You might not be aware of it, but this week fans of the MCU got their first thrilling look at Black Panther; one of the big new additions to the movie Universe and from what we’ve been told, a major character in Captain America: Civil War. He’s the badass king of Wakanda, a secretive African nation in the MCU, armed with a seriously impressive set of armour, an attitude, and a score to settle. From everything that’s being hinted for him he is absolutely not someone that should be messed with and on the cover of Entertainment Weekly he takes center stage side by side with the heavy hitters; Captain America to his left and Iron Man to his right.
For the inclusion of such an important new character you’d think that the internet would be busy arguing plot points, whether or not they like his armour or even how screen time is going to be divided with yet again another new character in the fold. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. There’s a good portion of the internet that’s angry with how Black Panther is portrayed on this cover. And I don’t believe I’m even saying this….but I actually agree with them. I’m going to include the cover here just for reference for those who’ve maybe not seen it.
Our first image on the cover of this big magazine, of this pivotal new POC, is one where he’s being mocked. Both for his name and his main weapons. Our first official image marred by an obnoxious and disrespectful ‘meow’ and a joke comparing him to the Real Housewives of all things. If our very first images of Black Widow suited up on the cover of a big magazine beside Stark and the Captain were mocked with a little speech bubble saying “Does my butt look big in this?” there would be absolute outrage. Why? Because Black Widow is an absolute badass and deserves more than mockery, and on a cover purporting to reveal powerful characters in very strong poses something like that would be wholly out of place and utterly insulting.
So why should it be okay with T’Challa, the King of Wakanda? Really, it shouldn’t. The average counters will come flooding in about being too sensitive and taking a joke and I’m going to crush them right now like the Hulk smashes puny Gods!
Do the characters on the cover look amused by any chance? Look at those harsh canyons etched into Chris Evan‘s forehead and tell me that this is meant to be a lighthearted promotion photo. Even Robert Downey Jr. has a very un-Tony-like scowl replacing his usual arrogant, superior, greater-than-thou sneer. Everything about the pictures tells us that the events in Civil War aren’t going to be a joking matter. No one is laughing. No one looks in any way shape or form amused. The gloves are off and the stakes are high. When are they never? What makes anyone think in the darkest regions of their mind that this image is the perfect canvas for some incredibly lame humour. Especially ones singling out a brand new character that has already had his share of unjustified insults and jokes; leave the cruel, tasteless humour for the memes. Need we forget that race and sexism still have a stronghold within the extensive reaches of the internet? Honestly, if you think that jokes are okay on this cover, if you truly look at it and think, “needs more fun” I have a question for you. Where is the little speech line over Captain America saying “Was I meant to make an animal noise or something?” or something over Tony Stark’s head saying “I could pay someone to bark for me.” Why doesn’t the humour extend to them. Are the readers meant to be laughing with the characters or at them? Or just in this case, at one in particular. Has Black Panther in fact been quietly replaced by Deadpool? Did someone get confused between the two? No? Then treat him like the dignified character he is.
Maybe I am being sensitive but take a look around at the world we live in. Things aren’t equal. Every day battles are fought to diversify our screens. To include minorities that are otherwise forgotten. To take a step away from a world where female characters are still wiped out of their own scenes when it comes to merchandising and there has to be a debate on whether Bond could be played by a person of colour instead of one on why there have been X number of James Bonds and every single one of them white. The world isn’t equal and maybe a glorious day in the future will come when a character of colour getting a leading place among what has long been a diversity deficient Universe, won’t make headlines; when it’ll be commonplace. Until that day comes we should treat these great events and characters with the dignity and seriousness that they deserve and would want. The problems in the world aren’t made up of the giant glaring instances of pure evil that we delude ourselves into thinking are the cause of it all. They’re made up of the millions of tiny little things we don’t see or notice that add up because we assume they’re harmless and otherwise ignore them. Sensitive is not a dirty, shameful word and in a world that seems to pride itself on its callousness a hefty dose of awareness is needed now more than ever.
What do you make of this controversy? You can read the flipside of the argument from Mary over here – make sure to vote in our poll at the bottom of either article to let us know where you stand!
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