TV & Theater Strike Back

This past weekend was somewhat of a return to glory for media formats that had seen better days. Between Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame, both projects represented “must see TV/movies” if you wanted to keep with the general chatter of the day. Must-see-anything is becoming rarer and rarer these days specifically as it relates to seeing a show or film right when it first comes out. Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame have proven that singular shows or films can still dominate pop culture in ways that most projects can’t penetrate in our increasingly streaming and fragmented society.

I’ve seen all of 30 minutes of the very first episode of Game of Thrones and subsequently have no idea of what the hell is going on. I do know that this is the last season of the heavily acclaimed HBO series and every Sunday night, my twitter timeline is filled with GOT references. I understand none of these references, but supposedly some woman name Arya is about that action boss.

What’s interesting about Game of Thrones is how it absolutely dominates the topic of conversation on Sunday nights, leading into Monday. It seems like everybody and their mother is watching this show. Brands have picked up on the popularity of it as well and there are even podcasts recapping each episode. Even the current occupant of the White House made reference to the show in the midst of his own litany of problems.

no collusion

HBO was non too pleased with this depiction.

Game of Thrones shows that the HBO brand is not only strong, but that HBO can still deliver what some might call ‘appointment TV.’ Essentially, you have to catch it right then and there or you’ll miss out on the broader conversation that everyone else is having. That’s an advantage that HBO still maintains over a competitor like Netflix. Netflix may have more content, but because it doesn’t function in the traditional episodic format, you’ll never have everyone watching a show at the same time. The best you can hope for is that everyone is talking about your show for a week, as was the case earlier this year with the film Bird Box.

With Avengers: Endgame, we knew this would be an event and it did not disappoint earning an opening weekend record of $1.2 billion dollars. Marvel, the company behind the film, has had quite the run beginning with the original Iron Man film in May of 2008.


The company has built a superhero brand that brings out geeks, die-hards, kids, their parents, and just about everyone in between to these films. This has benefited not only Marvel, but movie theaters as well that find themselves competing not only with streaming services, but anything else that may be vying for consumer’s attention these days. At a time when people are increasingly watching films at home or on their phones,  going to the movie theater involves a certain social and cultural experience that really can’t be replicated in someone’s living room.

Make no mistake, despite Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame, the move to more fragmented media outlets and thus topics of conversation, is only continuing. What these projects do show however, is that you have to be really damn good in 2019 to capture the topic of conversation for days on end. Even then, you’ll maybe get a week at most, before everyone moves on to something else.


More than a Movie: The Cultural Significance of Black Panther


Some might say that based off audience reactions and box office numbers, Black Panther is more than a movie. They’d be right. It’s a movement.

From enthusiastic audiences to one of the highest ratings of a super hero film ever by critics, Black Panther has done quite well for itself. There were reports of folks showing up with drums to the premiere last month and numerous photos of others posing next to the official film poster. The film has not only been been popular, but profitable, even beyond Marvel’s (and parent company Disney’s) own dreams.


Black Panther (Marvel/Disney)

As of this writing, Black Panther has already grossed more than $1 billion globally and over $600 million domestically. To put that in perspective, it is now one of the Top 15 10 highest grossing films in American cinematic history. Much of this money is coming from people seeing the film not just once, but multiple times with friends and family.

Black Panther has been the #1 movie at the box office for five weeks running, something not seen in eight years here in the United States. Most studios are happy if they win the box office on back-to-back weekends, let alone five straight weeks. By tapping into a relatively under-served market, Black Panther is reaping the benefits, and then some.

The dearth of diverse stories in Hollywood is both a pertinent issue and a persistent one.  It hasn’t been much better in the super hero realm with black actors appearing in films but usually as sidekicks and never as the main story. Black Panther changes all that with a majority black cast and a story told from an afro-futuristic perspective.

Even the individual roles have been no less significant. From Shuri, who is the real brains behind the operation and enhances her older brother’s Black Panther capabilities, to Okoye, who is the leader of the fierce all female Dora Milaje unit that protects T’Challa and Wakanda, these roles are deeply impactful. There’s also the significance of M’Baku, played by Winston Duke, a role that was written very differently then what had been portrayed in the comics. Finally, there’s the land of Wakanda that was never touched by colonialism and has thrived as a hidden kingdom for centuries.

In recent weeks #WakandaForever has taken root and been embraced by a wide array of folks. Though this is a fictional land, its influence is very real. For black folks to simply imagine a land where they get to be themselves, far from the white gaze and troubling histories of colonialism and enslavement, is a truly refreshing thought during times of such heartache.


Athletes embracing #Wakandaforever

So will the commercial appeal and success of Black Panther open up the lane for Hollywood to tell more diverse stories in the future? I remain skeptical, but we’ll see. These days, the T.V. networks along with heavyweights like HBO and Netflix, seem more committed to a diverse palette of stories being told on their platforms. Clearly, there is serious money to be made in well done diverse pictures that entertain a cornucopia of audiences.

If nothing else, Black Panther shows that there is a real thirst among audiences for well done films by and about people who remind them of themselves. To see yourself onscreen is a subtle, yet powerful affirmation of one’s humanity. Inspiring a generation of kids to look and see themselves in a different light, may be Black Panther’s greatest achievement yet. #WakandaForever