After all our waiting and hope, Black Panther delivers.
SPOILERS! SPOILERS SPOILERS!
THE SIZE OF GIANT WELL-TRAINED BATTLE RHINOS AHEAD!
YOU BEEN WARNED!
So unless you’ve been trapped under a rock in Latveria, you know that a movie about Wakanda’s favorite son has taken over theaters. From New York to Brazil to Puerto Rico to Accra and Nairobi, Black Panther showed up and Black folks showed out. I don’t think I’ve seen a Diaspora cultural moment like this in a long while. And it was damn beautiful.
So, I’m not going to make this long. Because after all, everybody’s got their reviews and think pieces and what not. Just going to say a few points, and let you go on your way.
Rating: A Gotdamn A!
Before Black Panther came out, there was nervous and anxious excitement. It’s a creative endeavor after all. And even a good story line can FLOP. Need I remind you of the horror and travesty that was The Last Airbender? (AVERT YOUR EYES!) On twitter I saw someone voice our greatest fears: “What if the movie’s terrible?” The stoic answer was, “Then we fake it family. We fake it.” But we don’t have to fake it. With Ryan Coogler at the helm and an all-star cast out of Black dreams, the movie did its job. It did everything it needed to and then some. It did everything it should do, and more. It. just. delivered. Period.
Some of us been waiting to see Wakanda on the screen for decades. When Avengers 2 had its brief moment in Africa, folk were so desperate some were wondering Wakanda? Those in the know were like, naaah. We know what Wakanda look like. We got our first glimpse at the end of Captain America: Civil War. A damn tease! But mouth-watering. This time we got to see it in full: a Wakanda spread out before us in all its Afrofuturist glory. Not only was it designed like the futurist city we’d expect it to be, it came with a distinct African aesthetic. This wasn’t something out of a western motif with some kente or mudcloth slapped on it. If you paid close attention, there were hints of African-geometric designs and architecture everywhere, both ancient and modern. As designers Hannah Beachler and Ruth Carter put it: “We started digging deeper and grabbing textures from Timbuktu scaffolding and Mali pyramids…The city also has a district called Steptown, where the hipsters wear clothes with, Carter says, “an Afro-Punk feel.” The unique nature of it all–down to ships that looked and moved like locusts–was refreshingly original. Wakanda, as I’d hoped, doesn’t look all clean and white like a Macbook. It doesn’t look like something out of Star Wars or Blade Runner either. It looks, like it should.
How to make a comic book movie that isn’t just another origin story that no one wants to sit through? You tell a classic tale of an inexperienced ruler doubtful of his power while forces threaten his kingdom. And you make him earn that throne. The back story of Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and his attempt to bring down T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) was that classic–but told against the setting of the African Diaspora, and the legacies of slavery, colonialism, estrangement, and race. The narrtive made sure it kept going. Not at breakneck speeds, but at a decent clip to keep your interest. And it ends with the satisfying feeling you get when a storyteller does their job well. It’s been said there was a FOUR hour version of this film, before it was edited. Hey Marvel Studios: release the 4 hour version. We’ll watch it. We’ll even go back to the theater. Make it happen.
Trust Black Women
It’s been said by many, but Black Panther has done more for women in the super hero genre than probably any other movie with superheroes. Yes, even Wonder Woman. Sorry, DC. From Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) to the genius scientist and inventor Shuri (Letitia Wright) to OF COURSE, everyone’s favorite warriors the Dora Milaje, (invented in 1998 by writer Christopher Priest and modeled after Black supermodels Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell), women were a prime force in this film. They weren’t just the power behind the throne. They pushed, pulled, lifted and held up the hero. They were like endless Hermiones, but who could also fight and whoop ass. I mean Okoye (Danai Gurira) was beating folk down with her wig and Nakia wrecked shop in some heels! Shuri was like the inventor dude for 007. But younger. And with better tech. And great one-liners. What made Black Panther so thrilling was that it emphasized the group, the village, the community, of which these women were central. The film might be named after the hero, but without these Black women around him he’d (literally) be dead.
