#BlackPantherChallenge: $400,000 for disadvantaged kids to see breakthrough film

Ticket prices hit an all-time high in 2017 at an average rate of $8.95, much too high for some children, especially those in lower income areas, to attend movie in the theaters at all. But this weekend, celebrities have made sure that this won’t be the case for over 30,000 children.

Thus far, $400,000 has been raised through GoFundMe accounts and private donations to send children to the latest Marvel movie, “Black Panther.” On Twitter, the initiative has been going around as the #BlackPantherChallenge.

The Black Panther Challenge was started by marketing professional and media representation advocate Fredrick Joseph. According to an article Joseph wrote for the Huffington Post entitled, “Why I’m Raising Money for Black Kids to See Black Panther,” he started the campaign to “[ensure] that our children get to see themselves as heroes too.”

The challenge exploded into a national initiative. Octavia Spencer, an Oscar-winning actress, promised to buy out a theater in Mississippi “to ensure all our brown children can see themselves as a superhero.” Many other celebrities, including J.J Abrams, Chelsea Clinton, Viola Davis, Ellen DeGeneres, Jemele Hill, and more have donated to the cause or agreed to buy out showings.

This campaign comes alongside the massive media hype over the Feb. 16 release of Black Panther to movie theaters. It is the first Marvel movie, and possibly the first movie ever, to have a majority black cast, Afrocentric storyline, and black director. Many have praised the film as a smashing end to well-established stereotypes and an exciting beginning to a new kind of movie empire.

The film is expected to make $250 million worldwide this week and Fandango reported it to be the fourth largest pre-seller of all time, only preceded by the Star Wars movies. The movie has received the largest merchandise line ever for a non-sequel Marvel movie.

Black Panther comes at a time where movie theaters are declining in an world of Amazon Prime and Netflix, yet also a time of risk-taking in the film world. Previously, Marvel has said that films with an woman superhero star, all-black cast, or any other not-so-mainstream character would not do well worldwide. Enter Wonder Woman, Deadpool, and Black Panther — already enormous hollywood hits. Wonder Woman alone made over $800 million in the box office.

“One by one, these unwritten Hollywood rules about what audiences supposedly will and will not support are falling by the wayside,” said Jeff Bock, a senior analyst at Exhibitor Relations, an entertainment research firm.

“Black Panther” is more than just a movie. It’s a movement,”  reported CNN.

Picture source: https://patch.com/maryland/baltimore/4-black-panther-challenge-campaigns-benefit-baltimore-students

The Obama portraits: praise, criticism, and conspiracy theories

As the Obamas continue their legacy of breaking historic norms and ending stereotypes, it’s no surprise that their portraits, unveiled Monday, Feb. 12, in Washington D.C., were untraditional to say the least.

In addition to being the first African-American presidential portrait on display in the National Portrait Gallery, the painting itself will the first painted by an African-American artist.

In the days following the unveiling, positive and negative reactions have abounded as critics and the public alike search for hidden messages, controversy, and political statements. With such distinctive portraits, there is much to be found.

Mr. Obama

Former president Barack Obama’s portrait, the one that will hang with the other 43 paintings of past presidents, features him leaning forward in a chair with a serious look on his face… and that’s about where the similarity to other presidential portraits ends. His chair is somewhat suspended in midair, surrounded by a brightly-colored garden scene. His stern expression and stiff posture contrasts sharply with the soft flowery scene surrounding him.

The artist behind this work is Kehinde Wiley, known for his stylized paintings of young black people as recreations of traditional portraits. Wiley often uses his art as a critique of the lack of non-white figures throughout the history of art, which is exactly what drew Obama to him in the first place. “What I was always struck by whenever I saw his portraits was the degree to which they challenged our conventional views of power and privilege,” Obama said at the ceremony.

While many have praised the portrait for its break from tradition and subtle messages, others have found reason to criticize, as well as speculate.

Wiley has drawn some controversy for a painting that portrays a black woman cutting off the head of a white woman. Some have said that the former president went a little too far with his unconventional choice of artist, and criticize him for being divisive rather than unifying.

In another twist on the garden background, some conservatives, like Sean Hannity, have seen a sexually pervasive theme.. On Twitter, Hannity claimed that there were “secret images of sperm” within the garden scene, and that the painting served as a sort of sexual innuendo. (The tweet was later deleted.)

Mrs. Obama

Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s painting is just as unconventional and stylized as her husband’s. Amy Sherald, known for her portrayals of African-Americans doing everyday things, was commissioned to paint Mrs. Obama’s portrait. The finished work portrays Obama in a long, abstractly designed dress against a blue backdrop. Her hair flows around her shoulders, and the entire painting is in grayscale, making it less realistic and more stylized.

Yet the dress symbolizes much more than just the fashion of Mrs. Obama. The painted dress is based on a real dress designed by Michelle Smith under her company name, Milly. Obama has worn several Milly outfits and was involved in the decision to have the Milly dress in the portrait. Milly is also known for designing clothes meant to support equality movements and criticize President Trump. In addition, fashion experts have pointed to the more affordable cotton material of the dress as a foil to Melania Trump’s expensive, high-end fashion choices. It is unclear whether Obama hid this message in her portrait intentionally.

Lastly, many are saying that Obama’s portrait doesn’t look that much liker. Conservative Commentator Ben Shapiro compared her portrait to a completely abstract painting on Twitter, pointing out that Sherald appears to have gone more stylistic than realistic. That said, other critics have praised Sherald for capturing the essence of Obama’s character, and making her portrait more universal and relatable through her stylistic choices.

One thing’s for certain, the Obamas are masters of sending subtle messages through creative outlets, and the uniqueness of their portraits created space for a discussion of issues they care about that may not have happened with more traditional renditions.


Picture source: http://www.elle.com/culture/art-design/a17045197/obama-michelle-national-portrait-gallery-wiley-sherald/