The King Lives #Wakanda Forever
In honor of a recent movie that came out and meant so much to the black community, I am going to make this post about my thoughts on…….
First of all, let me start by saying that I was a superhero fan before hearing about and then watching this movie, so while the cast being predominantly black (which to me is a completely valid reason in itself) had some influence on me going to see the movie, it wasn’t the only reason. It is evident though that the casting has influenced me in some way because I’ve read and seen other comics with other superheroes and had not been moved enough to see their movie, (for example I have yet to see the first Ant-Man movie let alone the second one) which explains why I find myself having to catch up before the next movie Avengers: Infinity War comes out.
From a fangirl point of view, I loved the way they made the movie reference the comic in a way that people who hadn’t seen any comics could understand. An example of this is when Shuri raised her hand when they were asking for challengers to fight T’Challa for the crown. In a cartoon version that I’ve seen, Shuri really did want to fight him for the spot and this reference in the movie moved Marvel fans to the edge of their seats because we never got to see the fight in the cartoon either.
(this is Killmonger and T’Challa)
Secondly, I think that the movie did a good job of being inclusive both of people who are comic-book and superhero fans as well as those that aren’t. It was also inclusive of people who would be against the cast of Black Panther saying that it was “too black.”
The comics and smaller level cartoons touch on very politically strong things, for example in one version of Black Panther one of the elders insinuated that the United States did not need (or even deserve) the help of Wakanda in relation to cancer saying that “If they care[d] about their people’s health they wouldn’t sell cigarettes.” This, of course, is a valid point, if the United States is okay with selling cancer to people then their main interest is obviously money. In turn, this means that it is likely that if given the cure to cancer, they would sell it at a price that reaps them the most benefit and also keeps it out of the hands of the people who need it the most.
To me, such messages would’ve been too much to bring into an environment where this is some people’s first exposure to T’Challa and Wakanda. Choosing to display a group of black people who have technology that is elite to the rest of the world is a political statement in itself, especially in a time where black people are seen as worthless and lazy. Obviously, the movie does bring up other political points as mentioned in this article on The Atlantic. Wakanda choosing to keep their resources and technology to themselves effectively left other people to fend for themselves, which is not a to be overlooked by my above statement.
As an African American Black Panther was a movie that we (other African American people) could unify around because it presented black culture in such a powerful and beautiful way. We finally have a superhero that represents us on the big screen. Of course, there have been others like Storm (X-Men) and Green Lantern (Justice League), but they are rarely ever the center of the movie (although I know a lot of us are secretly rooting for a movie for Storm). Typically in movies like this, there is the white person whose job it is to essentially save the day. However, in this movie, there were only two white main characters (but Klaw died halfway through), and while Agent Ross did contribute to the overall success of the Wakandans he didn’t play the typical savior role.
Being a woman of color and seeing a film where not a single black woman had straight hair of any sort (except Linda, Killmonger’s girlfriend, but she wasn’t from Wakanda) was amazing and empowering to say the very least. In the United States (as well as other places) black hairstyles are politicized. Black women are likely to have fewer hair products to choose from on the hair aisle and for a while were more likely to straighten their hair to be taken seriously in the job world.
We were seeing Shuri and Nakia with hairstyles that promoted the hair in its natural state and simultaneously seeing the women of the Dora Milaje (the bodyguard ladies) who went against the beauty standards of today by being bald. Their costumes were beautiful and according to the designer (Ruth Carter), it was intentional. In reference to creating the costumes of the Dora Milaje she says:
“I really wanted this to have a feeling that if you were an aspiring Dora Milaje and you were granted permission to be a member, you would be presented with this beautiful honor and this beautiful uniform that was exclusively yours and handmade by craftsmen.”
Black Panther took the time, effort, and energy of people like Ruth Carter trying to put forth their best work, which is why it was so successful. Overall Black Panther to me was powerful because it brought black beauty and power back into an area where it is mostly seen in submissive or sidekick roles. This is not to discredit other movies where the lead is a black person (Hidden Figures and some Will Smith movies) I just think this movie resonates more with current and upcoming generations a little more.
Black Panther opened the doors for many more movies like it and to that, I say #WakandaForever.