An African Grab-Bag
Someone I know from Nigeria said watching BP was like watching an African grab-bag. There was stuff from multiple cultures. The clothing was a mishmash of various fabrics and styles. The actors all had different accents divided by countries and regions. There were ethnic groups blended together. The Dora Miljae alone were a cross between the “Amazons” of Dahomey and Massai warriors. She called it “dizzying” to her senses. And of course it was. Black Panther, despite its origins by two white guys (Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) in 1966, has gone on to take a life of its own in the Black imagination. It was picked up by Black writers like Christopher Priest and Reginald Hudlin, who imbued it with Afrocentric, anti-colonial, Black meaning. It’s long been infused with more meaning from fans, and by other writers from Ta-Nehisi Coates to Roxanne Gay. Like the Pan-Africanism that defines it (whose modern origins trace to figures like the Trinidadian Henry Sylvester-Williams) the idea of Wakanda is a thing born in the West, by descendants of Africa ripped from their natal homeland and put on slave ships bound for distant, unknown shores. It is part Countee Cullen’s Heritage asking, “What is Africa to me?” and the syncretism of Candomble in Brazil or Vodun in Haiti. It is Fela’s Afrobeat reaching out from the continent to touch the many Black musical/cultural styles of the Diaspora, to bring them back home to create something new. It’s why my Grenadian wife is in love with Afro-Soca. So yeah. It’s a hodgepodge. It’s a grab-bag. And that’s what makes it so beautiful.
Perhaps one of the greatest things this film did was recast some of the problematic features of the earlier Black Panther comic books–something black writers been doing since Christopher Priest. Case in point, the supervillain Man-Ape who first appeared in Avengers #62 (March 1969), the creation of Marvel writers Roy Thomas and John Buscema. Man-Ape, whose name is M’Baku, is a rival to T’Challa. He gained his superpowers after killing a scared white gorilla and bathing in his blood. He aso leads a society that practices strange exotic rituals, and whose ultimate aim is to conquer Wakanda and return it to state of “primitivism.” Yeah. Suffice it to say, Man-Ape comes with lots of problems. It’s almost as if, with Africa as a backdrop, Marvel couldn’t help going all Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness meets noble savage trope. Given the long derogatory association of Black people with other primates, it was always wince-worthy. It seems Ryan Coogler and the writers thought the same, and wasn’t having any of it. They actually managed to give M’Baku a new life. He’s still a rival. The association with the gorilla is still there, though no one calls him Man-Ape. Thank the gods. And he’s no noble savage. He even makes a joke at a white character’s expense threatening cannibalism, only to point out that he and his people are actually vegetarians. Actor Winston Duke brings a sense of gravitas to M’Baku and humanity that’s long been missing. In the end, he even shows up like some Eagles in Middle Earth to save the day–and is granted a place in Wakanda. A reminder that sometimes all you need is someone with a different perspective to set some problems right.
I probably like Black Panther in part just because of all the Black Joy it was bringing. All the dashikis and waxprint headwraps and put-together digs. All the excitement. You seen these kids dancing when they found out they were going to see the film? And this dude that came as King Jaffe Joffer from Coming to America? Look at these young Dora Miljae! Gah! How can you see that and not be happy to be Black and alive in these Black times? It was a global Black celebration, and all you needed for the invite was the skin you were born in. Yes, yes. Everyone else is welcome too. (Wakanda is accepting 3-day visas. Just don’t touch nothing). But this was something special for Black folks. And Coogler knew it, because there were some Diaspora level Black jokes interspersed throughout. From Killmonger’s “Hey Auntie” to Nakia’s “Don’t scare me like that, colonizer!” You might get them jokes if you ain’t Black. But they really spoke to who this movie thought was its most important audience.
One of the most frustrating things about liking a new Black star in Hollywood, has often been the fear you’d never see them again. Case in point, ever wondered what became of Tyrin Turner? Not familiar? He played Caine in the 1993 film Menace II Society. Acted his ass off. Everyone was sure he’d be destined for great things. And then nothing happened. Read that sad story here. Honestly, even Larenz Tate didn’t become the super megastar we expected. Meanwhile, Brendon Fraser is invited back for The Mummy in Space. That’s whiteness and political economy 101. Black Panther had lots of big established names like Angela Bassett and Forrest Whitaker. It also had names of folks who are doing well right now, from Chadwick Boseman to Lupita Nyong’o to Michael B. Jordan. But there were also some new names, among them Winston Duke (M’Baku, who has fueled 100 erotic Twitter threads) and the lesser known Letitia Wright (Nakia). Hoping that we get to see more of their faces in more things going forward. Make them the breakout stars they deserve to be.
