Home Featured Opinion: The Claws Are Out – Black Panther’s Entertainment Weekly Cover
Opinion: The Claws Are Out – Black Panther’s Entertainment Weekly Cover

Opinion: The Claws Are Out – Black Panther’s Entertainment Weekly Cover

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Some people get out of bed in the morning to be offended. This isn’t something that I used to believe, but after years of irritating posts on my news feed and angry sharing by reactionary drama queens, I’ve come to accept that certain people just love to sound off and make mountains out of molehills.

The internet’s most recent controversy is centred entirely around an Entertainment Weekly cover featuring Captain America and Iron Man as well as Marvel’s newest on-screen character, Black Panther (who will be played by Chadwick Boseman), to promote the upcoming Civil War movie. The cover shows Cap and Iron Man standing up front unmasked with Black Panther behind them with his full outfit on. 

It seems that the main issues people have with the cover include the use of the word ‘meow’ beside Black Panther, his position behind the two main leads, the fact that he’s masked and also the tagline which reads ‘The biggest Marvel movie yet introduces Black Panther. He’s tall, powerful – and has claws that a real housewife would envy’. So basically everything.

Entertainment Weekly Black Panther Cover

Let me first address what I think is the silliest of the so-called issues here: We’re already well acquainted with Cap and Iron Man’s beautiful faces, we’ve seen them plenty of times before and both can sell covers either masked or unmasked. We don’t know what Black Panther, otherwise known as T’Challa, looks like under his suit. Why would the people behind the movie want their newest character to be unmasked for the first time on the cover of a magazine? The movie isn’t even out yet, and obviously that’s the place to debut Black Panther unmasked for the first time; not in the trailer and certainly not on a random magazine cover. 

It’s beyond me how anyone could jump to the following conclusion, but including ‘meow’ didn’t have anything to do with Black Panther’s race. He is a king; a strong, ferocious powerhouse character, but obviously ‘meow’ was an ironic stab at humour either because whoever managed to sneak it through production thought it was hilarious because Black Panther is clearly not a meek little kitty, or perhaps it was as simple as the fact that a cat joke is an easy one to go for when it comes to a character who is literally dressed as a large jungle cat.

Or hey, maybe let’s stop pretending that superhero films are hyper serious movies where there’s no room for humour. Let’s take a look at what we’re actually seeing here: no matter how awesome Black Panther is and how excited I am to see him in action in the upcoming film, his costume literally has pointy ears on it. If you’d never come across Black Panther before and saw the cover, you could be forgiven for immediately associating the suit with ‘cat’. Not to mention the chuckleheads beside him (seriously, why do they both look so constipated?); one of whom is dressed as a red and gold robot and the other guy is covered head to toe in the American flag and whose original costume consisted of flared tights. So let’s chill out here for a second.

I’m not saying that ‘meow’ was a good joke, because it fell flatter than a crépe, but let’s not resort to the kind of reactionary ranting that, when it comes down to it, is the crack cocaine of every attention-starved Facebook addict fishing for a few likes. As for the tagline ending in ‘…that a real housewife would envy’, it’s a reference to the Real Housewives reality show which has a cast of women whose nails (or claws) are as long as their fingers. On the show, they’re portrayed as ‘catty’. It all connects to the initial inspiration for the joke which was obviously ‘cat’. Stupid as hell? Yes. Offensive? No.

The fact of the matter is that superhero movies appeal to the masses now, not just people who read and loved the comics. In that context, other than the people familiar with comics, people don’t know who Black Panther is so why does he deserve to be front and centre on a movie that isn’t even his? Cap and Iron Man are so well known now to the general public that they’ve evolved from superheroes to action heroes as well. Even my own mother, who wouldn’t know Batman’s arse from Superman’s elbow, is at least able to recognise that Cap and Iron Man are big deals.

