For many, the huge success of Black Panther at the box office has been seen as a watershed moment in Hollywood, proving that films lead by predominantly black casts can offer mainstream appeal that brings a more diverse audience to the movies. But at least one Marvel alumni doesn’t necessarily agree.
Speaking to Vogue in a wide-ranging interview, Samuel L. Jackson touched upon his hopes for a more diverse acting industry, in which people from all races and backgrounds are free to tell stories about their own experiences and cultures. For him, those stories being treated as normal movies instead of niche ones will be the real watershed moment for diverse cinema, rather than the success of a big-budget action film like Black Panther:
I’m not positive that Black Panther is going to change the dynamic of black stories being told in Hollywood and being accepted all over the world. It’s an action-adventure story and a lot of people like those, and they’ll work all over the world forever because everybody loves a hero. But not everybody loves a drama about somebody’s life experience—that’s why awards have a separate category for foreign films; they are perceived as being different. Once we stop perceiving them as different and just see them as good films and they get recognized in the same category, we’ll be laying markers.
Jackson is correct in that the movie industry still has a long way to go when it comes to treating diverse cinema as a normality rather than something that’s a once-in-a-blue-moon moment. But it seems a little odd to categorize Black Panther as an “action-adventure story,” when it pointedly takes on political and cultural themes. Progress has to be made on multiple fronts when it comes to better representation in Hollywood, whether it’s through huge blockbuster fare like Black Panther or more intimate movies like the ones Jackson is looking toward.