Samuel L. Jackson doesn’t see Black Panther as the watershed Hollywood moment that some believe it to be. That’s despite the Ryan Coogler-directed blockbuster breaking all sorts of box office records. It’s already the highest-grossing superhero movie and one of the top-10 highest-grossing films of all time worldwide, plus it drew widespread critical acclaim, all while blazing new trails for superhero cinema with its predominantly black cast.
The fact that Black Panther mostly takes place in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, and that most of its main cast is comprised of black actors, makes its massive worldwide success all the more encouraging for those who desire more diversity and representation in mainstream movies. It may be the start of a diverse new movement in Hollywood, but not everyone has high hopes. According to Nick Fury actor Samuel L. Jackson, he doesn’t think Black Panther will bring about the kind of change people are hoping for from the movie.
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In an interview with Matt Pomroy, Jackson said he doesn’t believe that Black Panther’s acclaim and widespread commercial triumph will change or influence the way stories are told about black people in Hollywood, especially as they are in the United States. He took a global perspective on it, likening stories of black people in U.S. history to Americans trying to grasp a story from a foreign film in an unfamiliar country. Here’s how he explained his view on the subject:
“I’m not positive that Black Panther is going to change the dynamic of black stories being told in Hollywood and being accepted all over the world. It’s an action-adventure story and a lot of people like those, and they’ll work all over the world forever because everybody loves a hero. But not everybody loves a drama about somebody’s life experience – that’s why awards have a separate category for foreign films; they are perceived as being different. Once we stop perceiving them as different and just see them as good films and they get recognized in the same category, we’ll be laying markers.”
Jackson has appeared in films that tell their own versions of the darker side of African American history, notably as a conniving house slave in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. He also mentioned Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave, another unflinchingly brutal portrait of life in the era. Though there are indications that changes are afoot at Marvel Studios, Jackson isn’t convinced that Black Panther has done anything to raise awareness for, or increase the production of, those kinds of stories.
Instead, Jackson attributes Black Panther’s success mainly to the mere fact that it’s a Marvel movie and a superhero movie, and audiences all around the world love a good superhero movie. Black Panther merely showed that it doesn’t matter who’s in the lead roles, a compelling story is what wins above all else. It remains to be seen how prescient Jackson’s comments are, but it will be intriguing to find out what Black Panther has truly done for diversity in Hollywood.
In a perfect world, Coogler would have achieved worldwide attention for his acclaimed debut feature film, Fruitvale Station. It tells a powerful, heartbreaking story about a black youth (Michael B. Jordan) in Oakland and the events leading up to his death at the hands of a reckless police officer. The hope is that Black Panther helps more of these stories get told, and that those stories reach a wider audience than they would’ve otherwise.
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Source: Matt Pomroy