Marvel Studio’s Black Panther and the market for diversity

Black Panther Picture 2
By Brian Harris, Staff Writer

Let’s be clear about this right up front, Black Panther is a massive success.

Now, many certainly expected the film to make money, what with it being part of the incredibly popular Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) series of films, which haven’t really had anything close to a box office bomb. But the level of success that the film has obtained is both marvelous and, frankly, shocking. Ryan Coogler’s jaw dropping superhero epic has grossed over 600 million domestically, with an extra 500 million coming in from the worldwide box office. According to Box Office Mojo, the film currently sits at a stunning $1,207,258,236, and has become the highest grossing Marvel Studios film domestically as reported by Deadline, beating the modern classic team up cross over The Avengers. What all these numbers and records mean is that Black Panther is one of the biggest blockbusters in recent memory, and that Hollywood’s thoughts on race have been proven wrong.

For anyone who hasn’t seen Black Panther (absolutely go see it by the way, its fantastic), or doesn’t know its basic premise, the film revolves around T’Challa, the monarch of the fictional African nation of Wakanda as he inherits the crown from his recently deceased father.

Notably the film features an almost entirely black cast, and rarely leaves its fictional African setting.

It’s sad to say that its groundbreaking to have a big budget blockbuster with a predominantly black cast, but it really is. Especially on this scale.

This is a film that goes all in on its African identity, and yet contrary to popular Hollywood beliefs, it’s not a flop.

And that’s the point. For decades Hollywood has nonverbally told us that diversity doesn’t matter to them, outright refusing to give a voice to anyone other than your obligatory “white dude” in their massive blockbusters.

While its easy to see this as outright racist (and in many ways it is), it’s always seemingly come from a misguided financial sense. That a diverse film simply wouldn’t sell as well as the alternative. That somehow a black led superhero movie wouldn’t resonate or sell as well as a white led one.

Of course, this is complete and utter nonsense, and the beautiful thing about Black Panther is it proves Hollywood wrong.

Black Panther is a movie that probably wouldn’t have had the freedom it had if it wasn’t a spinoff of arguably the biggest film franchise in the world with the MCU, and yet it has surpassed so many of its peers at the box office.

This isn’t a film that is being carried by the colossal franchise it belongs to, Black Panther is succeeding because of itself, because its an amazing film, and because it brings representation to a wide audience. There’s a market for diversity, and hopefully Hollywood is paying attention.

Hollywood’s been tone deaf countless times before. And they will be countless times again. But if there’s one thing they understand its money, and Black Panther’s success is the ultimate push Hollywood needs.

Billions can be made without sticking to one ethnicity for you’re leads with, you know, the added benefit of actually representing millions of people across the globe for once.

Heroes shouldn’t come in only one color, and if Black Panther’s success can finally convince Hollywood to diversify themselves in a meaningful way then the Wakandan King’s debut feature is an even bigger success than we already knew.

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