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Should Black Panther win Best Picture?

Credit: Anna Boyle/Visual Editor Credit: Anna Boyle/Visual Editor

Black Panther, one of Marvel’s three movies released in 2018, earned over $1 billion at the box office, making it the world’s ninth highest grossing film of all time. Now, it’s up for seven Oscar nominations, a new high for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and superhero movies alike. It’s the first superhero movie to get a Best Picture nod from the Academy, but is it well deserved? Could Black Panther actually win Best Picture at the 91st Academy Awards? Here are a few reasons why it should.

Unlike the other superhero movies of the franchise, Black Panther is representation that’s been long overdue. The movie isn’t just a CGI driven pummel fest; it provokes conversations about race, gender equality, and prejudice without taking itself too seriously. The powerful women the film portrayed shatter gender norms Marvel still hadn’t quite breached through until that point. Nakia, a fiery woman so much more than T’Challa’s companion, Shuri, the genius behind the suit, and the Dora Milaje, the king’s guard, are some of the strongest female roles Marvel has ever produced. These women held their own in battle and put work and ambition before men and love, and it was empowering to watch.

As for the racial connotations of the film, it provides an interesting outlook on dealing with racism in today’s world with its excellent characterization of both T’Challa and Killmonger, a fan favorite villain. Killmonger carries the sentiment of empowering all developing nations by providing them with the unlimited weapons Wakanda possesses. Hardened by his years in the war and his father’s early death, he sees the solution to racial inequality as more destruction. It’s what made him an incredible villain. He is a complete contrast to T’Challa, who puts Wakanda above all and refuses to believe violence is the answer. They’re both flawed in their approach to dealing with racial inequality in the world. Despite the fact that the movie ends with Killmonger’s death, T’Challa learns from Killmonger and opens Wakanda to the world, ultimately making T’Challa a superhero
completely worth looking up to. The fact that the movie captured this character development brilliantly, without sacrificing its heroics and stunts, makes it a masterpiece well deserving of its Oscar nomination.

Black Panther is by no means a flawless movie, but it meant something for many people who watched it, breaking ground simply for what it tried to do. The execution wasn’t perfect; the film lost its humor here and there, and it killed one of Marvel’s best villains since Loki. Despite that, it’s enough to be deserving of its nomination even without the “Popular Film” category the Academy tried to introduce and promptly postponed. What does this mean for future superhero movies, or in more general terms, commercial blockbusters? Black Panther paves the way for more popcorn films to get prestigious awards recognition, and the repercussions of this are something only time will tell.

Black Panther made millions through its popularity, but its seven Academy Award nominations aren’t just about that. It’s about what this movie meant to people. If other commercial blockbusters in the future can carry a message as important as this movie, a nod from the Academy for them would be befitting.