So, About That Black Panther Joke at the 2019 Golden Globes...

Director Ryan Coogler attends the 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 6, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California.
Photo: Frazer Harrison (Getty Images)

The 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony has come and gone, but the stench of a badly executed joke is still wafting around social media.

It all started on Sunday night, January 6, 2019, just like any other awards show night. The two hosts, Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh naturally settled into the typical awkward banter between hosts (and subsequent presenters) onstage.


Instead of the usual celebrity roasts, arguably topped by the controversial Ricky Gervais, the pair decided to switch from “boom, roasted!” to an onslaught of over-the-top compliments. They even called Michael B. Jordan “a snack.”

Then, it went way beyond awkward.

“If you told me as a kid, growing up in the Bay, there’d be a movie called Black Panther that starts off in Oakland, this is not what I would have imagined,” said Samberg, referencing writer/director Ryan Coogler’s hometown. “Ryan, were there, like, a bunch of old members of the actual Black Panther Party saying, ‘I can’t even get an audition?’”.


Cue the camera’s pivot to Coogler’s “um what?” blank stare.


As we all collectively channeled Coogler’s mood, Samberg then began to rattle off, “Just kidding, they were all framed and murdered for wanting justice and equality. The world is and always has been a nightmare; it just seems worse now because of our phones.”



As Newsweek pointed out, the shoddy execution was largely to blame for the joke’s faulty landing. Others blamed it on the choice to cut to Coogler’s confused reaction, causing the audience to be distracted by that instead of what Samberg was actually saying.


Compounding Coogler’s upbringing with the Black Panther party’s location of origin, Samberg basically took this moment to call out the U.S. government’s reported conspiracy against the militant organization, most notably highlighted in the execution of Fred Hampton in Chicago, 50 years ago this December.


Editing oops or not, feelings about the joke were mixed. Some weren’t here for it, and called for more black folks in the writer’s room.


Others appreciated it and even laughed.


Personally, I was wholly indifferent about it, since it was yet another display of “Yay Progressive Whites!” with the subsequent back-patting for calling out an obviously grotesque moment in American history on national television, yet doing nothing else about its historical effects on the community today. (Editor’s note: Same.)

Awards shows, in general, typically tend to be a self-congratulatory and masturbatory fest, even with the roasting. So, of course, the compliment cornucopia was more of that hyper-self-awareness. Like, “We’re going to do a little something different than the egocentric roasting and focus on self-aggrandizing, instead, but ironically. Hee-hee, ha-ha!”


Oh, Hollywood, you’re such a card.

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Tonja Renée Stidhum

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.