I remember having to revisit the local cinema three times before being able to purchase Django Unchained tickets. The story of a slave fighting for his freedom in Southern America by white director Quintin Tarantino was sold out for weeks.
Rave reviews and the Guardian ‘comments section’ had packed out my local cinema with white, middle class movie goers – keen to say they’d seen Quentin Tarintino’s latest controversial smash.
Jump forward six years, again I visit my local cinema to watch the latest ‘controversial’ box office smash with rave reviews… Black Panther.
The audience couldn’t have been more identical but their reactions so different.
I sat through Django feeling perplexed, angered and confused. My experience was in stark contrast to the general excitement and buzz in the dimly lit room filled with the predominately white audience.
Laughter came freely at jokes (even at times when there were none .. use of the N word for example). It was easy for the audience to dislike the villian, the dastardely “house slave” and cheer as Django achieved his freedom helped of course of course by the selfless sacrifice of his German ally.
Compare this experience to watching Black Panther.
I sat through Black Panther in a state of utter joy. My heart was full with the imagery and my brain busy noting all the references and nods to African history, culture, archeticture, religion and brilliance. The complete opposite from watching Django with it’s playground like plantations, dogs ripping men to death, fights to the death (with hammers) and the inconceivable idea that someone would want/be able to have sex with someone after spending a day in a “sweatbox“.
Back in Wakanda however, the political relevance beautifully became an irrelevant normality as the plot hooked me in and I simply enjoyed watching an awesome action movie.
I watched elated. Cheering, laughing and gasping as the plot dictated.
But I was very much an island in a cold and awkard sea.
My reactions (similiar to when I watched the “good” Avengers film) were alone.
The discomfort of the audience was palable. I imagine these were the same people cheering, laughing and gasping as the plot dictated during The Avengers (The good one).
Yet, the crowd was uncomfortable.
My guess is that simply: they were not used to seeing blackness in such a positive light and on it’s own terms.
Our society has created a world where some are more comfortable watching POC being abused or violently fighting to the death in “mandingo” fights than watching a black superhero save the world.
And if that isn’t a wake up call for the desperate need for better representation and diversity in the media and arts… I don’t know what is.
And it seems I am not in my opinion…
Shout out to these young people creating a change, not just talking about it. #legallyblackuk
So I ask you, what have you done today to create the change you wish to see?