Disney has a problem. In fact, Disney has an F-word problem. Literally.
Since 2009 when Disney bought Marvel, the studio has been making the cleanest and highest grossing action movies the world has ever seen. When you sit down for a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you know you’re going to have a good time watching great acting and a compelling story with little to no foul language. For the first time, Disney might show signs of changing that.
Reaching Out To Black Males
This week Disney released the first track on the soundtrack for the new Marvel movie Black Panther. The song, called “All the Stars,” is by rapper Kendrick Lamar and it doesn’t pull any punches. The F-word and several other curse words are in the “rap song” — if you can call it that. I’m not the biggest Kendrick Lamar fan but you can listen to the track below and judge it for yourself.
In an effort to reach out to black males, Disney dipped its toe into the world cursing.The move received positive reactions from Kendrick Lamar fans. The video has more than 164,000 likes on YouTube. The jury is still out on whether families who are used to the PG-13 MCU will accept an R-rated soundtrack.
The Motion Picture Association of America says that the F-word can only be used once in a PG-13 movie. Two uses of the F-word is all it takes to move a PG-13 movie into the R-rating. For a while, this didn’t really matter. Disney had enough of a hard time trying to figure out how to make a PG-13 movie people wanted to watch. Forget about R-rated films. Then Disney bought Marvel.
Comic book fans were afraid Disney would kiddify the franchises they love by removing any violence. Instead, comic book fans have received all the action they could want in movies with amazing special effects and spectacular storylines. Even still, Disney has been walking a tightrope by trying to attract young males without offending families. That means Disney has shied away from too much foul language in its movies, especially the F-word.
Netflix is fueling Disney’s F-word Problem
Black Panther is highlighting Disney’s F-word problem, but Netflix is fueling the fire. This week Netflix released the trailer for its new series, “The End of the F**king World.” This trailer isn’t even close to being safe for kids, similar to Netflix’s other popular series like Orange is the New Black, House of Cards and Luke Cage.
Netflix is making one thing clear: They’re willing to say the F-word on their streaming platform. Many of their shows are meant for older audiences, not families. We’ll find out whether Disney is willing to follow suit with some of its original content in 2019 after Disney launches its own streaming platform. If the Black Panther soundtrack is any indication, Disney isn’t immune to the pressure to seek older audiences even if it means going outside of its brand.
A Missed Opportunity
What’s more, Disney doesn’t really need the F-word to be successful. The studio released 8 movies in 2017 and brought in more than $2.3 billion in box office revenue, more than any other studio according to Box Office Mojo. As a black guy, I think Disney missed a huge revenue opportunity by having a Black Panther soundtrack with cursing.
Young black males are going to see Black Panther. It’s the first time we’ll get to see a black superhero in action IN Africa where black people fill each of the main character spots. Trust me. We’re gonna see the movie. We’ll buy the soundtrack, get the t-shirts and buy the toys whether the movie is good or not. I bought three Princess Tiana dolls before I was even married to do my part to make sure Tiana’s merchandise would be profitable. The point is that black people will see this movie.
However, Disney missed an opportunity to bring families of other races into the world of Black people and make additional revenue. Families that may have purchased the Black Panther soundtrack for their kids will likely shy away from that due to the bad language. Fans that could have learned a lot more about a culture that is foreign to them can now use old prejudices to dismiss a new perspective.
Rap has a bad reputation with mainstream America. Even though country music talks about drugs more than rap , many Americans have an unfair prejudice against the songs and black artists that make up the genre’s biggest stars. Disney could have put a big dent in this prejudice. Instead they chose to pander to a group of people who are already going to see the movie.
Is Fox A Solution to Disney’s F-word problem?
No one really expects Disney Animation, Pixar or Star Wars to have foul language, but Marvel is different. Some fans complain that the movies aren’t real if they don’t contain a certain amount of cursing. The situation was exacerbated by Fox’s hugely successful Deadpool and the positive reception for Marvel’s original series on Netflix. Still, so far Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe has steered clear of dropping an unbleeped F-word into a movie.
Now that Disney is in the process of buying Fox, Disney has another outlet to use the F-word in Marvel movies that are meant for older adults. If Disney wants to attract an exclusively older audience, Fox is a way they can do it. Not too long ago, Disney used Miramax to release Pulp Fiction, the ultimate R-rated movie with plenty of F-words to go around. Some families were incredibly upset with Disney, but most recognized the line between the studios.
Ever since Disney shed Miramax, it’s lacked an outlet to reach an exclusively older audience. Fox can help mitigate that situation. Disney won’t need Fox to rule the box office, but it will help them create “older” movies with limited pushback from its core fan base. In other words, it will help Disney get rid of its F-word problem.
To hear more about this and the other Disney news from the week, click the podcast episode below.