History was made at the 25th Screen Actors Guild Awards when Black Panther picked up the award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Black Panther previously boasted its success by becoming the highest-grossing solo superhero film, yet its achievement at the SAG awards was unique in that it was the first big win for a comic book movie at a major award show, highlighting just how much of a game-changer the 2018 film is to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in bringing superhero movies to such prestigious award ceremonies. There is already talk of an Oscar win for Best Picture.
However, the real triumph was the recognition and celebration of the inclusion and representation of African-American actors within the industry. Star Chadwick Boseman took the stage with his fellow Wakandans with an impassioned speech on behalf of the ensemble, which included Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, and Michael B. Jordan, about the cultural significance of the film’s success. Referencing the Nina Simone song, Boseman stated, “To be young, gifted and black”. Boseman voiced the importance of Black Panther’s victories in the awards cycle and the box office in response to the those criticising and rejecting the attempt to introduce such movie nominations, “We know what it’s like to be told there’s not a screen for you to be featured on, a stage for you to be featured on”. He continued,”We knew that we had something special that we wanted to give the world, that we could be full human beings in the roles that we were playing. That we could create a world that exemplified a world that we wanted to see.” Boseman signified the superhero film being recognised on such as platform because it was one that connected with its audience. Black Panther’s success and the racial significance it carries cannot be ignored with it becoming the highest-grossing film by a black director and the highest opening weekend gross for a predominantly black cast, making it a cultural milestone.
The win for Black Panther is a big one for the representation of the black community whilst also bringing hope for further representation of other marginalised ethnicities in
Hollywood and has fuelled important discussions. However, it is importance to realise that Black Panther’s immense success did not arrive in a vacuum. The celebration of films featuring black actors and directors is the product of decades of the film industry hindering visibility and representation of minority actors and characters. There was a demand by audiences who yearned to see their stories and people who looked like them empowered on-screen, a demand which was proven by the films worldwide success worth $1,346,913,161. The success of Black Panther brings to question why there was previous hesitation and resistance to diversification and people of colour by Hollywood bigwigs especially in tentpole franchises like the Marvel.
Many on social media also pointed out that it wasn’t just representation but how the black community was represented. To finally see Africa and black ancestry depicted in a powerful and positive light, free from the effects of colonialism, which actors portraying influential, dynamic characters that go beyond racial stereotypes and with motivations beyond black pain and suffering amplifies the shift from minority actors having to insert themselves into white narratives when it comes to mainstream cinema. The success of Black Panther is pivotal in attracting not only more diverse audiences but more POC within the film industry.
The celebrations of diversity didn’t end there. The Black Panther cast united with the cast of Crazy Rich Asians at the SAG awards after party. The two minority ensemble cast signified the importance of both the films success in an Instagram post with the caption, ”This is the future I want to live in…and the future is now,” he stated, with the hashtag
Image courtesy of Screen Rant