One of the pleasures of journalism is learning about and writing about new subjects. If you are a curious person it is a great career. Having worked as a reporter in Boston years ago before going into marketing, I can still remember far too much about the finer details of urban planning and development.
More recently I was pleasantly surprised by the success of Black Panther. I have liked most of Marvel’s films but never expected it to tie record-holder Avatar and remain number one at the US box office for five consecutive weeks.
Out of curiosity I interviewed black media experts on the evolution of the portrayal of black people in pop culture throughout the decades, from the ‘blaxploitation’ films of the 70s and Bill Cosby in the 80s through to Will Smith and Quentin Tarantino in the 90s, The Wire in the 00s and Black Panther today. I also looked into how our profession has marketed to black people.
Longtime readers of this column know that I never hold back my opinions. But I realised during my research that this is a time to shut up. I am a white, middle-class, Jewish guy. I cannot and should not give my opinions because I have no real understanding of these issues – and I never will. So, for this column, I will sit back and present the words of others.
What follows is a Q&A with Todd Steven Burroughs, an American author who recently published Marvel’s Black Panther: A Comic Book Biography, from Stan Lee to Ta-Nehisi Coates; Jason P Chambers, an American professor of marketing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Marcus Flemmings, a British filmmaker, author and playwright whose directorial debut was the boxing movie Six Rounds in 2017; and LeMar McLean, an American actor and writer in New York whose podcast Brothers from Another Planet discusses race and entertainment and who produced the horror-comedy short film Page One, which addresses themes involving the representation and self-realisation of marginalized people.