With Black Panther being one of the most successful films of 2018 it's no surprise that merchandise celebrating the Marvel film and character would be a big part of the holiday season. However, it's the marketing of some of that merchandise that leaves little to be celebrated as Forever 21 discovered on Tuesday.
The fast-fashion retailer shared a photo and link for their Wakanda Forever Fair Isle Sweater to Twitter today. Nothing wrong with that, it's a common way retailers advertise their offerings. The problem? Well, just take a look at the now-deleted tweet below.
As you can see, Forever 21 opted to use a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, very white man to model the Black Panther-themed sweater complete with the "Wakanda Forever" slogan and Black Panther mask adorning the front. Now, this isn't to say that there is anything wrong with a white person appreciating Black Panther-related merchandise. Both the blockbuster film and the Marvel Comics character the film is based upon have wide appeal to readers of all races, genders, and identities. It just feels like something that, considering the film is about a black superhero, probably should have been featured on a black model -- which Forever 21 does feature on their website. In fact there is a black sweater with a yellow panther print currently on the website that is modeled by a black model.
This isn't the first time Black Panther merchandise has gotten some negative attention thanks to what some might term "whitewashing". Earlier this year, Disney came under fire when a collectible Black Panther pin available at Disney theme parks were revealed by The Disney Pin Blog to have a remarkably light-skinned appearance than one might expect for Chadwick Boseman's heroic King T'Challa. In that case, the pin appeared to have some sort color variation possibly due to paint differences or even lightning in photos, though fans were troubled by the pin's lighter-appearing coloring.
As for Forever 21's sweater issue, while the tweet may have been deleted, sweater -- as worn by the white model -- remains on the website at the time of this article though clicking on it redirects you to the yellow and black sweater option instead and social media plenty to say about it. Read on for a sampling of the reactions to Forever 21's Black Panther sweater snafu and be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Avengers: Infinity War is now available on home video. Upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movies include Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019, Avengers: Endgame on April 26, 2019, and Spider-Man: Far From Home on July 5, 2019.
This definitely ain't it.
This Oprah meme is accurate.
But they got the whitest kid you know wearing the sweater... pic.twitter.com/NrzaFFeO9q— Prince of Gwangju (@KirstiQueTee) December 18, 2018
Forever 21 might want to rethink this.
None of this would have happened if Wakanda had just stayed closed.
See what when they cap and buckey in a purple dude wipe out half the universe. #KeepWhitePeopleOutOfWakandaForever— Akai (@AkaiLee28) December 18, 2018
IM DYING "T'CHAD"— ✨✨✨✨bri✨✨✨✨ (@genosari) December 18, 2018