The usual man-children were crying that Black Panther wasn’t diverse. Forget that there were two prominent white characters in the film, because there was lots of other diversity. Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett, Forrest Whitaker and others in the cast were African-American. Letitia Wright is from Guyana. Winston Duke is from Trinidad and Tobago. Dani Gurira’s parents are from Zimbabwe. Lupita Nyong’o is Kenyan-Mexican (yup. look it up). Daniel Kaluuya is a British actor from Uganda. Florence Kusumba (Captain Ayo) is a German actress from Uganda. Atandwa Kani (who plays T’Challa’s father’s younger self) is South African. Another of the Dora Miljae, Sydelle Noel, is from Grenada. And I’ll stop, but there’s more. That’s four continents and two Caribbean islands. Pretty damn diverse if you ask me. Next.
Killmonger was Wrong. AS HELL.
Let me say my piece on this whole Killmonger thing. There’s been an argument made that Killmonger, in his revolutionary politics, “was right.” There were some who saw Killmonger’s attempt to start the Black revolution on a global scale and said, “what’s the problem?” He’s picking up arms to fight against the oppressor, instead of sitting back chilling in Wakanda. How is that wrong? As someone said, “Let me find out there’s some N-words hiding under a magic sheet while the rest of us out here catching hell…see what happens! ” (sorry, can’t remember who. but family, that’s hilarious!). I empathize with the sentiment. It’s a new version of Magneto was Right. There was even a decent critique I thought of how Killmonger’s failure in the end fits the age-old Hollywood trope of silencing Black radicalism. And that it diminishes African-American male characters by portraying Killmonger as a “thug” who tattoos up his body with each kill. Check it out here.
I see your argument. But I’mma have to respectfully disagree. And here’s why.
Killmonger was a Monster. He wasn’t (as that article insinuates) supposed to be a product of the American streets. He was a product of American militarism–like Al Simmons or, worse, Chapel. He was trained to destabilize governments. He used African scarifications to show off all the people around the world, some his “own brothers and sisters” he’d killed as a tool of western imperialism. And he would bring those same horrors, along with his personal demons, to Wakanda. Killmonger talked a good game of revolution, but he was also ready to kill the very folk he claimed to want to save who didn’t go along. He’d kill a million Wakandans if it meant it would further his ends. Hell, he brutalized more Black women alone. That’s not revolutionary. That’s megalomania and toxic masculinity masquerading as radicalism. Killmonger wasn’t Huey P. Newton (early Huey); he was more Idi Amin: using anti-colonial and Pan-African rhetoric to rule with an iron fist. What would be the point of replacing one oppressor with another? In fact, a good friend of mine (a Pan-Africanist to his core) and I were chopping this up and he made a great point. Killmonger’s character wasn’t the diminishing of Black radical politics; it was the diminishing of the idea that this kind of toxic radicalism is the only way to be radical. Instead of Killmonger in the fashion of Idi Amin, or the unfortunate legacies of too many postcolonial states, what if the radical was Amílcar Cabral, or Joseph Nyerere or Patrece Lumumba or Wangari Maathai? And the film gave us someone like that–Nakia.
Nakia, like Killmonger, wanted to help the wider world. She went out and did missions to save oppressed people. She had her own radical politics. But she didn’t need mass murder, or to stage a coup, to do it. Maybe it says something that we so easily see the brash, hyper-masculine, loud, and charismatic radical politics of someone like Killmonger–but not the quiet, but no less determined, radicalism in a woman like Nakia.
And that’s all I gotta say about that. But the fact that we are having this deeper convo over a comic book, is dope AF.
No film is perfect. And while I don’t have many critiques, I got some.