Ultimately, the reason he is not in front is because Cap and Iron Man are the main characters of the movie. Why should they not be the first thing you see? Also, the fact that people are getting angry over these things instead of talking about how awesome Black Panther looks is nothing short of depressing. 

When it comes to the cover itself, it was entirely unoriginal anyway. If you look back on a lot of Entertainment Weekly’s covers before now they generally have the same format, as many magazines do. There’s usually three people with the two main characters at the front and another one, generally the main villain or a new addition to the franchise, behind them.

The part where the word ‘meow’ is included is not new. In the Age of Ultron cover of EW, it’s almost a carbon copy of the Civil War cover in that Cap and Iron Man are in front and Ultron, or one of his minions, is just behind them. The big difference is that there are plenty other robots behind the three as well, and one at the back has a similar joke tacked on with a line up to the words ‘Domo arigato’ in exactly the same format. And before people start sounding off about that being a race thing as well, it’s obviously a reference to the line ‘Domo arigato Mr Roboto’ in the song ‘Mr Roboto’ by Styx

Entertainment Weekly Chris Pratt CoverScreen Shot 2015-12-08 at 3.23.31 p.m.

The same thing happened on the Magic Mike XXL cover, and also on the cover featuring Chris Pratt to promote Jurassic World. On the cover, Pratt is climbing out of a pool surrounded by toy dinosaurs with one of them saying ‘Chris Pratt is dino-mite in Jurassic World‘. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, too, had a cover featuring a goat making a stupid comment about how her dress looked ‘white and gold’ after that went viral. Entertainment Weekly has a history of stupid, un-funny jokes on some of their covers, and this is no different.

The magazine has published some gorgeous covers featuring black stars such as Viola Davis, John Boyega and Laverne Cox this year without a joke in sight. In saying that, Black Panther shouldn’t be exempt from a little humour just because he himself is a black character. Is that not also discrimination?

Black Panther will be making his superhero debut in this movie, but he’ll soon become the first black superhero to star in his own standalone MCU film, and that’s a big deal. Diversity on the silver screen is sorely lacking, and it will be fantastic to see a well written and compelling black character, particularly as he’s one of my favourites as his stories are some of the first I read when I got into comics. However, this whole ‘controversy’ regarding a harmless joke and a poor reference to the Real Housewives of wherever is totally silly. 

How about everyone annoyed about this takes all their anger and energy and pushes it on the real (and frankly, shocking) problem of shrinking major characters from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Chinese poster because of their skin colour. Or the white-washing of the cast of Gods of Egypt? Or the fact that Emma Stone was cast to play a woman of Hawaiian and Asian descent in her recent film, Aloha?

Star Wars The Force Awakens Poster

Now if you’ll excuse me, my poor claws hurt after all this typing.

What do you think of this controversy? You can read the flipside of this argument from Emma over here, then you can vote in our poll on either article to let us know which side you’re on!

This poll has been closed.

Did you find the EW cover for Captain America: Civil War offensive?

Comment(25)

  1. It’s the internet. People get offended by everything. ‘I like pizza’. ‘ERMAGERD YOU’RE SO INSENSITIVE!!! MY DAD’S THIRD COUSIN DIED CHOKING ON A SLICE OF PIZZA!!! DISLIKED!!! REPORTED!!!!

  2. Ngl, this article comes off as quite rude, especially when paired with the piece arguing the opposite that mentions that the problems in media are made up of millions of tiny things (some of which you bring up and the end of your article here) which collectively add up to a space that is still incredibly white-centric. What is gained by you arguing in EW’s favor? This isn’t going to negatively impact them, you’ve shown that similar instances haven’t deterred them in the past, so why go out of your way to stir up trouble aimed at people speaking up for minorities?

    1. Thank you for your comment. My point in the article is that the jokes were not added because of his race, and that it’s ridiculous to suggest that. And I wasn’t “sticking up for” Entertainment Weekly, I was merely trying to explain why I believe the outrage is unfounded, particularly when compared to real problems in the film industry, like white washing.
      I’m not stirring up trouble against people speaking up for minorities, they’re doing that just fine themselves. I’m simply being critical of people who jump for the torches and pitchforks at the mere suggestion that someone has caused offence.

