Marvel’s Black Panther Starring Andy Serkis. . .wait, what?
One night me an my nephew was 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 name-sake 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 star 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 being 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 shows I’m sure have their followings but are not on the same level of anticipation for seeing Boseman as T’Challa since his appearance in Captain America: Civil War.
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 teh 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 obivious.
So what is “The Obvious?”
One year and several month before I was sitting in a Starbucks on Franklin Ave near the Eastern Parkway train staition, 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 somewhate sketchy. Today it’s trendy. The more things change.
“The Oscars?” A man in the Starbucks commented while reading something off 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 goatie, 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 jacked. He might habe 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 sillouette 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 accross 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 pionted 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 don’t get top billing on a site like IMDB. Others will wonder why it’s important at all. Let’s answer the 1st question.
One of the arguments against this complaint will probably be that Andy Serkis has more recognition or “star power” than Chadwick Boseman. That’s bullshit. Serkis has been around a bit longer but Boseman’s social proof is much larger and the anticipation for Black Panther only has a bit to do with Ulysses Klaue. In the comic it’s literally “Ulysses Klaw” and there came a point where they tried to make him T’Challa’s Doctor Doom, but he’s always been a bit of a dumb character who had no real motivation outside of “commit crime, get beat up by heroes.” The whole “he wanted to steal vibranium” thing happened in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s and no one was particularly impressed when he showed up. But it happpen in the comics so Marvel has to have it happen in the Movies.
If the star power thing was true then why did Robert Downy Jr. get top billing for Iron Man? His star power was notably shit before Iron Man dropped. He wasn’t making any real movies and his last really notable TV apperance before that was on Ally Mc Beal. The whole drugs thing was public. So if the logic follows that the IMDB list is about star power than Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow should have been put above Robert Downy Jr. Chis Evans might have been the bright spot of the Fantastic Four movies, but that being the delicious candy that lays half-chewed on a pile of shit. Evans most certainly did not have the star power of Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving or Dominic Cooper. Paul Rudd in no way has the box office draw and star power of Michael Douglas. And there isn’t a universe where Chris Hemsworth ourshines Anthony Hopkins or Natalie Portman. The reason they are put at the top of the cast list is because they’re the fucking title characters.
It’s Racist, That’s the Reality
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 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?
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. When we start with protesting a white own establishment like Hollywood or a franchise or a mega-store not to be racist towards people of color, it ends up being one group of people begin the other to let them spend with them. We have lost the art of the boycott because we think it’s just people demonstrating. Not to mention as technology grows, with the internet and social media, with cryptocurrency, crowdsourcing, and patreon the playing field is becoming even. So why are black people up in arms about Hollywood snubbing black actors? Why is this “Oscar” so important we are willing to keep supporting entities who have no respect for us?
The man in the Starbucks was right in so many ways. 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 this process, we have been given 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 any time soon.