*Marvel’s “Black Panther” made a strong debut in China over the weekend, taking in more than $63 million and helping it cross the billion-dollar mark. The Chinese audience many have turned up for the black superhero but online reviews hint at subtle racism over the all-black cast.
The film is set in Wakanda, a fictional country in East Africa hidden from the outside world that’s never been inhabited by the white man. But this romanticized version of Africa is hardly resonating with Chinese audiences.
As quartz.com reports, “the film holds a 6.8 rating out of 10 on Douban, China’s IMDb-esque platform, almost half of science-fiction and action movies rated by Douban users have a better score.”
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Some moviegoers disliked the film because they felt Marvel was trying too hard to be politically correct, others were overtly racist with comments about the film being “too black.”
“Maybe the Chinese are still not used to a film full of black people,” wrote one reviewer on Douban (link in Chinese). The commenter said he had to pinch himself more than 10 times to stay awake during the movie because “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.”
Another reviewer who came into the theater also noted: “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.”
Someone else said the experience was worse in 3D: “The film is filled with black actors and actresses. Also, because the film’s colors are a bit dark, it’s nearly a torture for the eyes to watch the film’s 3D version in the theater.”
It’s yet another reminder of China’s limited exposure to race.
Still, “Black Panther” could be a start for Chinese people to learn about the black culture, argues writer Niesha Davis on Shanghai-based digital publication Sixth Tone. “Exposure to pop culture that encompasses diverse representations of black people can exert a powerful influence on how individuals conceive of them,” Davis wrote.