Does Luke Cage need a black director or showrunner? Did Jessica Jones absolutely have to have a female showrunner? Does Wonder Woman need a female director? All fair questions, but with all due respect I agree with Anthony Mackie(The Falcon) in saying no. Could a black director come along and knock it out of the park? Absolutely, I have no problem with that at all. Diversity is great for appealing to broader audiences, cultural perspective, and understanding different nuances and themes that people of other races might not be as familiar with, but I don’t know that pegging it absolutely necessary to have a black director for an iconic black character is the right way to go.
For example, Cary Fukunaga, one of the driving forces behind the first season of True Detective and the writer/director of Beasts of no Nation did a fantastic job on both properties, and he’s the son of a third generation Japanese-American father. It’s hard for me to imagine that Fukunaga had a whole lot of firsthand experience in regards to war drama in Africa. He does however possess emotional IQ and the ability to tell a story in a compelling and engrossing fashion.
To add to that though, Fukunaga had a book, the author, and probably a number of other consultants to discuss what is necessary to properly convey the difficulties involved with being African and living in a war torn country. The point here is that while he isn’t African, he did a damn fine job of writing, directing, shooting, and producing an art piece that is about being an African. Directors deserve a lot of the credit when a film comes together, but quite often people forget how collaborative the effort on any given film is, and thus Cary was fully able to create a great film about a culture I’m fairly certain he has no personal experience with.
So why is it absolutely necessary to pigeonhole Black Panther into needing a black director? I simply don’t agree that it’s a necessity, a bonus sure, but not an absolute requirement in my opinion when there are fully capable consultants and producers. I do certainly think that being able to convey black cultural perspective is a talent though.
And thus if a black director is able to do that based on the fact that they can draw from their own experiences, more power to them. But it should be understood as a skill that they have, not the entire reason to get the job. Conveying culture from experience is a skill (and a very important one), and should be treated as such, but not as a qualifier to be a candidate for the job. The qualifier for being a director should be storytelling ability. For example, Aquaman has been handed over to James Wan, and I somehow doubt Wan has any insight about what it might be to be an Atlantean. However, Wan does have talent, and has made some pretty enjoyable films and proved he has the skills to make an action film and could possibly take on a superhero property.
At the end of the day, it should be about talent and skill for the director chosen. Should they happen to be Black, that’s fantastic, but if they end up Hispanic, Asian, a Woman, Gay, Trans, or Alien, they need to have gotten the job based on the fact that Marvel believes that this director has the talent to pull off a very important movie. Provided the director has great consultants to give the cultural perspective necessary, there is no reason to believe that someone who isn’t Black couldn’t pull off a fantastic Black Panther movie. And it should always be about putting out a fantastic movie.
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