Black Panther and Wonder Woman: Changing the Face of Superheroes on Screen

In recent years, Hollywood has been known for its influential liberalism. At the 2018 Golden Globes, nearly all who attended, men and women alike, wore black to support the Time’s Up Movement, which strives to put an end to sexual harassment and inequality in the workplace.

As a whole, television, film, and music industries contributed around $84 million to fund campaigns during the 2016 election, with nearly 80 percent of that money supporting Democrats.

These progressive acts do not just manifest themselves in the personal and public actions of celebrities. Rather, they often find themselves encompassed by the themes of some of the most successful movies to ever hit the big screen.       

Since 2002, Spider-Man has held the title of highest grossing superhero movie of all time. In all her Amazonian glory, Wonder Woman, the protagonist of the film of the same name, stole the title 15 years later, generating $821.74 million internationally to narrowly beat out Spider-Man’s $821.7 million.

This speaks not only to the ever-growing superhero fanbase but the progressive actions of the franchise as well. Arguably, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for a film with a female lead to have such success 15 years ago.

The film, which includes both a female lead and a female director, caused controversy when some fans first heard how female-oriented it was set to be. Followers of the franchise argued that DC Entertainment was only creating such a female-centric movie in order to display the aura of political correctness; they argued that the movie’s emphasis of women-empowerment was simply a façade used to generate good press for the franchise.

The evident success of the movie proves just the opposite; women and men alike enjoyed seeing something new in Hollywood, something which was not completely male-dominated. Women, in particular, liked the ability to relate to the film’s protagonist.

The impact of Black Panther has been similar. The movie has seen incredible financial success already, making $242 million within its first four days of release. This statistic makes its success comparable to some of the biggest blockbusters of competing franchises, including Star Wars and Jurassic Park. In fact, while The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi of the Star Wars series both saw more success in the first three days after their release, their generated income decreased substantially afterword. Black Panther, on the other hand, remarkably managed to drop only 13.1 percent in earnings between its second and third day being released, a number far less than The Force Awakens’ 42.7 percent or The Last Jedi’s 38.9 percent.

While numbers and statistics provide great proof of a film’s overall success, understanding what those numbers mean is where things start to get tricky.

The reason why Black Panther saw such little change in earnings after its first few days of release is not unlike why Wonder Woman saw that same kind of success: people like change. People like progression. Most importantly, however, people like seeing someone who they can relate to, someone they can idolize, and someone who looks like them in the position of the hero or heroine. While the stories of Superman, Spider-Man, Captain America and other heroes are classics which will never get old, there’s something refreshing about being able to see a woman or a black man hold the position of a superhero, a position which has been dominated by only white men for far too long.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

About Jordan Revenaugh 26 Articles
Jordan Revenaugh is a sophomore from Rochester, Michigan. An aspiring journalist and author, she has an English major with a creative writing concentration and a psychology minor. In addition to being the opinions editor for the Pleiad (because, yes, she has many opinions), Jordan runs cross country and track, is a part of Delta Gamma and InterVarsity, and is a dedicated avocado enthusiast.

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