Black Panther, the 18th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first one with a majority black cast and crew, has smashed a whole lot of Hollywood preconceptions. It’s the highest-grossing film by a black director in Hollywood history. It’s the best-reviewed superhero movie ever, earning a 98 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s set the new standard for February releases, bringing in a colossal $192 million that month. It’s broken so many records! But it’s broken another thing too – a teenager’s retainer! And it was all the fault of star Michael B. Jordan.
Michael B. Jordan is rising up the ranks as one of Hollywood’s hottest new talents. His performances in films such as Fruitvale Station and Creed, both directed by Black Panther helmer Ryan Coogler, earned him lots of praise. Even the flop of 2015’s Fantastic Four, in which he played the Human Torch, didn’t put a dent in his career.
And in 2018 Jordan appeared as Erik Killmonger in Black Panther. He was a villain, but he was a sympathetic one, and critics praised Jordan’s performance for making him that way. “The real reason that Black Panther is so marvelous is its villain, Erik Killmonger, played by Creed star Michael B. Jordan,” read an article in Forbes.
Jordan was clearly an excellent actor, and there was no denying that he was also very good looking. He didn’t seem to know he was good looking either, which only added to the appeal. In 2017, ET approached him at San Diego Comic Con and asked him how he felt about being a sex symbol. “Who, me?” Jordan asked, laughing.
Millions of people worldwide disagreed with that “Who, me?” Jordan had built up a big fanbase, and it increased tenfold with the release of Black Panther. In one particular Black Panther scene, Killmonger as played by Jordan takes off his shirt. In doing so, he shows off the hundreds of scars on his skin, one for each person he’s killed. Creepy!… But still kinda hot.
One American teenager definitely thought so. Sophia Robb, a student from San Francisco who posts on Twitter under the name “pixyrue,” suffered a slightly embarrassing incident during a showing of Black Panther. On seeing Jordan remove his shirt, she was overcome. So much so that she pressed her tongue against her retainer and broke it.
Robb had to shamefacedly head to the orthodontist to get it fixed. The dentists there did their work but were very amused by the story. And one of them couldn’t resist but mention it on the internet. On Tumblr, a user posting under the name “nitramaraho” dropped the anecdote under a gif of Erik Killmonger sans his shirt.
“One of my patients came in for an emergency visit, because she snapped the wire on her retainer watching the movie when MBJ took his shirt off,” he wrote. “She clenched her teeth so f**king hard she snapped it. This tiny 17 year old girl thirsting so goddamn hard she busted steel.” And the internet wasn’t about to let a story like that go unremarked on.
Needless to say, it quickly got back to Robb. She was utterly, hilariously horrified. “Wait. That girl is me. That is my orthodontist’s tumblr. This is a post about me? I’m going to kill myself,” she wrote. “This is literally my orthodontist and he’s the chillest person I have ever met even though he EXPOSED ME ON THE INTERNET.”
That same day, in between frantically fielding off memes about retainers and comments saying that she shouldn’t have owned up, she suggested, “Can we get @michaelb4jordan to see this please.” But first, Buzzfeed asked her for an interview, and she accepted. “You know what? What do I have to lose. Sure,” she told a Buzzfeed staff member in a conversation she screenshotted.
Robb wanted to get it straight, first of all, that she was really 18 and not 17. Then she elaborated a little on the story. “It was the scene where Killmonger took his shirt off for the battle to become king of Wakanda. I pressed my tongue against my permanent retainer and clenched my jaw so hard that the wire disconnected from my teeth.”
She also wanted to discuss the phenomenon that Black Panther had become. As a biracial person, she told Buzzfeed, she had been very excited to see a film that had a majority black cast. “It honestly was worth breaking my retainer over,” she said. And she was also asked to rate Jordan’s hotness from 0 to 10. “Michael is a 15/10 without a doubt.”
People were full of delight at the story. “The most relatable thing ever. We’ve all busted steel fangirling over someone, you’re not alone in this,” someone wrote to Robb. “Of all people, @michaelb4jordan was worth it and I hope he sees this,” she answered back. And maybe he would! Her original post racked up hundreds of thousands of likes and reblogs.
However, some people wondered if Robb’s orthodontist had done something illegal by “exposing” her. Someone sent a message to his account asking “Did you violate HIPAA?” HIPAA, aka the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is the legislation that bans medical professionals from leaking information about their patients. “Since my post didn’t have any identifying information – nope,” he answered.
And just one day later, Robb’s dream came true. First, Jordan followed her on Twitter, and she was thrilled. “RIP my retainer @michaelb4jordan I am HONORED and GRATEFUL,” she wrote. And then a few hours later, something even more exciting happened. The actor she thirsted for sent a tweet directly to her!
“@pixyrue since I feel partly responsible for breaking your retainers, let me know if I can replace them,” Jordan wrote, alongside a laughter emoji. Apparently, he messaged her privately as well, because on the same day Robb posted a tweet that read, “Michael B Jordan replied to my DM wow this is the best day of my life.”
In the end, however, Jordan’s act of generosity wasn’t needed. Robb explained to Syfy Wire on March 7 that her insurance would pay for the retainer. “He was sweet for offering, though.” Many people said the exact same thing to Jordan himself – underneath his Twitter post offering the payment, fans told him how awesome he was. (Several others pretended to have broken their own retainers.)
Robb told Buzzfeed her feelings on the whole affair. “I think people who are like ‘you exposed yourself’ are hilarious because of course I did! It’s a funny story and I’m not embarrassed about it. If anything it speaks to how great of a movie Black Panther is,” she said. And the whole world agrees with her on that last one. On March 10, Black Panther hit a billion dollars in box office takings.
The incredible success of Black Panther is great news for all of the actors who appeared in it, but it’s done even more than made a killing at the box office. It’s considered to be a game-changer for black representation in film, and it’s been hailed as “revolutionary” and “radical” by media outlets such as the BBC. There will almost definitely be a sequel, although (spoiler alert!) Jordan may not appear in it, as Killmonger was killed at the end of the movie.
Yet it’s a comic book movie, so who knows? He could be back. But in the meantime, Jordan has plenty of upcoming projects, including a television film of Fahrenheit 451 and a possible role as Morpheus in a prequel to The Matrix. However, no news as of yet whether he’ll take his shirt off in either of those movies. Hold onto your retainers, ladies!