(1) The use of the word tribe was prevalent throughout the film. Since the 1970s, there’s been a hope to move away from the term as a colonial relic–because, there’s really no such thing. To quote John Reader: “The idea of tribes was brought to Africa for several reasons…. It was easier to place people into categories based on perceived divisions of ethnicity than it was to try to understand the multi-layered, fluid identities that prevailed…. colonial authorities found that placing people into “tribes” with “chiefs” was an effective way of creating a political order.” I wrote about this whole thing back in 2013, in a post called “Against the Word Tribe.” The reality is though, this is a movement mostly among Africanists and African intellectuals in academia or in social activism. The moratorium on “tribe” hasn’t filtered into the public consciousness, not in the West or within African popular culture–or, at least, there’s no consensus on it. Would have been great though, if the film imagining a futurist version of Africa could have let go of that colonial vestige.
(2) Killmonger is a complex villain, and being so, he has his problematics. Even after saying all I did above, I did squirm at the optics: that the Black American guy raised in the West and outside the light of Wakanda was the monster. Yes, the movie gave itself an out in the fact that he was U.S. military-trained. That he was a product of Western imperialism and its toxicity. Still, was that out enough to take that nagging feeling away in the back of my head? Nah. Still there. Still nagging. But this is a larger problem with the concept of Wakanda that’s long existed. To have this futurist and near unspoiled Black Eden, you need its opposite: to depict the nations of our real-life Africa as utterly broken by colonialism; to create Blacks in the West who are the descendants of slaves as “deaf, dumb, and blind.” Our real-life stories are a lot more complicated than that of course. That’s what sites like Everyday Africa are trying to work against. And we in the West, whose ancestors endured the Middle Passage, have thrived as well as survived. I hope Wakanda’s new outreach takes this into account, otherwise they might end up just being new-age missionaries.
(3) Last, I wanted to see MORE of Wakanda! We ended up mostly in the throne room, or in the vibranium mines, got a few glimpses at the street life, and were treated to some great panoramas. But really wanted to see the ins-and-outs of the city. All its parts. How it works. Where regular folk live. Hell, it’s sewer systems. What kinda plumbing they got in Wakanda? What’s the local sports scene like? Ah well, maybe next time.
So those are my few random thoughts. Did I say it was gonna be short? Hey, I tried. In the meantime, if you ain’t seen Black Panther yet–go do it! If you seen it already, go do it again! And I’ll leave you with this thought that’ll give you shivers–SPIN OFFS!
You hit the nail on the head with Kilmonger. I will never ride with a despot, not even a despot who shares my skin color and speaks of African liberation and self determination. Because in the end, what do you have? A despot. And what are despots good at? Killing, destroying, suppressing and oppressing. Kilmonger represented that element. Excellent point about Nakia. She indeed was the one pushing for Wakanda to end its isolationism and use its resources to help the world. Her model of engagement was a lot more constructive than Kilmonger’s.
I love this piece. You mirrored my thoughts pretty much exactly. A friend of mine brought up the CIA operative being a hero as problematic. I’d have to agree frankly. I didn’t really understand why that character was in the movie at all, tbh.
Thanks for the read! Everett Ross I think is in there because he’s an ode to Christopher Priest, who created him for Black Panther back in 98′. Basically, he was intended to be a kind of pun: a nerdy small white guy who ends up in Wakanda as a fish out of water and who holds these naive stereotypes about black people and Africa and has to be corrected and shown up from time to time.
As Priest put it: “Comics are traditionally created by white males for white males. I figured, and I believe rightly, that for Black Panther to succeed, it needed a white male at the center, and that white male had to give voice to the audience’s misgivings or apprehensions or assumptions about this character and this book. Ross needed to be un-PC to the point of being borderline racist …I don’t think Ross was racist at all. I just think that his stream of conscious narrative is a window into things I imagine many whites say or at least think when no blacks are around; myths about black culture and behavior.”
This looks so great and so detailed, that I’m going to get myself off to see the movie and read your whole post afterward!
Thanks for the read! Enjoy the movie!
Thanks. This was wonderful to read. I’m not familiar with comics, but adored the movie. You widened my perspective. Share more thoughts on Wakanda, please.
Thanks for the read!
Dude, love this. Just saw the movie and the first thing I did when I came home was read this. Your take on Killmonger and his connection to Idi Amin made so much sense. The idea of the despot is not taken very seriously or the rhetoric of saving the oppressed. I also see the theme of revenge poisoning one’s heart(which we see in T’Challa’s moment with Zemo) recurring in Wakabi. I think him and Okoye have a lot to talk about. Great article. As always.
