When Black Panther hit the big screens back in February, it was hailed as a cultural achievement. A COMIC BOOK MOVIE with a black lead, starring alongside a mostly black cast (many of whom are badass women), helmed by an African American, written by African Americans and lensed by a woman. But more importantly, it tells a, poetic, emotionally resonant story centred around family, power and oppression, with stellar performances from top to bottom. Critics loved it (97% on Rotten Tomatoes / 88% on Metacritic) and so did the general masses (79% audience score on RT / A+ on Cinemascore).
However, there seems to be a slight shift in opinion over the past couple of days, once Black Panther received its Golden Globe nomination in the ‘Best Motion Picture — Drama’ category. Suddenly, small pockets of Geekdom took to Facebook groups and forums calling this Ryan Coogler film “the most overrated Marvel movie” and “completely undeserving of its nomination.” This shift reminded me of the La La Land narrative heading towards The 89th Academy Awards. A movie which after getting enormous award season buzz, went from being a ‘love letter to Hollywood’ to a ‘Hollywood jackoff movie’ faster than I could say handjob.
But that isn’t the issue.
People can like a movie one day and hate it the next — film is subjective and opinions are fluid. What I do take umbrage at are the reasons why people think it’s undeserving of its accolade: The Dark Knight and Logan didn’t receive nods in this category (AKA Best Picture — Drama). I’ve read it all from “Heath Ledger is rolling in his grave” and “It makes no sense for a mediocre movie like Black Panther to receive a nomination when the far superior Logan didn’t,” to “Christopher Nolan is sitting in a corner and crying.” (Note that Heath Ledger did receive a Golden Globe nod for his performance in The Dark Knight).
Look, I am passionately in love with The Dark Knight — it is literally my favourite movie of all time — but the aforementioned argument makes as much sense as a pig in a red floral dress riding a motorcycle. It is a fallacy, simply because Black Panther isn’t competing against comic book movies of previous years. It isn’t going up against Logan and The Dark Knight. That’s now how these awards show work, rightfully so. The competition is only between movies released within a given calendar year. In the case of Black Panther, it’s 2018.
What are the best films of the year in any given category? That’s the question.
So to say Black Panther doesn’t deserve a nomination because The Dark Knight didn’t is akin to saying Gone Girl doesn’t deserve its Best Picture nomination at the Oscars because Zodiac and Se7en didn’t. Citizen Kane is generally considered to be the greatest movie ever made. It didn’t win the Best Picture Oscar in 1942. So, should every film that has come out since not have won/win an Oscar too?
What we need to understand is that Black Panther getting a nomination in the biggest category of the Golden Globes doesn’t automatically make it a better movie than The Dark Knight or Logan. Do you actually believe that The Academy found DiCaprio’s performance in The Revenant his best work yet? Do you think that the voters gave Denzel Washington his best actor Oscar for Training Day because they found it more deserving of that accolade than his transformative performance in Malcolm X?
Note: I know The Academy Awards and Golden Globes are completely different award shows with different voters. But it doesn’t take away from the argument being presented above and below.
Look, I’m not saying you just have to shut your mouth and accept the fact that Black Panther received the nod even if you don’t like it. No. Argue, debate, get passionately furious, but the comparisons should be revolving around films that have been released in 2018. I’m not happy with all the picks either. Seriously, why on earth is Bohemian Rhapsody nominated? Sure, Rami Malek delivered a performance for the ages, but the movie as a whole is a fun touch and go celebration, rather than a deep character exploration. A Quiet Place deserves a nomination. The Hate U Give too (it’s crazy that this movie isn’t getting any awards season buzz whatsoever).
Comic book fans should celebrate Black Panther’s achievement or at the very least acknowledge that it’s another step in the right direction in terms of this genre smashing through the glass ceiling and being taken more seriously by the largely elitist voters, instead of being butthurt about Logan and The Dark Knight.
Also, if you think Black Panther ONLY received its nomination because of identity politics and a “SJW diversity quota”, then you’re not giving the film a fair shot. (Someone even commented, “urgh, this movie wouldn’t have been nominated if it consisted of an entirely white cast.” Well, no shit Sherlock. A movie where a WHITE GUY says, “bury me in the ocean, with my ancestors that jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage” should not receive any acclaim.)
Sure, Black Panther’s diverse cast & crew and subject matter definitely helped its case, but 2018 also saw the release of Proud Mary and A Wrinkle in Time, both movies with black leads and non-white directors. Both movies were destroyed by critics and neither one received a Golden Globe nomination. That said, to think that identity politics and culture isn’t present in EVERY MOVIE is ignorant. There is identity politics even in Michael Bay’s Transformers movies.