Black Women and Black Panther

Black Panther appears to be on a collision course with history. Early estimates say it could be one of the largest openings for a solo superhero movie. Meanwhile, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says he isn’t afraid of Disney’s new streaming service. Plus, Disney walked away with 10 Oscar nominations, but Cars 3 wasn’t on the list. We get into all of that below.

Black Women and Black Panther

Black Panther is a pretty important movie to me. For black males, it is one of the most important movies to hit the screen in the last decade. For black women, it is probably even more important.

For centuries in the media, black men have had several roles. We have been the sidekick, the thug, the “troubled youth”, the criminal, and the enemy. Occasionally, a film would emerge where the black male was the singular hero, but that was the exception rather than the rule. Even Blade needed the help of a few white protagonists to be the daywalker. That all changes with Black Panther.

For the first time, there is a major studio producing a mainstream superhero movie with a majority black cast. Little white kids are looking up to a black male protagonist and saying “I want to be like that.” The villains are black and the sidekicks are black, but so are the hero and the comic relief. What’s more, Black Panther’s T’Challa is a king. He isn’t from the slums of Chicago. He is royalty. In this movie, being Black isn’t just cool — it’s something to be revered.

Black Is Beautiful

Perhaps the most important thing about Black Panther is that the love interest is black. Through my entire life, I’ve watched the black women who are closest to me struggle with feeling like they are pretty. To a certain degree, all women struggle with this. For black women, this struggle is multiplied. For black women with dark skin, the struggle is exponential. Lupita Nyong’o is vocal about her struggle in a new interview with the Hollywood Reporter.

Nyong’o plays Nakia, T’Challa’s old flame. Black Panther has a dark-skinned African woman as the love interest for a Black king/superhero. That doesn’t just speak volumes.It shouts. It tells black women the same message I’ve told my black female friends for my entire life – you’re beautiful just the way you are. I remember having borderline philosophical debates in college to try to undo centuries of media images that position dark skin as bad. Black Panther can win this argument in a two hour run time.

King-Sized Expectations

Black Panther is tracking to pull in roughly $120 million in its opening weekend. That would make it the second-highest debut for a solo character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe behind Thor: Ragnarok ($123 million). Beyond the numbers, there isn’t a single MCU film that had higher expectations than Black Panther. It has the “normal pressure” of an MCU film to get the storyline right, but it also carries king-sized cultural expectations.

Black men are looking to the movie to finally give us a king we can point to in popular culture. For black women, Black Panther offers warriors, inventors and love interests. It looks at black women and shouts you are perfect just the way you are. Undoubtedly some fans will walk away from the movie disappointed, but if it brings out a positive message for black people I can guarantee I will be in the audience begging for a sequel.

Netflix Isn’t Afraid of Disney

In a recent earnings call, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said he isn’t exactly shaking in his boots over the streaming service Disney plants to launch in 2019.

“We don’t see it as a threat to us any more than Hulu has been,” he said.

Reed is right from the standpoint that Disney’s new service is just another streaming service, but Reed is wrong to think that all fragmentation is created equal. Disney isn’t just “a” media company. It is THE media company. It is the media company whose IP has exceeded $5 billion at the box office in a single year and it has just decided to cut out the middleman. Unlike Universal or Sony, Disney commands its own bluray and dvd section in the big box stores. Their content is desirable and they know it.

Disney has a stranglehold over the family market. YouTube kids and PBS kids have some good strongholds in the “family streamingmarket”, but Disney is still the one to beat. Disney’s new service stands to pull a lot of families from Netflix that previously relied on that platform for their Tinkerbell fix. Now that Disney has inked a deal to buy Fox, things look even more competitive for Netflix. With Fox, Disney can form an “adults section” similar to Netflix that brings in some of the not-so-family-friendly material.

While Hulu is a partnership between the major TV studios — which Disney will soon own two of — the new Disney streaming app will have one purpose — rule the movie streaming landscape. Once it launches, Hastings will find Disney is a very formidable threat indeed.

Disney Earns 10 Oscar Nods

Disney’s 2017 releases earned 10 oscar nominations in nine categories, with Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi receiving the most recognition with four nominations (Best Original Score, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing). Coco (Best Animated Film, Best Original Song) and Beauty and the Beast (Set Design, Costume Design) each received two nominations as well. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 (Best Visual Effects) and Lou — the short that played in front of Cars 3 (Best Animated Short Film) – each garnered one nomination as well.

Cars 3 Shut Out

Speaking of Cars 3, the film was almost completely shut out of awards season. It completely missed the nominations for Best Animated Feature at the Golden Globes, BAFTA and the Oscars and was only nominated for two awards at the Annies. What is going on? The animation in Cars 3 is absolutely stunning, far better than anything you see in Boss Baby. Audiences give Cars 3 a 70 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, while Ferdinand is pulling in a 49 percent. But, for whatever reason, both films have edged out Cars 3 in nominations for the awards season.

Since Cars 2 was horrible and Cars 3 is a sequel to it, the Academy may just be ignoring it. That is a shame because the movie is worth seeing. It is nowhere near as good as Coco, but the animation alone should put it in the running for Best Animated Feature. All will be right with the world if/when Coco takes home the big prize, but Cars 3 certainly deserves more recognition.

The awards will be presented March 4 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ABC.

Fast Flicks

Disney releases the cast for Incredible 2 in a pretty incredible fashion. Photos of Captain Marvel have leaked onto the internet and some fans aren’t happy. Let’s all breathe and channel our inner Ed. We need to see it in context. A Wrinkle in Time is getting a set of collectible Barbie dolls. Starting at $50 each, the dolls are for “the adult collector” and are available for pre-order. 

Disney started a $50 million fund to help employees pursue more education, whether or not it’s related to their current work. The fund will launch this year by providing a $1,000 bonus to more than 120,000 Disney employees.

Finally tonight, Minnie Vans are coming to an Orlando International Airport near you. For the low price of $150 per trip, six guests can get to or from select resorts in Disney World. This is a test that may make its way onto the broader on-property resorts. Kristin from Goofy Getaways pointed out that this service probably arose from new demands by the TSA. The federal agency changd its policy so Disney is now pushing its magical express service to leave four hours before an individual’s flight. Minnie Vans might be a way for guests to leave closer to their intended time.

For more on these stories check out this week’s Podcast.

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