In late March, the 86th Academy Awards nominations were announced. The biggest news was that “Black Panther” dominated the list with a total of 12 nominations, including best picture and best director. Additionally, best actor and actress nods went to three black nominees – Daniel Kaluuya, who plays the role of W’Kabi in the movie, and Mbuthia Alaba, who plays a role in the development of Wakanda.
Besides nominating the highest-grossing movie of all time, the Academy Award for Best Picture, the nominations also highlighted the massive popularity of Black Panther, which recently surpassed “A Star Wars Story” to become the highest-grossing film of all time. With over 1.3 million votes on the Academy’s website, it’s safe to say that many people want to see Black Panther on the big screen.
More Than Just Black Panther
The news that “Black Panther” dominated the Best Picture category didn’t come as a total surprise to many pundits who track award winners and predict the Oscars. In fact, film analysts and “race fans” have been buzzing about the Black Panther contingency for weeks now. Much like Black Panther, other movies that are part of Black superhero reminiscence such as Black Expectation (2018) and Black Miracle (2019) also landed multiple Oscar nominations across the board.
Based on the theory that success in one area of life often leads to similar achievements in other areas, these pundits claim that by nominating Black Panther for so many awards, the Academy is essentially saying that the movie is “the best of its kind” and that it deserves to be on the big screen.
That might be true, but it’s not the whole story. Like many superhero movies, Black Panther is more than just a story about a black superhero.
Why Is It Popular?
From the moment the trailer for Black Panther was released in December 2018, fans have been flocking to watch the Marvel movie. One of the first reports we got about the trailer was that it had been viewed over 20 million times on TikTok, which is undoubtedly a big deal. Even more impressively, Black Panther has been the most-viewed Hollywood movie on TikTok every day since its release.
One of the reasons why Black Panther has been so popular on TikTok is that it prominently features popular black creators and influencers. In fact, many viewers have been calling out specific scenes for praise and sharing their own takes on the movie’s key issues. For example, many viewers have cited the movie’s treatment of colonialism as the reason for its popularity, claiming that it’s a story that’s rarely told in Hollywood.
It’s also possible that Black Panther is more popular because it offers a unique blend of action, comedy, and superheroics. While many films fall into one of those categories, Black Panther offers something different, which makes it stand out among other superhero movies.
The combination of all these elements – a well-known black superhero, a rarely-told black historical story, a cast that includes several famous black actors – makes Black Panther a movie that’s easy to fall in love with. In the words of one Twitter user, “If you’re a black woman and you haven’t seen Black Panther, you’re possibly missing out on one of the most culturally significant and impactful films of all time.”
What does all this popularity mean for the Oscars? Well, it means that Black Panther is definitely a contender, but it’s not guaranteed that the movie will win. In fact, the odds of Black Panther winning are about the same as that of “Toy Story 4” winning the Oscar for best picture. So, don’t get your hopes up just yet. But it’s always exciting when a popular movie is nominated for an Oscar because it means that people are talking about the movie and considering it for an award. And that’s what makes this season’s Oscars so exciting, because Black Panther is the type of movie that people are choosing to see and discuss.
“Black Panther” is the first film in many ways. Not only does it feature a predominantly black cast, but it also tackles many issues that are more common among black people. That’s not a coincidence, explained Shonda Rhimes, one of the writers of Black Panther. “When I first started working on this, we were wondering, ‘What does it mean to be black in America today?’ Because there’s so much intersectionality when it comes to identity and political beliefs. It’s not just black or white, but it’s definitely something we had to consider.”
What does all this mean for Black Panther? It means that the movie isn’t exactly like any other that’s been made. And that’s a good thing. Hollywood tends to get a little sleepy when it comes to diversity, especially when it comes to black characters. “Black Panther” doesn’t follow the same path that most Hollywood films do when it comes to race – they often gloss over important issues, focusing instead on shallow distinctions such as “black versus white.” But Black Panther is much more than that. It’s a much more complex story that requires the audience to think and feel as much as it requires the characters to act.
It’s a rare moment of levity in a film that tackles serious issues. One of the reasons Black Panther is so funny is because it forces the audience to confront both themselves and their society in a way that other superhero movies rarely do. Even Black Panther itself is smart enough to know how much tension it can create, which is why it comes complete with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge narrator who breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience directly. “Black Panther” knows that even though it may be funny, it’s also serious business and that it demands our attention and engagement.
Although Black Panther is the first film in a long time to focus on blackness as a dominant theme, it’s not the first film to feature many characters that are well-known to movie fans. That’s because “Black Panther is not only about blackness,” said Rhimes, “but it’s definitely about family and responsibility.”
The film is narrated by the eponymous Black Panther, who is the king of his home country of Wakanda. Like many black superhero movies, “Black Panther centers around a crime-fighting black superhero,” said Erin Dykens, a professor at the University of Southern California and an expert on black superhero movies. However, “Black Panther is different in that it shows the world through the eyes of a black man, and it makes the viewer an active participant in that world,” she said. That element, combined with the prevalence of black creators in the film, makes it feel less like a story about a black superhero and more like something that could have actually happened. That, combined with its focus on black history, makes Black Panther feel more relatable and universal than most other black superhero movies.
Themes & Issues
Even more impressively, “Black Panther is a film that can’t be summed up by its themes or issues,” said Dykens. While many black superhero movies center around racial inequality, police brutality, and discrimination, “Black Panther tackles all of those things, but it also dives into colonialism, which is something that is rarely seen in mainstream media,” she said.