Black Dollars & the “Black Panther” Film

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I honestly did not expect to weigh in on the upcoming Black Panther film. Partly because for the most part I consciously choose not to participate in trending topics, just because they are trending.

But anyone who is Black and has any awareness and/or interest in the upcoming film is certain to have a strong set of opinions and emotions regarding it. There are many reasons for that and I will not attempt to explain them all (nor could I). However, my initial reaction when I heard about the film was one of “Wow, it’s great to see a film full of Black people being portrayed so powerfully.” I must admit that I originally thought it was about the Black Panther Party – the socially, economically and politically active group from the 60’s. After doing a bit more investigation, I realized it was a film based on the Marvel comic strip.

I remember seeing the Black Panther comic book among my mom’s huge stack of comics in her closet (my mom was an avid comic book collector and reader). I rarely read comic books, but every now and then I picked one up and glanced through it or read one of them in the series.

Any who…after realizing what the film was actually about, my excitement remained. Seeing a movie filled with African warriors and Black people felt equally hopeful to me. So, I decided months ago when I first heard about the film that I would be seeing it. And I still plan to. I love action films and many of the Marvel comics films. I don’t see every film, though. I’ve enjoyed most of the X-men films and the Wolverine series. And ever since Fast Five, which included the biggest cast of color up until then (which was my reason for becoming interested in the first place) I’ve been a devoted theater goer spending my money to see every film in the Fast & Furious franchise since then.  

I don’t venture out to the movie theater often. When I do it’s because I really want to see a movie right away and financially support it. But most of all, I want to be entertained and feel like I got my money’s worth for the ticket price and the time spent for the film experience. Unless a film is a documentary or drama or something like that, I don’t expect it to improve my self-esteem or provide some sort of financial return. 

My expectation when I go is to pay my money, be entertained for a few hours, have some good moments/memories, and then resume my “real” life of striving for personal and economic freedom. I don’t watch these films seeking a “social” meaning or some sort of “financial or individual empowerment” from them. Neither should you.

The same is true for the “Black Panther.” Although, I’m glad to see Hollywood finally employing an almost entirely Black cast in a film, I have no additional expectation concerning the film except to get my money’s worth of enjoyment. Based on the trailers, it looks like I will indeed get that.

My main point here is that – like all other comic book-based films – the film was created to entertain us and make a profit for the producers. That is it. It does not serve us as Black people to attach a deeper meaning to the film – no matter how happy we are to finally see images of us represented in a different way. When searching for showtimes on Fandango the movie is categorized as an “Action/Adventure or Sci-Fi/Fantasy” film. And that is what it is - in totality.

My concern is that many of us are apparently assigning the film some type of historical or social importance, when it is simply a fictional film designed to 1) entertain and 2) generate profit. That is its purpose, in a nut shell.

The film and characters were not created or produced by Black people. And the goal of the film is not to empower Black people, help us improve our self-image, or return a financial investment to us.  No matter how proud we may feel about seeing a cast full of characters who look like us, doing things in films that Hollywood has not shown up until now, I think it’s necessary to remove emotional reactions to the film which give it greater significance in our lives than it is supposed to rightly have.

The extremely hopeful fact that so many of us have collectively dug into our pockets (and will) to support the film as Black people is a positive development. The film is set to make hundreds of millions off us alone. This again shows the economic power that we have and our ability to collectively invest as a group.

I say let’s use that momentum to continue doing so in other areas of our lives. Rather than “asking” the producers to give us 25% of the proceeds from the film’s profits as some are doing (through a petition currently circulating on social media), let’s just put 25% ourselves directly into our own communities. Let’s skip this, leave the movie producers out of the picture, and just pool our own 25% by investing in the areas/programs that we want to.

It’s clear that we have the money to do so. The same money that we’re finding in our budgets to see the film can be found to invest directly in our own lives and communities.

My message is always one of taking full responsibility for our financial wealth and progress. And I’ll repeat that here as well. We can earn, find and grow the wealth we ourselves need – on our own.

We can do this by making sure that we each save or invest an amount equal to (or larger than) what we spend on the Black Panther film.

I plan to see the film with my mom. I’m not a fan of crowds and never see films when they open anymore. So, we’ll see the film on a weekday at a matinee show and have lunch afterwards. I estimate that I’m going to spend between $40-$50 (maximum) on our movie tickets and lunch that day. And I’ll also make sure that I contribute the same amount (if not more) to my retirement account by then.

The Black Panther is a fictional action film based on a comic book character. Let’s remember that while we sit there and enjoy the marvelous (hopefully) display of characters and special effects on screen. And once the credits roll, let’s resolve to move on to the ever-important work of building ourselves up personally and financially. Once we leave the theater let’s commit to owning our money and investing an equal – if not far greater amount – in our own bank accounts and community’s Black businesses. Enjoy the movie!

About Yolanda Ransom

Yolanda Ransom is a financial educator, speaker and workshop trainer who teaches clients to confidently master their money so that they can achieve all of their financial dreams. She is the CEO of Yolanda Ransom Consulting and provides transformational financial literacy training. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and at her website yolandaransom.com