
- It’s the most-tweeted about movie this year.
- It’s surpassed Justice League‘s entire box office run in only four days.
- As expected, its $192 million domestic opening weekend beat Deadpool‘s already-impressive record for a February opening weekend.
- It blew past the estimates for a $160 million opening and places Black Panther as the biggest opening for an African-American director (Ryan Coogler) and the the fifth largest domestic opening weekend ever.
- Its Monday domestic earnings of $40.2 million are the biggest Monday ever, beating Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($40.1 million).
- Its Tuesday domestic earnings of $21.07 million were the biggest pre-summer Tuesday and beat out the former first place Beauty and the Beast ($17.8 million) and former Marvel first place The Avengers ($17.6 million)
- Then its Wednesday domestic earnings ($14.5 million) also beat former Marvel first place The Avengers‘ $13.6 million Wednesday.
- Black Panther is now expected to crack the half-billion dollar mark worldwide some time this weekend
… and the list goes on and on.
The point is, Black Panther is an incredible film, a kick ass superhero movie, and I don’t need to tell you that – you already knew it. And if you didn’t know, you need to fix it.
However, I’m not here to give you my review of the film. (Though I could, I’ve already seen it twice so far and that was in the first three days of its release. Also I’m a comic book film nerd. A film nerd, period. But I digress…) I’m here to talk about the subtle and not so subtle shifts in energy this film has the potential to affect and is already affecting.
We’ve all heard the expression that Art imitates Life. And that notion can be supported in a lot of ways. But the philosophical concept of Anti-mimesis holds the direct opposite in the opinion that Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life (an opinion most notably supported by Oscar Wilde in his 1889 essay The Decay of Lying).
In the essay, Wilde holds that anti-mimesis “results not merely from Life’s imitative instinct, but from the fact that the self-conscious aim of Life is to find expression, and that Art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realize that energy. (Source: LINK)
Read that again and digest it:
The Self Conscious aim of Life is to find expression, and Art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realize that energy.
This statement demonstrates exactly why Black Panther and it’s subsequent success is so extremely poignant to our cultural narrative right now. We’re living in a time where our own ugliness is being exposed so quickly and so consistently that we barely have time to process it. How many Black men, young and old, have we watched get murdered in real time? How many Women of Color have we watched get not only left behind, but demonized by our justice system? Black Lives barely had a chance to Matter before every other cause that felt threatened by the notion jumped on board to try and silence it (or attempt to reduce it to a hate movement… I’m not going to dignify that shit).
Black People in America are certainly doing “better” now than any other time in this country’s recorded history, but to pretend that we’re living in a time of true prosperity and equality is a fallacy. To behave as though we should be grateful for the crumbs and table scraps we’re afforded in relation to the feast of opportunity most often made available to people of lesser melanin is an insult to our struggle. Black and Brown lives are being torn apart left and right and have been for so long we barely even acknowledge it. And the fact that we as a culture passively accept this state of reality in some way or another is heartbreaking.
Don’t get me wrong, plenty of us are awakened to and aware of what’s going on and how sick these state of affairs are. I’m seeing Black and Brown people and our White Allies coming together in ways I’ve never seen before and it gives me hope that we will weather this storm together and come out on the other side much better for it.
Until things make a permanent shift, however, it is imperative to recognize why Black Panther, or more specifically what films and Art like Black Panther represent, is so important because REPRESENTATION MATTERS.