Black Panther: The Game-Changer

When I watched Black Panther the other day, like other audience-goers, I was blown away. Everything about the movie was incredible, from the plot to the characters, from the acting to the music. It was an incredible experience. I think the main reason there are so many people going back to watch it again and again though is more than it being a beautiful movie, it’s because it’s a clear game-changer.

Hollywood has a tendency to find one aspect of a film and cling to it as its reason for success, or its reason for failure. “An all-female comedy fails? It must be because nobody wants to see an all-female comedy.” I worry that Black Panther will be treated the same way. “Oh, a majority black cast in a superhero movie got this much love? That must be the key to producing another just like it!” This mindset could lead to a series of copycat films, all trying to be the next Black Panther, entirely missing out on what made this film so groundbreaking.

What makes Black Panther incredible is the respect that it shows. It gives a nod to both African cultures and traditions and to the dysphoria that many African-Americans feel about their country. There has never before been a film that has not only acknowledged the pain of having your culture stripped away from you, but also admitted to the anger and resentment that causes. Black Panther handles both with grace and elegance all under the guise of a superhero film. It found a way to express that pain while still being consumable by audience members aged 13 and above.

That kind of clever balancing act is tough to beat. And while I’m hoping that this film will herald a new series of all-black casts with major funding and box office pull, I worry that taking away only that lesson will lead to this being a phase instead of a new era in films. As a movie goer who would love to see more unique ideas and even more diversity in Hollywood, I still can’t help but be worried. I’ve seen subcultures be used as trends in films before and I would hate to see the power and dignity of Black Panther be wasted by Hollywood executives eager for a quick buck.

 

Writing Diverse Books

If you’re at all involved in the writing or publishing scene, you know how big of a push there is right now for diverse books. There is a very sad dearth of novels in the world that have protagonists who are a Person of Color (POC). Historically most novels don’t have any POCs except maybe a token one here or there. These characters are often relegated to having the smallest role in a story, if they have much of a role at all. Current novels are trying to tip the scales so that people don’t have to reach so far to find protagonists that represent them that they can connect with. Hence the hash tag #WeNeedDiverseBooks was born.

I’ve tried to embrace this more in my writing, especially in the novels/novellas that I write. My WIPs of the last couple of years have all had protagonists who are POCs, but as you can see from my picture on the sidebar, I am a white woman and therefore will always have more difficulty in writing from a different perspective from my own. However that doesn’t mean that I just don’t do it because it’s more difficult, it just means I do more research to do it properly. There are plenty of things in writing that I’m not an expert in, but have to learn about to write it realistically.

I strive in my stories to write all my characters as realistically as possible, that includes flaws, mistakes, backgrounds, etc. It’s important to do the research to represent your POC characters realistically as well. I thought I’d do a shout-out to one resource that I’ve found invaluable in this: Writing with Color. This site has been incredibly helpful for me, from helping to point out appropriate skintone descriptions to describing hair, they have a ton of useful content available. As useful as their site is though, that should only be part of the research.

Stuff Mom Never Told You is an excellent podcast that’s gone through multiple hosts in the past year or so. However you can still find all their excellent podcasts online, which still reference books for even further research. Here are a few of my recommendations:

I consciously try to put more women and POCs into my stories. I think it’s important to get more stories into the media that include POCs so that there’s a higher chance that we’ll see them more represented in movies and television shows, so there are fewer incidents of tokenism and caricatures and just outright racism. It’s a slow process, but slowly the arena seems to be changing for the better.

My novella coming out on April 17th, The She-Wolf of Kanta, includes a teenage black woman who has to survive a town rampant with werewolves and human trafficking. A novel I currently have out on submission, Stolen, includes another teenage black woman who is kidnapped into another world and has to somehow prove that she is a reincarnation in order to survive. The novel I’m currently writing, The Seeking, has a teenage black woman who is in a loving lesbian relationship, but also must hide from the entire town for a full day each year in order for her family to keep it’s place of power. Diversity is very important to me, and sharing stories that include diverse people is a major goal of mine.

And what about the LGBTQIA+ community you might ask? Let’s save that for another post, but trust me, it’s just as dire.