      1. If this happened in a vacuum where racism wasn’t an issue the cover wouldn’t be problematic. However, this is yet another instance of a person of colour receiving different (usually negative) treatment compared to his white co stars. Intended by EW or not it strengthens the overall message of racism that is rampant in mainstream media. Instead of introducing him as the strong character that he is, those random unnecessary ‘jokes’ do nothing but belittle or chip away at the idea of the black panther as a serious marvel character like Cap or Tony.

        1. I simply do not see how you can take cat jokes and relate it back to the fact that he is black. It’s absolutely baffling to me.
          If it was some other new character instead of Black Panther in between Cap and Iron Man then nobody would’ve blinked at this cover, so obviously this is seen as a race issue.
          People should not make black characters, or black people, into victims when there is no reason to. Are you saying that black characters should just be exempt from humour altogether? Because where is the line going to be then, seeing as the word ‘meow’ is so offensive to you?

          Black Panther’s character isn’t going to shatter just because of a few tiny jokes; it’s not even going to be dented. And I think it’s nonsense to refer to Cap and Iron Man as ‘serious Marvel characters’ in the same context as this, as both of them have received their fair share of virgin and alcoholic jokes.

          1. The jokes aren’t racist? I never said they were. The treatment of the character in a less than serious manner in direct comparison to the two white characters who are portrayed entirely seriously is whats questionable here. What stopped them from adding little addendum’s to both of them too?
            You can talk about racist themes in media without victimizing the characters involved. I don’t think BP is a victim of racism here, I think the cover is potentially a result of seemingly harmless innate racism.

          2. We were discussing this in the context of media being white-centric, so the whole conversation has been about race. People aren’t angry that the jokes were ‘attacking’ a character, it was specifically because Black Panther is black.
            If it was a white character with two black characters and the white character had the jokes related to him instead, does that mean that the black characters need to have jokes directed at them as well so that it’s equal? Why can’t the jokes just be related to one character?
            Of course you can, but in this context people are victimising the character when there’s no need to. You said yourself that you think it does “nothing but belittle or chip away at the idea of the black panther as a serious marvel character” and, in saying that, you paint the idea that Black Panther has been damaged by the cover.
            There are way more important issues that black people and other minorities face in the film industry than something harmless like this.
            I appreciate your viewpoint but we’re not going to see eye-to-eye here.

          3. I don’t think what I’m trying to say is getting through. The conversation IS about race. The jokes aren’t racist ie they don’t mock his ethnicity or have anything to do with the culture of the character. The scenario is potentially racist for reasons I’ve already mentioned. I think your looking at this as an isolated incident, when really its part of a larger problem.

            In a perfect world where prejudices don’t exist this cover is fine, and in your example of a white person in place of Black Panther with two black people replacing Cap and Tony – that wouldn’t be problematic because there are no problematic preexisting prejudices towards white people.

            “There are way more important issues that black people and other minorities face in the film industry than something harmless like this.”

            Talking about this, or any other media ‘controversy’ literally does nothing to stall work that’s being done to tackle those issues. This is also a thinly veiled way of people to pipe down. For people who are unaffected its easy to be able to say that things like this are meaningless.

            We don’t see eye to eye because I don’t think any conversation about race or the issues of racism in media (or Marvel more specifically) should be silenced just because I don’t understand all of the elements at play. Starting the article in such a rude way probably didn’t help with us understanding each other though.

            xoxo An Irritating Reactionary Drama Queen

          4. My piece exactly! 🙂 This it it here precisely!

            -A fellow sensitive reactionary drama Queen

          5. To me, what you’re saying is that because black people face prejudice and discrimination for their skin colour, it’s not okay to direct jokes that don’t have anything at all to do with race at them.
            You can think I was being rude if that’s the way it came across to you but I was just being honest and you took offence.

