That’s how much money “Black Panther” made in its opening weekend. The next highest grossing film for the weekend of Feb. 16 to Feb. 18 only made $17 million. “Black Panther” is the 15th highest-grossing worldwide box office of all time and is rated 97 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, an American review website for television and film. I haven’t seen the movie yet myself, but the outstanding opening weekend bode well for films with similarly diverse casts about to hit theaters like “A Wrinkle in Time” and “Crazy Rich Asians.”
Seeing people who look like them in film can be immensely beneficial to young kids of color. Unfortunately, this alone hasn’t been a convincing enough argument for Hollywood to create more diverse films.
Movies with a predominately black, Hispanic or Asian American cast were thought to only appeal to those communities, and any film or TV series starring minorities often faces immense pressure to perform well. If they don’t, the instance could be used to prove this outdated and discriminatory idea that media representing minorities won’t make money. Basically, films with a diverse cast can’t fail because they run the risk of becoming the reason that others don’t even get a chance.
“Black Panther” shows black movies can sell to a wide audience, even internationally. This achievement counters the long-held Hollywood theory that certain films won’t sell, which executives have used as an excuse to create films with only white leads.
They’ve similarly used the idea that actors of color aren’t well-known and therefore won’t bring in as much revenue as an excuse to whitewash roles. Even when a film explicitly calls for a person of color, roles are often still given away to white actors. As a result, actors of color must clamor for the few roles that are available.
Even when a project breaks out to the mainstream, it has to be outstanding in order to show it’s really worth the effort for Hollywood decision-makers to go out of their way to cast actors who aren’t white. Margaret Cho’s “All-American Girl” is an example of a TV show that fell short of its expectations. It premiered in 1994, and it was groundbreaking at the time due to its portrayal of an Asian American family at a time when Asians were not represented on TV.
TV critic Jeff Yang wrote a bad review of the show that was later used to show that Asian Americans didn’t support “All-American Girl,” and that it should be canceled, according to an article written by Yang 20 years later for Quartz. After “All-American Girl” was canceled in 1995, the next sitcom with an Asian American cast came 20 years later — it was “Fresh Off the Boat.”
A lackluster film or TV show can hinder opportunities for a marginalized group for decades. The cast feels the pressure to pave the way for their community. When you see yourself represented, you want so desperately to like it, you’re willing to give it multiple chances to be good. Anything other than loyally watching the episodes feels traitorous. This is how I felt watching “Dr. Ken,” another Asian American family sitcom that premiered after “Fresh Off the Boat” and was later canceled.
“Black Panther” shows a black team behind and in front of the camera can be a winning combination, at home and abroad. This is ultimately a step toward a more inclusive media. Some have criticized "Black Panther" itself as being racist and have even created campaigns committed to taking down the “Black Panther” Rotten Tomatoes rating. This raises the question — when was the last time you questioned seeing a film with an all-white cast? It’s normal, isn’t it? Even though operating in an all-white world is completely unrealistic, let’s think critically about our media and support increased opportunities for actors of color. I hope you’ll all join me in supporting “Black Panther” this weekend.
Nicole Dan is a UF political science and journalism senior. Her column focuses on race and culture.