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Black Panther has risen to plenty of challenges, shattering every expectation to far surpass the ticket sales of any film by a Black director, with a cast populated by African and African-American performers, on its way to a $1.3 billion global gross. But there’s one challenge remaining: can the film overcome a clear Academy prejudice and get a fair shake as a Best Picture candidate?
It’s a prejudice that, for once, is nothing to do with race. If history is a guide, what Black Panther must overcome is the kneejerk reaction of Academy voters to dismiss superhero movies outright. If it gets its Best Picture nomination, it’d be a first. Not even Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy cracked that recognition, even as it spurred the Academy to broaden the Best Picture category from five to a possible 10 nominees. The challenge facing Marvel and Disney this season is preventing Black Panther from being marginalized as just another high roller in the Marvel Cinematic Universe assembly line. It is so much more.