            And I never once tried to silence you – I’m happy enough having a conversation with someone who has polar opposite views to me – but it’s my right to express my opinion.

  3. I agree with some of this article and some of the other, but there is one point here I’d like to address and use it to cycle back to my overall thoughts on the issue (long comment so bear with me!).

    You bring up comparisons with other Entertainment Weekly covers, but none of the examples used have the same context as the one in question. A background robot in Age of Ultron is hardly comparable to one of the main characters, nor are the Chris Pratt or Magic Mike XXL images which were very clearly constructed to almost disregard the films they were selling in favour of “look at the hunky white man, isn’t he so dreamy?”. Every other major comic book movie of the past few years, from what I’ve googled, that has made the cover of Entertainment Weekly has been without joke. These include X-Men: Apocalypse, Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Avengers: Age of Ultron pull-out cover, all joke free, sincere covers that are meant to sell the relative seriousness of the movies they’re promoting. For some reason, Captain America: Civil War seems to be one of the first to include a joke and that joke has been put one of the most important characters in Phase 3 of the MCU, at least from a cultural perspective.

    Now, the question is, was it purposeful or not? I agree with this piece on the answer – it wasn’t, it’s just a bad mistake. They likely knew hadn’t made a joke on one of these yet, so they decided to put one on here. But the problem is they chose one of the worst instances to do this with and then actually made the joke the worst possible way. Black Panther appearing on the cover of Entertainment Weekly shouldn’t be funny, he should look like king he is beside Steve and Tony. Instead he’s a punchline and unfortunately EW have taken what should be a moment of pride and taken some of the momentum out of its sails a little bit. none of these articles should’ve been necessary, we should all be agreeing that Black Panther looks like a king and that’s that. Whatever Entertainment Weekly’s editorial process is, it needs a shake up, because the fact that these obvious considerations weren’t asked about this gives the wrong sort of impression about how they think about covers.

    But even with admitting it’s a mistake doesn’t disavow the cover or Entertainment Weekly from responsibility or criticism. No, the racism isn’t explicit, but it is implicit and has taken a powerful moment and lessened it a little. Why couldn’t they have waited for the second cover? There’ll be more than one. Why not let Black Panther have his first cover be joke-free? He’s the first major black superhero in the MCU and part of the tide seeming to finally turn away from straight white dude superheroes leading every film, why not make sure to ride that tide without making a cheap joke? As silly as it is, it comes at a time when the frustration at the lack of diversity and sincerity for these issues in mainstream media is at a high and I’m not sure I’m okay with outlets like EW not realizing that either.

    (I did really like this piece though and agree with overall sentiment. Answer, as always, is complex!)

    1. Going to have to elaborate on my initial post particularly after such a well thought and pieced together point from yourself Anthony.

      I can’t say whether or not people find this offensive. I’m not black and I’ve no particular feelings for the character. I can see why people might be bothered but only at a stretch – as a Marvel fan I’m annoyed that powers that be in EW missed the mark on Black Panther completely – a regal, powerful force in his own right.

      Too me the cover is just stupid, a poor attempt to be funny but doesn’t warrant the bandwagon of a pitchforks and torches!

      1. Any and all opportunity to highlight the kind of stuff that’s ultimately damaging to society in the media. It might be small fry but it is in the public eye and bringing attention to it is something that we need to start doing more often if stuff is ever going to change.

        1. Yes and no.

          Culture and the arts are immensely important and political discussion and protests should come parceled with them intact. Yup. Good. Excellent. Representation, diversity and reflection of the tomorrow we want to see as well as the today people may not be aware of.

          Battles should be picked though. Unfortunately, if you want to be heard and make a change, the change must be realistic and come with irrefutable sincerity. The problem with taking the war to an EW cover is that it’s neither of those things because it’s hard to sincerely explain why it’s offensive as opposed to just dumb. And people will use any excuse to explain away having to be social conscious and tantamount ot hose is “it’s just a dumb joke/cover/whatever, get over it.” Gotta make the challenge in spaces that can’t be used without being immensely reductive.

