Marvel Studios

CultureFilm / TV


April 3, 2019
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The University of Southern California was nice enough to use some of that college scandal money to do a study on which African countries were mentioned most in television and Black Panther’s homeland managed to secure fourth place.

Congratulations Marvel, you do Black people better than the source, according to almost every TV writers’ room in Hollywood. The study released last week merely confirmed that Africa is all but invisible to American viewers — a decline that must have something to do with the decrease in “Feed A Hungry Child in Africa” commercials. Thanks, by the way. We’re all super full now.

The report stipulated that “one indicator of its prevalence on US TV is that the Black Panther’s fictional African homeland, Wakanda, would have placed fourth behind Egypt, South Africa and Kenya in our rankings of most mentioned countries,” according to All Africa. “On TV, we did not track every reference to Black Panther, but only those that accompanied a keyword related to Africa. Even with that restriction, coverage of Black Panther exceeded that of African travel, sports, education, health and environment in all genres of programming,” USC researchers reported.

Researchers combed through about 700,000 hours of programming and commercials for an entire month and let’s just say, if Africa was a TV show, it wouldn’t make it past the pilot. The reviews were not great, as researchers also found that, unsurprisingly, Africa-related footage was overwhelmingly negative which surprises no one who watches TV.

“The universal consensus is that African media coverage is overwhelmingly focused on negative stories such as Boko Haram, corruption, poverty, electoral crises, migrants and terrorism, while putting far too little emphasis on subjects and stories that provide a counterpoint showing the success, diversity, opportunity and vibrancy of Africa,” researchers added. The cherry on top was that note that “Africa” was often a stand-in for naming specific countries, which Africans love.

Finally, an African country people can f*** with. The disheartening thing is that Black Panther was a cultural milestone, made with so much love, but the accompanying reality is that it represents an Africa that more people (in the West) can be comfortable with because it “escaped” colonization and thus is not a living, breathing representation of the utter evil and greed that drove the continent into the dark on various levels. It’s an African country that will endure the pummeling of Thanos as well as the guilt pummelling of being the country that was asleep during slavery, apartheid and colonization. The Black people we can blame for the white people’s mistakes.

Black Panther‘s only flaw is that it was made by Marvel and thank goodness it was saved by Ryan Coogler. The uncomfortable alternate reality of its cultural dominance is how that dominance eclipses the stories of Africans living on the continent. Those things can be true at the same time and I feel like it is a conversation we have been actively avoiding. The reality of Africa is more complex than the world is willing to explore and though Black Panther was seen as a gateway to shifting that narrative, it merely eclipsed it. It’s understandable. It’s a beautiful piece of film to witness, especially as a Black lover of science fiction and anything Marvel.

Black Panther was a love letter to Black Americans, as it should be. I wouldn’t change a thing about the last year because who the hell am I? God? But on a serious note, Africans just want to be able to tell our own stories and we are somehow always being admonished for not having the means of resources to do it without anyone actually wondering what we could achieve had we been given the same opportunities. This era of “Black Is The New Black” and shift towards African stories is not coincidental. We are just as hungry and passionate, waiting patiently for the day where our heroes don’t have to learn our accents. It’s a reasonable enough request.