Nothing makes me feel less connected to people than a comic book movie like 'Black Panther'

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Black Panther is part superhero movie, part spy flick, and part sci-fi spectacle. Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

I saw Black Panther opening night with my brother.

‘Twas a holiday night, a day where black people, and probably others, felt a tighter and prouder communal kinship.

But nothing makes me feel less connected to people -- to what's on people's minds, what people like, what we have in common -- than watching a big-deal comic book movie.

These movies are all so dumb. Even Black Panther.

I was so hyped, my brother and I were dapping like the home team was on a run as more and more black people poured into our 9:30 p.m. Mounds View showing.

Then the movie began.

The story was simple, with childlike themes of good and evil, complete with toddler-level exposition. 

Comic-book movies bring us together in the most superficial way. Sure, there's pride in seeing black people in Black Panther, or a small girl weeping over meeting Gal Gadot after seeing Wonder Woman. That has value. 

But the material is really bad. What's really revealed is how little it takes to feel a connection, which shows how far away we are from each other. The mere ideas of strong blackness or strong womanhood should not be enough to bring us together like this, but the extreme rarity of their big-budget expression makes Black Panther feel like Easter. It's why a comic-book movie that's supposed to be straight fun, like Wonder Woman or Black Panther, has to be packed with deeper themes on race or gender.

When else would such themes get such a stage?

Rallying round these things, be it Black Panther or Wonder Woman or Star Wars, at their best, can only make strides culturally as reliable vehicles for profit. Maybe someday real stories about blackness, such as Moonlight, can have more than a meager $2 million budget. And, maybe, a black- or woman-centric comic-book movie can just be about cool action and nothing more.

This is all a step in that direction. But we've been down this road before, thinking this kind of movie being successful will mean more diversity in movies.

The Black Panther experience is really about the hit of hype and hope you get when thinking about the entertainment world's potential for growth. The next step is to flesh more dynamic and smarter black projects.

But it is a start. When you see footage or news of cowering small black children, here or abroad, it's usually accompanied by horror. The mere sight of Lupita Nyong'o playing the savior to black girls and boys in one of the many tangential plot lines -- even if the material is stupid as shit -- would have had me weeping if I were not in a packed theater.

Most of my positive reactions to the movie are owed to these black talents. But it really drives home the depressing reality of how perpetually stuck black people are, as being afforded one big but solitary movie project is considered a victorious step. Black Panther is a sobering opportunity to consider how much further there is to go.


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