Thanks man! We need to meet up in BK, drink many German beers, and chop it up about this flick!
I personally agree to your main points on Killmonger in terms of basic morals. But wasn’t he just making moves that have historically been successful? Morality has been cast aside time and time again, for “the greater good” it seems in European and American colonization models. And successfully so by and large. What examples does he have of success if he was to go the peaceful/diplomatic route?
I get the argument you’re making. You’re right. Killmonger sure was following history. And that is the crux of the problem. He didn’t want to try and make Wakanda a success on Wakanda’s terms. He wanted to do it on the colonizers terms. He wanted to recreate European hegemony, but with a Wakanda face. That’s not really liberation. That’s trading out one oppressor for another. Because if history has taught us anything, and in postcolonial Africa at that, reproducing the old colonial structures in hold onto power has been disastrous. And the people that tend to most suffer from those attempts, are the people who the “leader” claims he’s working on behalf. The mass graves in Killmonger’s Wakanda of the “disappeared” who dared defy even a sliver of his rule would have been epic.
I agree, morally, with your points on Killmonger. But I’m trying to think what successful examples he has as far as how to Make the African Diaspora Great Again.
The state of Israel may be one. China, today, may be another. But doesn’t it take some harsh policies at some point for the so-called “greater good”? of a specific culture/society/nation to thrive. I think that shows in the Jewish diaspora coming together in Israel. And I think it shows in the Chinese model for success in how they navigated their own version of communism with some harsh policies.
If Killmonger’s goal is not just revenge, but to allow for black people to thrive everywhere with Wakandan technology at the front of that prosperity, it seems like he would lean towards his training and British and American colonization tactics. Those two being pretty much the standards for success in that arena.
So if these are proven to be successful time and time again, is it not the right way to do things, for “the greater good”?
I have some time before Sat brunch, so here goes. Cuz you ask some pretty poignant questions that I think have long been a part of discourse in the anti-colonial and then post-colonial struggle.
I’ve seen this comparison model before. Usually though, it’s this idea of Ethiopia having managed to do what Japan did in the late nineteenth to early 20th century, becoming an industrialized power on par with much of the European world. A lot of this is based on the comparisons of Japan defeating the Russians in 1905 and Ethiopia defeating the Italians in 1896–and how the two nations took such different paths during that time. But, as I always ask, how do you separate this Japanese-modeled Ethiopia from the history we know happens? So Ethiopia becomes completely industrialized. It borrows it’s military tactics from Prussia. Its industry from Germany and America. It creates a British parliament style government with the Ethiopian Emperor at its head. And we’ll pretend, like Japan, it has some significant trading purpose for which the American navies bombard its shores forcing it to open. Then what? Does this Ethiopia also follow along the path of Japanese militarism? Does this Ethiopia eventually by the 1930s for a militaristic fascist rulership around the emperor? Does it pick up racialist theories of its superiority to other Africans? Does it then invade surrounding African countries under the ruse of “liberating” it from European colonizers only to place it under Japanese control? Which nearby African country becomes the stand in for Korea which it turns into an Ethiopian colony and then forces thousands of local African women into sex slaves to serve Ethiopian troops? Which African nation gets to be the stand-in for China, which Ethiopian troops will invade, commit atrocious war crimes, and cause up to 14 million deaths? Which Ethiopian cities eventually are destroyed by Fat Man and Little Boy?
That’s what I tend to think when I see analogies made to African versions of Israel or China. That we have to take the WHOLE histories, not just the end results we may admire today. Though even those “admirations” perhaps need investigating? Not to mention, didn’t some postcolonial nations implement similar policies to create “mono states” with a preferred ethnic identity? How did those work out?
I would hope that in 2018, our fictitious Wakanda would decide that those aren’t any of the routes they want to take towards liberation or power. Perhaps they fear that Killmonger’s way, learned from the very people he claims to despise, will almost inevitably end along the same path. And, based on history’s teachings, they plot a new way.
Now I gotta go brunch. Good talk.
(Edited for attempted brevity)
Am I trippin’ or is my comment getting deleted? I posted twice…..?
