Proceedings of The 5th World Conference on Social Sciences and Humanities
A reception analysis of Black Panther by Black South African women in Soweto
Andzisani Prunnel Sibiya
South Africa was a buzz in February 2018 as the Black Panther fever hits the nation. Multitudes of black South Africans crowded movie theatres dressing up in their cultural regalia and chanting traditional songs signalling the arrival of a ‘cultural moment’. Scholars have written about the meanings of Black Panther, its cultural aesthetic and thematic engagement with black themes, but not much has been done to understand how black South African women in Soweto interact with the characters of the movie and also account to why the movie was admired in specific socio-historical contexts of consumption. The scarce research that explored the popularity of Black Panther mainly approached audiences as homogenous and used research methods that privilege textual determinism. The study used a cultural studies approach as its conceptual frame and audience reception analysis as its methodology. Participants were recruited using the researcher’s pre-existing connections in Soweto Township. Participants then recruited other participants using snowball sampling from their connections. Finally, members were recruited, focusing on shared cultural characteristics and symbolic connections to previous viewings of Black Panther. Therefore, the purposive sample drew participants from naturally existing communities in Soweto (see Hansen et al., 1998: 265). The aim of the study was to understand how these audiences interact with the characters of the movie. It also seeks to understand why the movie was admired among black South African women in Soweto. It was found that the characters of the movie resonated on the black female audiences, which makes them relate to most of the characters in the movie. It is seen that audiences are able to use Afrofuturistic texts as a lens to imagine a possible future for black people. The findings also show that the admiration of Black Panther was linked to the meanings and pleasures associated with resistance that it suggests among black South African women in Soweto. The movie gives them voice and space to symbolically recuperate and claim a futuristic world where they have agency and control over themselves. The film created a moment to resist and challenge global and local forms of oppression that they face daily.
Keywords: Afrofuturism, Black Panther, cultural studies, pleasure, reception .