Black Superheroes, Black Directors and Race
I want to comment on actor Anthony Mackie’s comment regarding a Black director directing “Black Panther”. He made his comment some time ago to the Daily Beast, which read “I don’t think it’s important at all. As a director your job is to tell a story. You know, they didn’t get a horse to direct Seabiscuit!” Some have tried to say that Mackie is comparing a Black director to a horse. In my opinion that would be a stretch, even in a world that made sense. However, we live in a politically correct society, which rarely makes sense and looks for racist, homophobic and sexist statements in every word, every celebrity, politician or sports star says. And to be honest, most of these people don’t help the situation very much. It seems they are constantly putting their feet in their mouths. However, this topic is too serious to waste time on a remark that is small in stature when compared to racism, which appears to be one of Hollywood’s important problems.
I love the fact that movie technology has caught up with the superpowers of comic book superheroes. As a young black child, I always wanted to open my comic book and see someone who looked like me. I wanted to see a Black superhero eliminating the evil Electro-Head destroying the city. When I grew older and had my own kids, I remember taking them to their first superhero movie, Spiderman. Superhero movies became our tradition. My wife couldn’t care any less about them; so, most of the time it was me and my sons. My wife did go to one of the superhero movies with us and promptly fell asleep. As my sons grew older, they noticed there weren’t any Black superheroes. We knew of “Black Panther” and hoped someday they would make a movie starring him. We were happy when “War Machine” suited up for Iron Man 2 and “Falcon” suited up for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. When my oldest son (the movie buff), told me that “Black Panther” was going to be made into a movie we were happy and decided, even though they would be finishing up college in 2018 (when the movie was released), we’d get together and go see it. Okay, so now you know how into superhero movies my boys and I, are.
I wanted “Black Panther” to be on the same level as the other superhero movies. I wanted it to be good. When I say as “good”, I mean it couldn’t be anything like any of the “Fantastic 4” movies. The first two were directed by a Black director, named Tim Story. The third “Fantastic 4” movie was directed by a White director named Josh Trank. The third “Fantastic 4” movie was worse than the first two “Fantastic 4” movies. I think that goes to show that the director’s skin color, in this case was irrelevant. Neither one of those directors had what it took to make those “Fantastic 4” movies able to stand up next to Iron Man, Superman, Batman, Captain America, Spiderman, The Avengers or the two Hulk movies. “The Hulk” was directed by an Asian man named Ang Lee and “The Incredible Hulk by a Frenchman named Louis Leterrier.
The most important thing was, whoever would direct “Black Panther” must understand what makes a superhero movie a good movie. There would have to be a great story, great action, a great twist in the plot and an interesting and somewhat diabolical villain. When it comes to “Black Panther”, the villain should be a “Black Panther” superhero type villain. Using modern technology, this villain should be doing pretty much the same things as in the “Black Panther” comics. Black directors should have the opportunity to direct a superhero movie, not because the superhero is Black, but because they understand how to direct a superhero movie, no matter what color the superhero is. F. Gary did a great job directing “The Italian Job”. It wasn’t a black movie. It was a great heist movie. Which proved that a Black director could direct a movie that isn’t a Black movie. In fact, most people didn’t or don’t know that the director of “The Italian Job” was Black. I didn’t know until a year or two later. When I found out who the director was, I thought the movie was still a great heist movie. Eventually I ended up buying it, not because the director was Black, but because it was a movie I really liked.
Black directors should not be limited to only directing Black movies. Just like White, Brown, Red or Yellow directors should not be limited to directing movies about people with skin the same color as theirs. Don’t get me wrong, I would like to see more quality Black movies in general. A lot of Black movies tend to socially set Black people back a few steps. Most of those movies are directed by Black directors who care more about money than they do about how their movie makes Black people look. That’s their right. And guess what? I have a right to not go and see those types of movies, and I don’t. The bottom line is this: sometimes a movie needs a director reflective of the culture the movie is portraying. Sometimes a movie just needs a director with vision, creativity and a desire to entertain their audience. It would be nice if we could trust Hollywood to know and understand the importance of knowing the difference. But because we live in a racist, money greedy society, there is no quick fix to movie racism, just like there is no quick fix to society’s racism. Maybe we, like Hollywood need to learn to say to ourselves, when in doubt, just do what’s right. The truth of the matter is, left to their own devices, people in power don’t do what is right. They do what’s profitable. So, if a Black superhero movie, directed by a Black director can make a good enough profit, we’ll see more of them. If it doesn’t, they will go the way of the western. You can take that to the bank.