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Box Office Like A Panther

Box Office Like A Panther

Why A Pop Movie About An African King/Superhero Is Drawing Global Attention And Record Breaking Dollars

 

There is a reason why Black Panther sold over $120 million in advance tickets, is now projected to make over $200 million opening weekend and $400,000 raised in GoFundMe money to take school kids. This is not your father’s superhero and white people are cool with that.

Although mainstream media is touting the big muscle success of the new Black Panther movie as a ‘cultural moment for the black community,’ that analysis falls far short of the reality that this is a cultural moment for America.

 Hampton University students lined up for free tickets to see a screening of the Black Panther film on February 13.  The film's costume designer is an HU alum.  Credit: Rob Ostermaier/Daily Press

Hampton University students lined up for free tickets to see a screening of the Black Panther film on February 13.  The film's costume designer is an HU alum.  Credit: Rob Ostermaier/Daily Press

Without question, the film appeals to Marvel and action movie fans, a huge African American audience and educators. But with this level of success here and around the world opening weekend in February and Twitter trending in record numbers, the thirst for this film goes beyond comic book icons and teachable moments.

Why? Lots of reasons.

From a social and cultural perspective, American audiences have outgrown the traditional framework of the hero figure. John Wayne and Captain Kirk had swag and macho charisma but the most that women and minorities could be was a sidekick or sex toy. They wrapped up their stories with heroic messages but in today’s world that doesn’t justify the womanizing and exploitation. In comes, Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson movies and now Deadpool, whose anti-hero representations better match real world attitudes about life.

The national mood seems ready for a different kind of hero. These days, whether black or white, man or woman, heroes may not come from “traditional” hero mythology – or reality.

 #BlackPantherChallenge creator Frederick Joseph is surprised on the Ellen Show by Black Panther film lead actor Chadwick Boseman. Joseph's GoFundMe page sought donations so that kids of the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem (shown in background image) can see the Black Panther film. Media attention got celebrities like Ellen Degeneres to jump on board. Degeneres fully funded this venture, allowing the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem to keep the donations for their club.

#BlackPantherChallenge creator Frederick Joseph is surprised on the Ellen Show by Black Panther film lead actor Chadwick Boseman. Joseph's GoFundMe page sought donations so that kids of the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem (shown in background image) can see the Black Panther film. Media attention got celebrities like Ellen Degeneres to jump on board. Degeneres fully funded this venture, allowing the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem to keep the donations for their club.

Meanwhile, Captain America Civil War has Marvel’s law and order hero breaking the law to defend his friend. DC’s Justice League, ripe with old-fashioned do-gooders, tanks its expectations at the box office. Let’s face it, real life isn’t much different: from Hollywood to the White House to Congress, the leaders that society traditionally expected to be heroic and just, are not necessarily so. Audiences get that.

Another win for Panther is that it allows everyone the potential to dream. ‘Panther,’ like King’s multicultural popularity in the early 1960s, Muhammad Ali’s global popularity and 2007 presidential candidate Barack Obama’s rock star status has the underdog story with the superman message/package.

Blackness is common denominator of racial, social and economic oppression: if the black man can win with hismessage, we all have a chance to win—whether we are Latino, Asian, woman, gay, geek or green. Also like King, Obama and Ali, the Panther gives us a glimpse into the world we want to see ourselves in and strength we dream to have if we were unfettered by oppressive forces. Those messages and images say that there is a place for all of us to be Kings and Queens without meaning that someone else has to be irrelevant.

All people want to imagine themselves to be that hero without apology or compromise in a world that traditionally not only denies them this, but tells them they are born losers and villains. Not everyone can be Superman but all too often in the world we live in today, if you are not the white male figure, you’re supporting cast at best or a villain at worst.

The audience and the world are changing. The Black Panther, smashing box office records at the box office on its way to $200 million, is proof that this big cat will not be going extinct. More likely, it’s going to grow.

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