          1. If Black Panther was a a gay white man and this went up I’d probably just have rolled my eyes and continue on like I did with this cover.

            Mary highlighted the extreme editing in the The Force Awakens poster -now that is offensive, it’s ignorant and needs to be challenged but because it’s a real issue it’s not getting as much discussion time as this cover.

            Pick and choose your battles? Half the time people aren’t battling, it’s lightning quick reactionary thoughts and responses that haven’t been given adequate time to be mulled over.

          2. Well, that Force Awakens poster has made CNN, The Guardian and most other major news outlets because of its editing. Might want to choose a different comparison for your point of not being discussed!

            I agree, I think it’s a problem and this has been caught up in that with rationality on either side being lost in the process.

          3. Honestly, I don’t think anyone can argue that that wasn’t one of the dumbest covers EW has ever put out. The problem these days is that the same arguments about this cover are happening on a much larger scale in varying places with the same excuses repeated. Its a ‘joke’, ‘harmless’, ‘just stupid’. So many of them get ignored. More than there should. That this comparatively small thing has become a big deal isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ll take talking over silence. Even when some of that talking isn’t agreement.

            I guess I’ll just fight anything I believe in anywhere I can. The issue on a lot of these things is the silence after the fact. I hate that silence.

    2. Thank you for your comment.
      I included those covers solely to show that Entertainment Weekly has a history of bad jokes on their covers regardless of what TV show/movie etc. they’re promoting on their cover – the fact that other movies are featured in my examples is irrelevant.
      The problem is that Black Panther has been put on a pedestal here and people have isolated harmless jokes as some form of attack on him because of the fact that he is a black character, not because he is just a character in general. None of this was sinister.
      The only reason momentum has been taken from Black Panther’s sails here is because, as I pointed out in my piece, people made mountains out of molehills out of this cover and instead of focusing on Black Panther and how great he looks, they decided to nitpick at the jokes.

      1. But, as I pointed out, those bad jokes are absent from most other covers of this kind. Timing is not on EW’s side here with the joke. Context is not irrelevant here.

        Of course Black Panther is on a pedestal. First major black superhero in the MCU. Can’t stress it enough. It’s a very big deal he’s playing a major part in Civil War, it looked like he was going to completely replace Spider-Man for a time. That’s a very, very big deal. The joke, while not sinister, is being made on the first time the first major black superhero in the MCU has made the cover of one of the biggest entertainment publications in the world. It’s hard to miss and hard not to be frustrated that this first time had to come with a punchline instead of just the images as they are and a “they may be fighting, but the king will decide who wins”.

        1. Yes but I’m saying that that wasn’t my point – obviously you care about the fact that the jokes are absent from most other covers featuring superheroes, and that’s fine, but I brought it up because I wanted to illustrate that this isn’t the first time that EW cover jokes have fallen flat. The only difference is people are losing their shit because Black Panther happens to be black.

          I understand where you’re coming from better, but it still doesn’t change my view that I think people blew things way, way out of proportion.
          Also, sweet tagline. EW should hire you.

          1. And the “people blew things out of proportion” is at least a solid middle point we can agree on!

            If that tagline appears on a future issue, we know where it started!

  4. This is incredibly pedantic but I’ve noticed (not exclusively to this article) that whenever discussions of offence come up (not specific to article) the phrase ‘reactionary’ is used quite a lot. Reactionary as a term actually refers to a person who politically favours a return to the status quo ante a.k.a. reversion to certain social policies. I only bring it up, because as someone who’d identify as fairly progressive, I’d be horrified if I were called reactionary for criticizing content, especially if it were coming from a social justice standpoint. Reactive/Knee jerk would probably describe the situation better.
    Signed
    Ridiculously Pendantic English Major

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