Saturday I saw Marvel’s newest movie, Black Panther, which is about King T’Challa of the fictional country of Wakanda. I want to say that I think this movie is critical because it is a movie by black people and about black people that centers on their worldview. It is nice to finally see a non-white group be the center of the film and to see a non-white group be strong and smart. And for the white people who are upset about the lack of white people—there was a white CIA agent that helped out the main characters. Overall, I thought Black Panther had a thought-provoking message that has had me debating back and forth.
The message that Black Panther delivers is one of isolation vs. intervention. T’Challa and most of Wakanda believe for most of the movie that ending Wakanda’s isolation will mean the death of their country. I do not blame them because history has proven through colonization that when certain countries become open to foreigners the indigenous inhabitants suffer. However, the villan, Erik’s plan and message is equally important, which is that slave traders took Africans and made them slaves for nearly 200 years in the United States, while Wakanda did nothing. Erik wanted to liberate oppressed people around the world using Wakandan technology, however T’Challa and his general, Okoye rightly realize that he is too bitter and hateful that he would just become another oppressor. I think this debate was the most interesting of the movie because on the one hand I think Wakanda was clearly in the wrong for not intervening and saving their fellow Africans, but on the other I think Wakanda was right in staying isolated. Spoiler alert, T’Challa ends up defeating Erik and choosing to establish aid centers where Erik lived, which I thought was ultimately the right decision given all the harms black people have suffered, and T’Challa would not become another oppressor.
A second component of the movie that I liked was T’Challa’s younger sister, Shuri. Shuri was witty, intelligent, and loved her brother. I thought she had the best jabs towards not only her brother but also Everett Ross, the CIA agent. Normally in the Avengers movies the smart ones of the group are usually Bruce Banner and Tony Stark, so I appreciated the change of pace with a smart black woman. Shuri built a Black Panther suit that could redistribute kinetic energy, she could heal Everett’s bullet wound, fight Erik, and still find time to make a serious event less serious.
Black Panther is a step in the correct direction for minority representation in not just superhero movies, but Hollywood in general. It might have taken awhile, but it’s better now than never. Anybody can be a superhero, but often our images of who is a superhero in these movies is white and male, while women and minorities are the accessories. This movie flips the script because black people were not the accessory in this movie they were the default.