No worries, not a conspiracy. I get trolls from time to time. And they like to post inhumane things. So I personally approve anyone posting for the first time. Which is most people.
Reblogged this on adaratrosclair and commented:
#BlackPantherMovie Spoilers await you, so click elsewhere if you haven’t seen it yet! 😀
I enjoyed reading your post and you saved me a whole lot of heartache. My husband and I had some deep discussions about Killmonger’s role. I love how you pointed out his ability to disable governments and such, which is a negative part of his agenda. However, what hurt as I watched the movie is that Killmonger wasn’t given the opportunity to be “healed” or for the brainwashing that he endured (self-hate, historical trauma (http://www.umsl.edu/services/cps/files/ross-presentation.pdf) on a more insidious level, which happens to a lot of Blacks I think. I understand that the brainwashing that the Winter Soldier endured was different, but I still think that the Wakandas could have rehabilitated Killmonger and saved him, too. I wanted my happily ever after, man! Lol. It’s Disney, y’know? Lol.
Thanks for reading! LOL. I love that this flick causes folk heartache and has sparked so many diaspora level conversations. That meant it did its job! I
Me and my lady had this dame thought/wish.
The film had some great action scenes. And the cinematography was amazing! It was cool seeing African culture and traditions on the big screen as well. And I think a lot of black people liked seeing a mostly black cast that weren’t pimps,drug dealers,whores,slaves or side kicks to white stars. I also think many black children would like to see themselves as superheroes. I know the power of representation and how it can mold the mind of a child. Not to mention the powerful black women in the film. But having said all that,I think the film was still a lot of propaganda. For one,the film was capitalizing off of the culture differences between continental Africans and African Americans. When I first heard about this film I thought it would be a cool Afro-futuristic film that would bring the African diaspora together. Something that black children all over the world could celebrate. Instead it was a film that although looks beautiful on the surface,it has a horrible message. A superhero is supposed to represent for their people and their struggle. But instead they made Killmonger out to be a crazy bloodthirsty maniac. Why was he written that way? It’s because his cause was righteous but they don’t want the masses to empathize with him. So they purposely wanted him to appear as crazy lunatic. He spoke the most truth throughout the film. I remember when he dropped some truth the audience it got real quiet. Truth does that to people quite a bit. We’ve seen this pattern before. Koba in Planet of the Apes and Magneto in X Men. The most insulting part is they had a white CIA agent stop the revolution from happening. What the hell??? I guess you can’t have a film with black people without a white savior. I also find it interesting that although Killmonger had a birthright they treated him like an outsider. Yet the white CIA agent is accepted with open arms. And Panther’s sister Shuri even showed him all the technology in the lab. Now if you know the history of the CIA and FBI you know they have infiltrate the organizations of Martin Luther King,Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. They find out information to destroy all black movements. So you can see this film is teaching black children to trust the CIA. It’s almost like they’re trying to rewrite history. That is a very dangerous message. Just research Cointelpro if you don’t believe me. This is the reason that Killmonger was from Oakland where the Panthers originated. I also saw the Huey Newton poster in the background when Killmonger went to the spiritual realm. They were tying him to black revolutionary groups and demonizing those that fought for justice and equality. We must keep in mind that this film is from white-owned Disney. They are sending a strong message to black people. You live in a racist society that dominates you. But you better not resist. Just get comfortable with being a second class citizen. That’s why I say this film was propaganda from start to finish. Killmonger was an unlikable hero with the right ideology. Panther was a likable villain with the wrong ideology. This is the message Disney wants to convey. What do you think?
The way Killmonger was written (by design), I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he was a “hero” and I wouldn’t say that Black Panther is a “villain” because it’s not so cut and dry and black and white as we need it to be. It’s more complicated than that. Though I don’t agree with everything you mentioned, I liked your comment because it brings up deep and painful issues that may be overlooked by most people who go and see the movie. Some will dodge addressing these issues by saying things like it’s only entertainment and not to take it too seriously.
I guess Killmonger wasn’t so much a villain but an anti-hero of sorts. But I guess they both had their faults which is why people are so divided. But I’m glad people are talking about these things. Thanks for the comment Monique.
You’re welcome, Kushite Prince. 🙂 A pleasure.
