Marvel’s Black Panther Starring Andy Serkis. . .Wait, What?
I had one problem with the “#OscarSoWhite” from last year; it should have been “Hollywood So White.” Why “Hollywood So White?” I’ll paraphrase something Malcolm X said about complaining that the south is somehow more racist than the rest of America; “As long as you are South of the Canadian border, you are South.” In other words, complaining about the Oscars snubbing people of color on one year when they have a Hollywood wide problem with racism is just like thinking that the only racism that happens in America is in the South. One night I and my nephew were having a discussion on Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and I happened to check the IMDB for the upcoming Black Panther movie. When you do a search for Black Panther on IMDB you see what you would expect,
The star of the film should naturally be the person playing the namesake that is the title, so in the search, you see Chadwick Boseman. However when you come to the information page, specifically the cast this is what you get.
Why is the actor whose the title character 4th on the list of this movie? Why are Andy Serkis, Sterling K. Brown and Martin Freeman listed before the stars of the movie? Andy Serkis might have been around a lot longer and gets plenty of props for his motion capture performances, as well as a pretty decent Klaw in Avengers Age of Ultron, but he’s no Chadwick Boseman. Who the hell is Sterling K. Brown? He’s not a name I immediately recognize. When I search his IMDB I see This is Us and Army Wives, two TV shows I’m sure have their followings. But neither have the same level of anticipation Black Panther. On this one, I refuse to dick about what this is. Hollywood so white.
I like Martin Freeman. I like his work and think he tends to add to movies he’s in. But this movie is Black Panther. Martin Freeman is playing a character from the comics only comic geeks would really know. How he gets list above the star of the movie merits some kind of explanation other than the obvious.
So what is “The Obvious” With Hollywood so White
One year and several months before I was sitting in a Starbucks on Franklin Ave near the Eastern Parkway train station, the one flanked by a Capital One Bank and “The Pulp & The Bean” one of the many coffee shops that sprang up with bars while Brooklyn became heavily gentrified. Just a decade ago this corner was considered somewhat sketchy. Today it’s trendy. The more things change.
“The Oscars?” A man in the Starbucks commented while reading something on his laptop. It was February 2016 and #OscarSoWhite was trending. The man looked like a neat black hippy in his mid to late 60s, a thick but trimmed goatee, hair pulled back it an impossibly large braid that bore some kind of tribal affectation pinned along sections of the strand, round rectangle glasses, tie-dye shirt under a tweed jacket. He might have been a black hispter or maybe one of those free-thinking college professors that are sprinkled throughout college campuses. The top of his laptop had a silhouette of a pick in the center of it, the combs used by black people sporting afros. I could see he was on Twitter. The #OscarSoWhite was printed in large white letter across the Twitter blue band near the top of the elder’s screen. “Man, Hollywood so white!” Was his only comment in reply to the trend. I don’t know if he actually Tweeted that.
Looking at the IMDB for Black Panther brought me back to that day, sitting in that Starbucks and hearing the man’s pointed criticism. Here’s is the reality. Oscars are white, but so is Hollywood and so is the USA. I understand where the Oscars so white complaint comes from, but it adds up to a very disturbing trend.
There are people who will make excuses for why the star of a movie doesn’t get top billing on a site like IMDB. Others will wonder why it’s important at all. Let’s answer the 1st question.
It’s Racist, That’s the Reality
Hollywood is the overall name for the Movie and TV industry, even though movies and television shows are made in other places. This industry encompasses a wide range of businesses that work together to make Hollywood. ..well, Hollywood. So when I say “Hollywood so white” I mean that since the bulk of these businesses and all its major corporate offices are owned and operated by, mostly, white people so of course, things are going to be racist.
Recently Dove Soap put out an ad that begins with a black woman taking off her skin and becoming a white woman. The usual arguments ensued. Some are saying it’s just an ad about we’re all the same under the skin. Some are saying it’s racist. Begin the Facebook and Twitter debates. I don’t see the debate. The ad is racist. Is it possible it did not mean to be? That’s arguable. You make that argument but the ad is still racist? If it was just a company trying to cause some shock to gain attention and hopefully sales – the ad is racist. Will that make me stop buying Dove? I don’t buy Dove anyway. Do I think there should be a boycott? Yes, but if you keep buying Dove I ain’t holding it against you. Let people decide what to do for themselves, but let’s stop pretend racism isn’t racism.
