on the Commercialization of Black Excellence

 

This past week I’ve been ruminating.

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Corporate U, a networking company based in Western Jamaica, is hosting a red carpet style affair for the premiere of the Black Panther movie, and charging $3000 for admission (roughly twice the cost of a regular movie ticket). Though it claims to be giving the profits to charity and though I love dressing up for fancy tête-à-têtes, the high-priced ticket is giving me pause.

The revolution will not be televised

My mind keeps turning over, uncomfortable and questioning. Black Panther has become so much more than a superhero movie, has evolved into a political statement: a blanket, a balm, a battle cry. Just look at Twitter, where the hashtag #whatblackpanthermeanstome has generated an outpouring of emotional and hilarious observations on the realities of black life. It feels cheap to take this movement and capitalize on it for material gain. Because charity or not, profits will be made and someone’s pockets will end up fatter.

The revolution will be . . . commercialized?

The second question, of exclusivity. That the celebration of black excellence somehow comes with a discriminatory price tag. “You must be this wealthy to attend this premiere”. I elected to skip the red carpet experience, with the distinct and discomforting awareness that this only deepens the divide between the haves and the have nots. Between the bawdy bandwagonist half price movie goers, and the tawdry trend-setting full price movie lovers. Further, between the curly-haired light-skinned BMW driver and the kinky-haired dark-skinned pedestrian. Drives home the distinction between ‘State of Emergency’ and ‘enhanced security measures’. The ropes around the red carpet isolate us ironically, at a time when we should be celebrating the things that make us the same.

The last question, of overthinking. Black Panther is just a movie, after all, not some kind of altar call for black power. No matter how poignant the timing is. Corporate U is just another business, doing what businesses do: making money. And the red carpet affair isn’t driving wedges between the hearts of Jamaicans any more than the latest all-inclusive party or ZOSO. My perceived discomfort is exactly that: perception. The people who want the full ‘African Royalty’ experience will go, and enjoy the many scheduled after-parties. And the people who don’t want or can’t afford it will watch the movie on discount night, same as always.

The world keeps turning
and only time will tell
which side of history we stand on

7 thoughts on “on the Commercialization of Black Excellence

  1. My sentiments exactly! Even UWI is here trying to capitalize with their own private movie viewing party for $1600, a lot less lofty but profit nonetheless. I look forward to seeing the movie yes and may actually watch it in cinema (can’t tell when last I’ve been) but I think the poor movie is being taken out of context, overhyped and used as a symbol for just about every kind of Black struggle there is! It’s certainly the first of its kind in many ways so perhaps *some* of this hype is justified. We’ll see

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    1. I think some of the hype really is justified… Black superhero movies that are high quality haven’t really been blockbusters so this is a welcome change. But I do wish we could have celebrated that with less ‘movie premier’ hype.

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  2. Would you truly call a premiere night separatist though act though? Whenever a highly anticipated movie is being released there usually is a red carpet event. So I wouldn’t necessarily say this night is for a specific crowd more than to gain profits as the movie, just like any other movie will be priced the same after the premiere night. What I do agree to, somewhat, is the commercialisation of said black excellence. Like you said, someone’s pocket will be getting fatter, only this time a lot of that will be going to the black actors and producers who’ve been overlooked. I think of t like this, this commercialisation will lead to normalisation of seeing black people on screen in the same capacity as other races.

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    1. Yes, I’m all for black actors and directors getting paid what they deserve and yes I know that movie premiers are an established tradition (where people are invited btw, not charged a fee) . What I object to really is the bandwagon-ing, for lack of a better word. But it’s a very mild objection. Can’t fault a business for seeing an opportunity for profit and seizing it.

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