Breh. That was a lot. I can’t begin to address it all. The great thing about movies (like all art) is that they are open to myriad interpretations. All I’ll say is this: I don’t think any Black folk from Brooklyn to Brazil to Nairobi, left Black Panther thinking “colonization is great. we shouldn’t fight back. Black Panther is a villain. let’s enjoy being 2nd class citizens.” Like nobody. Nowhere. Nada. Where they at? In fact, it’s been a moment where Black folk worldwide have celebrated Black Pride. Where they’ve talked about the importance of indigenous African culture. Where they’ve openly critiqued colonialism. I don’t get any vibes from Wakanda or T’Challa that says “go along and get along.” Not wanting to build an empire based on western modes of imperialism and dictatorship (Killmonger’s approach) doesn’t mean Wakanda and T’Challa don’t protect themselves and employ violence in self-defense when required. Nothing about them says, “hey world, walk right in and take over.” Killmonger was NOT fighting for justice and equality. He was fighting for power based on the colonialist tactics he’d adopted. That ain’t liberation. It’s just power. Nakia was the real deal. I get that you’re going all Theodor Adorno here about the hegemony of Hollywood (and in this case Disney) but IMO, it’s never that cut and dry and hegemonic. Whatever the intent of the creator is (and I don’t see Ryan Coogler as some “white-Disney CIA puppet and stooge”–more like the Spook Who Sat by the Door) the audience is going to receive those messages and interpret them as they see fit.
Also, I know we’re getting really serious here about a SFF flick (which is dope!) but I think its good to remind the source material is a comic book where Killmonger’s character is already well-established. He’s also the bad guy, because it fits the story that’s part of a larger bit of worldbuilding. I mean, just as a storyteller, where do I take things if Killmonger got his way? Wakanda is now an empire who goes out to conquer the world…then what? WWIII in which the rest of the Earth goes to war with Wakanda? Dark stuff. Kinda screws up the MCU.
One of the things I think that BP has that we’ve asked for so long–is a mostly Black cast, complete with black heroes/heroines and…VILLAINS. The villain here could have been Klaw. But he got offed real quick, and instead we had the internal divisions (on a Diasporic scale) as the driving plot. We got a Black villain for a Black film. And he was complicated–on purpose. That’s why we’re still talking about him. Also why Coogler’s use of him was so genius. In the end, he lost, but he also won. He forced Wakanda to question its isolationism and confront the fact that it has been MIA regarding the Diaspora. T’Challa chastised his ancestors for their selfishness and has begun to engage the larger world, and the Black world in particular. Wakanda is now Pan-African. And seems intent to empowering black people around the world, but using Nakia’s method instead of empire. I don’t see how that furthers the cause of colonialism at all.
Now you done made me write a whole lot!
Good talk tho!
Wow! That was a nice response.lol I’ve been dropping that reply on different blog to get a good response. That might be the best one yet. The last two weeks I’ve seen countless debates on this film on Facebook,Twitter,Wordpress and Instagram. I’m glad it’s gotten people talking about black unity,black power,African culture,religion,spirituality and nation building. I never thought a comic book film could create this type of dialogue. But the I love hearing all the different opinions. My belief is that people see different things depending on their level of consciousness. And how much they know about race relations,culture,esoteric knowledge,ancient history and occult knowledge. If you don’t have much knowledge on those things you’ll only see things on the surface level. And believe me,there was quite a few subliminal messages in this film. But thanks for that great comment. I’ll have to drop by here again. Peace.
Glad I could oblige. 🙂 And yes, to put it another way, we all bring our accumulated share of knowledge, beliefs, etc. to any film (or media in general). For good, or ill.
This has been an interesting year as a kid who was airlifted out of the DRC back in the nineties. Seeing the optics on characters like Killmonger in Black Panther and Doomfist in Overwatch, it oftentimes makes me scared how quickly people will clamor for warlords. It means a lot you were able to say things I have dealt with in my own mind so eloquently. Thank you for putting out your take. It’s one that I’ve needed to see, specfically from a member of the Diaspora who hadn’t been directly in contact with the issues it brought up.
Gregory, thanks for the reply. And so happy you found some worth in my review, particularly regarding Killmonger. At the least, glad we got to have this Diaspora level conversation.