Marvel's Black Panther was a critical hit, a momentous creative achievement that spurred a national discourse, and — now — is a box-office landmark: It recently overtook Titanic for the No. 3 spot on the domestic charts.
And while many have hailed the film as a watershed moment for inclusivity in both genre movies and filmmaking as a whole, it represents a much larger struggle in Hollywood to ensure that diverse voices, stories, and experiences have — and continue to have — a platform to be heard and told.
Veteran Marvel star Samuel L. Jackson, who plays S.H.I.E.L.D. honcho Nick Fury, recently spoke out about this ongoing struggle, in the wake of Black Panther's success.
In an interview with Vogue, Jackson says:
"I'm not positive that Black Panther is going to change the dynamic of black stories being told in Hollywood and being accepted all over the world. It's an action-adventure story and a lot of people like those, and they'll work all over the world forever because everybody loves a hero. But not everybody loves a drama about somebody's life experience — that's why awards have a separate category for foreign films; they are perceived as being different. Once we stop perceiving them as different and just see them as good films and they get recognized in the same category, we'll be laying markers."
Though some might concede that Black Panther was not just an "action-adventure" story, Jackson makes an essential point: that the crowd-pleasing genre in which its tale is told makes it more readily accessible to a larger audience, and thus more primed for success.
It's the smaller, more intimate films filtered through the lens of a more diverse cultural experience — the ones that don't come with built-in, big-studio marketing budgets and marquee-savvy stars — that still face an uphill battle, but are no less deserving of an audience, and success. The same way that Black Panther was universally hailed as a triumphant superhero film of depth and heft that celebrated a cultural richness, so too should quieter films not be viewed merely as dramas about a specific sociocultural experience, but as dramas about the human experience.
Incidentally, all of this was being addressed during a discussion about Jackson's long and storied career. When asked if he is able to get on a plane without being questioned about snakes, Jackson said, "No. I. Am. Not... but it's fine. A lot of people disparaged that film [Snakes on a Plane], although that's exactly the kind of film I would have gone to see when I was a kid."
Jackson is set to return to the MCU as Nick Fury in 2019's Captain Marvel.