The anticipated debut of Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ in China last week was marred by reports that moviegoers simply could not handle the film’s overt blackness, saying it was a bit “too Black” for their liking.
Further review of the complaints, however, reveals the negative reviews may have actually been more about the dark aesthetics of the film rather than the race of the characters.
The persistent media narrative that Chinese racism will ruin any chance of success for a Black movie with Black leads was apparent in advance buzz around the new blockbuster film, according to Quartz. For instance, early posters for the film’s release in China showed the Black Panther fully masked — a sharp contrast from U.S. posters, which showed lead actor Chadwick Boseman unmasked in all his chiseled glory.
Despite these paltry attempts to shield the film from expected racism, “Black Panther” would go on to earn a whopping $63 million in its opening weekend. Initial reactions to the film were focused on early reviews from anonymous review site Douban, which saw most of the negative and seemingly racist comments.
Some viewers said they didn’t care for the film’s political correctness in regard to racial representation. Others said they were bothered by the movie being “too dark.”
“‘Black Panther’ is Black, all the major characters are Black, a lot of scenes are Black, the car-chasing scene is Black — the blackness has really made me drowsy,” one viewer said, as translated by Quartz, who claimed he had to pinch himself to keep from falling asleep during the movie.
Another viewer commented on the Black characters on-screen, writing, “When I entered the theater, a bunch of Black people was fighting in the night.”
“I’ve never been in a theater so dark that I couldn’t find my seat,” they added.
One viewer complained the movie was a “torture to the eyes” to watch in 3D, explaining that the Black actors and the film’s dark colors made it difficult for viewing.
Quartz pointed out that most of these unfavorable reviews griped about the literal darkness of the film’s scenes and likely were not racist in nature. This isn’t to say there were not any prejudiced reactions to the majority Black film, however.
“Cherry-picking negative posts on an anonymous reviews site isn’t a particularly fair way to assess Chinese attitudes toward Black people (and one is likely to find plenty of racist comments on English language online chats too),” Quartz stated. “Many of the reports on Chinese racism conflate skin color with race, a common mistake that misses important nuances.”
“Arguably, Hollywood should not be blaming Chinese racism for its decision not to export Black films,” it added. “Chinese should be blaming Hollywood racism for failing to produce authentic portrayals of Black people.”
Overall, Chinese fan’s reactions to the film were generally positive, as shown in the clip above. Some moviegoers raved about the action while other gushed over the actors’ cool costumes.
“I think the Black actors made the movie attractive to watch and I love their suits,” one viewer said.
“The movie is great with unexpected scenarios and wonderful special effects,” another said. “Black people are strong and the film was technologically advanced.”