A writer for Forbes magazine wrote an article Tuesday in which he described Black Panther as “Hollywood’s worst nightmare” and lamented how the film’s success was ruining it for other movies due to come out. He learned the hard way that what you not gon’ do is be careless with your words while speaking on the success of Black Panther.
When I initially saw Scott Mendelson’s opinion piece on the Forbes website, the headline read, “Box Office: ‘Black Panther’ Has Become Hollywood’s Worst Nightmare.”
The first line of the piece practically prayed for an upcoming action film to finally unseat Black Panther as No. 1 at the box office.
“Universal/Comcast Corp. Pacific Rim: Uprising has a decent shot at making a skewed kind of history by finally dethroning Black Panther from the top spot on the weekend box office charts,” Mendelson wrote.
He then went on to make notes on Black Panther’s success: This is the first time since Avatar in 2009-2010 that a movie has topped the box office for five weeks in a row, and Black Panther is only the 11th movie in 30 years to achieve that feat. It is also only the 25th movie to be at the top of the box office for five or more consecutive weekends in a row.
Mendelson then wrote that the “terrifying” part of all this for the competition and the movie industry as a whole is that Black Panther is doing this “at the expense of other would-be event movies,” and then referred to those movies as “victims” that are getting “steamrolled” by Black Panther.
Language is extremely important here. What I presume Mendelson wanted to convey is that the extreme success of Black Panther will be hard for other movies this year to measure up to. The words he uses, however, make it come across as though he is blaming Black Panther for a lack of creativity from, and an impending lack of success by, an industry that has failed to bankroll black films because it doesn’t consider them marketable.
Black Panther laid that line of thinking to rest, and it would appear that there are those who take issue with that fact.
The reason a lot of these films won’t be successful is not Black Panther but, rather, what Black Panther represents: something new.
For the first time, a blockbuster film full of black people, directed by a black man, is at the top. The movie didn’t have to rely on the old tropes of the white savior or the Magical Negro to be successful. It stood on its own, and it dominated. It continues to dominate, and many in the industry don’t know how to take that.
When I read Mendelson’s piece, I immediately said what I thought he was thinking as he wrote this: “Oh, my God. The black people are ruining everything.”
I wasn’t the only (black) person to take issue with the way Mendelson worded his opinion on Black Panther’s success.
Over on Twitter, he got called out multiple times by multiple people.
Mendelson caught so much heat, apparently, that he was moved to change the headline on his column. It now reads, “Box Office: ‘Black Panther’ Should Terrify Every Hollywood Studio.”
Still problematic, but not as egregious as the first one.
The lesson in all of this is simple: It’s perfectly OK to shut the fuck up when it’s black-people time.