Black Panther vs. Oscar Voters
Black Panther has become one of the most influential pieces of art of the 21st century, updating the conversation on representation, racism, and the African diaspora. People young and old have claimed the fictional nation of Wakanda as theirs, simultaneously voicing their opinion on the debate on who of T’Challa and Erik Killmonger deserve the title of king and/or villain and the other the same titles (That’s a completely other subject. Comment below if you would like to see an article on this sometime). Children of all races and backgrounds can look to these characters despite the film’s profound undertone and find heroes with the qualities and strengths every parent wishes to see in their child(ren). I could go on about the impact this film has had and continues to have on the world, but I’ll transition with this: If you haven’t seen Black Panther, you’ve heard of it.
With awards season coming to a close, many reflect upon this year’s winners and snubs while others look to the future and who and what are most likely to be nominated. With the box office success of Black Panther, people obviously are weighing in on whether or not it deserves major nominations. Black Panther is a clear contender to me complete with its A-list cast and crew, advanced set design and animation, and critically-acclaimed score and soundtrack. And I am not the only one raving about Black Panther’s cinematic excellence as the film boasts an impressive 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, these accolades still may not be enough to convince major award show voters that Black Panther is worth a nod. Voters are a diverse pool of people of different races, genders, ideals, and ages. Specifically, with these different ages, many older voters seem to have difficulty understanding and rooting for films that address newly discussed topics either through the writing of the film or the casting. For example, Get Out was a phenomenal horror film that poetically described a new, manipulative form of racism in a way that would be enjoyable to watch whether one understood this double entendre or not. Nevertheless, it was reported that many older Oscar voters refused to even watch the film let alone vote for it due to it not fitting the typical mold of an Oscar nominated or winning film: horror and black-led but not about slavery. Regardless of these voters’ rebellion, director Jordan Peele still managed to be awarded Best Original Screenplay, making him the first African American to win this award in the 90 years the Academy Awards have been around. However, Get Out won no other awards.
With this being said, I fear the fate of Black Panther. It clearly does not fit the mold of a typical Oscar nominated film: it is a superhero film, not only black-led but not about slavery but also majority black, blockbuster, and directed by a fairly newcomer. However, who is to say that movies must fit a mold to gain recognition? The star-studded cast clearly had faith in the success of the film, leading them to join the film. Additionally, Oscar nominees’ Angela Bassett and Daniel Kaluuya and winners’ Lupita Nyong’o and Forrest Whitaker participation in the film should be some reassurance to voters that Black Panther is worth a shot. However, my fears lie with the past incidents regarding, pointedly, Ryan Coogler-directed films and Michael B. Jordan/Chadwick Boseman-led films. Creed, directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Michael B. Jordan, was one of the biggest snubs of the 2016 Academy Awards along with other black-led film Straight Outta Compton, thus prompting the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite that year. Creed, the newest addition to the Rocky installment, was not entirely sublime in my opinion; nevertheless, many believe it deserved recognition. More recently, Chadwick Boseman, star of the Thurgood Marshall biopic titled Marshall, also was snubbed for his performance. These snubs are apparently due to Oscar voters’ failure to recognize these black men’s craftsmanship as equal to other competitors’. Will this prompt them to further not be nominated for awards as Oscar nominees have a history of being chosen from a pool of previously-nominated actors and directors? The combination of these good signs and bad ones call for a very unpredictable destiny of the Black Panther.
Overall, I feel Black Panther absolutely deserves some Oscar nominations, specifically for Ryan Coogler’s direction, Rachel Morrison’s cinematography, production design, Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s song “All the Stars,” and Danai Gurira’s performance (that one might be a long shot, but I truly do see it!). Nevertheless, Black Panther doesn’t need any Oscar validation to prove it is a film worthy of applause. The lasting impact it will have on society and how they view black people and the African diaspora’s effect on us is substantial. Moreover, this film shows people of all backgrounds that anyone can be a hero and be strong despite the circumstances. This is shown both with King T’Challa, Nakia, Okoye, and Shuri’s struggles throughout the film as well as in the speed bumps Marvel had to get over to get this film in the works at all. Black Panther is a masterpiece that will always be remembered by me and millions of others for breaking barriers and promoting representation.