"But being about blackness shouldn’t automatically qualify it as the best now that there is a new movement in the world to be more black or female or gay. Because that kind of superficial shine does die down really quickly.."
"Don't see the big deal here. Looks like a mediocre movie with a subpar soundtrack. SJWs are the only ones making a fuss out of this. It'll just be another Marvel movie coming down the assembly line."
And so on and so forth. These were just some of the comments I've seen on articles about Black Panther's impending release and the initial good reviews it's getting. Across io9, AV Club, Entertainment Weekly, etc, you can see what's happening: the erasure of a piece of black excellence in a space that we rarely ever get to have to ourselves.
Because if Black Panther performs poorly, it'll set back movies featuring all-black casts (that's NOT about slavery) a few years, but it performs well, then it's because of the script, the pretty costumes, the action or just because "it's a Marvel movie, they always do well!" But not because of representation, not because people like to see themselves as larger-than-life heroes.
There's a certain subset of white people who refuse to see the future ahead of them. They write off representation and diversity like it's a burden or a phase that'll go away with time. Imagine the bloated privilege you must have to believe the need for representation is just a trend people of color made up.
White people, you exhaust me.
I know you've never had to advocate for more representation and diversity because everything is made for you, everything is catered to you. Here's what I have to say to anyone whining about others' wanting diversity and representation in their media: shut up and listen.
Stop being lazy. Stop being ignorant.
There are an infinite amount of stories out there to tell and Hollywood keeps making the same fucking bland story over and over and over again. All we want is a little piece that represents the world more accurately, that represents us more accurately.
I want my future mixed kids to grow up and see superheroes and action heroes and regular people and villains and monsters that look like them, that talk like them, that they can say "I relate to that!" I want my future little mixed black girl to grow up loving herself, her hair, her skin, her nose; something I had to learn much later in life.
"They get to see themselves on-screen. I craved to see that as a child growing up. It was just never there. All of my heroes were white and blond. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what made it difficult for me as a black girl was that it felt outside of myself, like something over there … something that was so cool but could never happen to me."
-Candice Patton, The Flash
Representation matters. Not because of your imagined "PC culture", but because of how much it can change someone's life while also reaffirming it. We DO exist. We ARE here. We ARE alive. Our stories are real. We should be allowed to share our stories, without fear of being buried and erased.
Seeing ourselves in the media can have a profound effect on our lives. I see my husband and I in every interracial couple on TV or in the movies. I see myself in a mixed kid struggling with his or her ethnic identity. I see myself in the black woman who wraps her hair every night. I see myself in the black kid who gets bullied for being different.
We can create a future where little black girls and boys don't hate their hair or the color of their skin, where they don't internalize racism and lash out later on in life. When we have representation, it creates a shift in what we see when we look in the mirror.
"There’s this body of research and a term known as ‘symbolic annihilation,’ which is the idea that if you don’t see people like you in the media you consume, you must somehow be unimportant."
-Nicole Martins of Indiana University
You'll see a lot of people downplaying the importance of Black Panther and Black Lightning and Luke Cage and Iris West-Allen and Valkyrie and MJ Watson, and so on and so forth. It can be as innocent as ignorance ("I just don't get why it's a big deal. Race shouldn't matter!") to something more insidious like overt erasure.
Before typing up your scorching hot takes, stop and think for a second about why representation and diversity matter to us. It's not about replacing white people, it's about balancing the scales. Do some research. Google is your friend. Ignorance is not.