IMDB So White
IMDB was created by a guy from Greater Manchester named Colin Needham. He was an engineer working at Hewlett-Packard when he creates the internet bulletin board for movie information and when the internet took off IMDB grew with it. I know how a database message board works, and how data is organized in it. So maybe someone messed up the sort of the Cast list, or maybe someone thinks Andy Serkis is the shits. No matter what the rationale the shit looks and is racist. Let’s stop pretending these things aren’t what they are and learn that this is our reality and take proactive action to account for it. I don’t care if IMDB corrects it because they shouldn’t have gotten it wrong in the first place. Too often black people treat racism like a clumsy child you tolerate. “He didn’t mean it, he’s special.” We don’t’ want to call things racist because white people get insulted by the implication or outright accusation of racism. You know how to avoid being accused of being racist? Don’t do racist shit. How hard is this?
My Stupid Wish
If there’s anything I’d like to see happen in my life as a black man, it’s that black people stop treating racism as if it’s some kind of a surprise at this point. The constant need to force this country not to be racist is, by all evidence, a really pointless fight. Every time something happens or it’s pointed out we hear too many people say “It’s 2017, how can this racism be happening.” Well, here’ the clue. It was happening in 1917, in 1817 and in 1717. There’s only a metric ton of history and records demonstrating this fact. Saying Hollywood so white is not new information, it’s just a statement of fact.
When we start with protesting in order to force a white own entity like Hollywood or franchise or a mega-stores not to be racist towards people of color, it ends up being one group of people begging the other to let them spend with them. In the beginning and in the end this is about money and, IMO, people of color have lost the art of the boycott because we think it’s just people demonstrating. We think it will have no effect. We’re wrong. I hear so many people hating on certain movies, like the Transformers. They are nothing more the huge tent-pole bubblegum action movies with a decidedly “America, FUCK YEAH” attitude. They are badly written and directed and just as racist as everyone claims. Yet they make a fuck-ton of money. I’m sorry, but that’s the end of the argument right there. Hollywood so white? Then stop spending your money with them. How do I know people are spending their money? Because those dumb ass movies about big ass robots collectively make billions.
My dream is we stop protesting or making “OscarsSoWhite, or hashtagging Hollywood so white and just start building our own. Today you can make a low budget movie with a GoPro. That’s not hyperbole, that’s the current reality we live in. Social Media made connecting, sharing and marketing available to ten-year-olds. As technology grows, with the internet and social media, with cryptocurrency, crowd-sourcing, and patreon the playing field is becoming even. People of color still have to work for it, but the work is easier by leaps and bounds. It just takes the will. This is why I say before you bitch and moan about Tyler Perry in a dress, just remember he created two major niches within the film arena. Medea makes that happen. He just showed us that it can be done, and he didn’t use social media. It wasn’t near where it is today before he made his first religious love story. In the Hollywood So White world, he carved out a niche for himself despite Hollywood being so white.
In the Hollywood So White world, everyone has the opportunity to at least try.
So why are black people up in arms about Hollywood snubbing black actors? Why is this “Oscars” so important we are willing to keep supporting entities who have no respect for us? These fuckers have been around for 147 years, I think we should get the message that it is not going to change in the next two lifetimes. I say we create our own thing and not the same crap white people give us. Black people have a rich history the goes very far back, could we please stop it with the slavery/gangster/overcoming racism/criminal stories. And don’t just give supporting this effort lip service, just support it. Just buy a video, follow the makers, shop in their stores when Christmas or Birthdays or any holiday comes up. Make Black Friday a real Black Friday. Don’t worry about their opinions or the criticisms you know will come. We are in an era where we can actually create our own industry. Let’s do that.
The Man in Starbucks.
The man in the Starbucks was right, in every way, when he said: “Man, Hollywood so white.” The first Oscar was given out in 1929 during Jim Crow. Hollywood was created in 1853, 12 full years before slavery ended. The bulk of Hollywood movies with black people in them have been racist, insulting, dehumanizing and, throughout its history, we have been given what amounts to excuses. I argue that it’s time black people stop being surprised and shocked. Seeing how the white-own IMDB listed the stars of Marvel’s Black Panther movie might annoy the shit out of me because it makes no sense on any level. But it doesn’t surprise me. Because there’s a clear history and considering who the president is and what kind of monsters support him it’s par for the course of a country founded by a bunch of white people screaming about freedom while keeping human beings as property. It doesn’t matter if it’s 2017, this type of shit hasn’t changed since white people first came up with the whole racism thing, and, IMO, it isn’t going to anytime soon.