February 27, 2018


Black Panther is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures , it is the eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film is directed by Ryan Coogler, who co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole, and stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther, alongside Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker , and Andy Serkis. In Black Panther, T’Challa returns home as king of Wakanda but finds his sovereignty challenged by a long-time adversary, in a conflict with global consequences” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Panther_(film).

Black Panther cast
Some of the cast in Black Panther

Marvel’s Black Panther is conquering the globe from social media to the critics to the box office. Now, the film just hit another milestone. According to Variety, the Ryan Coogler film is the highest, first-week grossing Marvel Cinematic Universe movie in their history, bringing in $292 million in North America. “Black Panther has helped pull the 2018 domestic box office up by 7.2% to $1.69 billion as of Feb. 21, according to comScore.” According to Forbes.com,  the movie is the “20th-biggest superhero movie ever in unadjusted North American grosses.”
Marvel’s Black Panther celebrates melanin magic, which has become a hot topic on Twitter recently. Some folks have said that all this movie melanin magic excludes lighter-skinned Blacks, with the film showing an abundance of darker-skinned characters. Users have talked about an underwhelming number of lighter-skinned actors and actresses in the film, and that this lack of representation hints at colorism.“Deep down we all hoped that people would come to see a film about a fictional country on the continent of Africa, made up of a cast of people of African descent,” Coogler wrote in an open letter to fans shared by  Entertainment Weekly  “Never in a million years did we imagine that you all would come out this strong” (cf. https://newsone.com/3776531/black-panther-box-office-ryan-coogler/).

One of the cast in Black Panther…Killmonger

The film brings the fictional nation of Wakanda to life under the expert guidance of director Ryan Coogler and features a cast of characters that all make for welcome additions to the MCU. It’s a breath of fresh air, something that feels increasingly rare in today’s landscape of superhero cinema (Read More: http://www.looper.com/110198/5-best-5-worst-things-black-panther/?utm_campaign=clip). One Chicago teacher recently came up with the ultimate Wakanda masterclass. Tess Raser, a 6th-grade teacher at the Dulles School of Excellence on Chicago’s South Side, created the “Wakanda Curriculum,” an in-depth lesson plan designed to help students “engage more critically and thoughtfully with the film,” Blavity reported. She said, “I created the curriculum for a couple of reasons,” Raser explained to Blavity in a detailed interview. 
“For starters, I loved the movie but left with critiques as well, and spent most of the weekend engaging in conversations in regards to those critiques and my friends’ analysis of the film and its characters. I was excited thinking about my students having those conversations as well” (cf. https://newsone.com/3776199/black-panther-movie-wakanda-curriculum-tess-raser/ . 

Wesley Snipes,, who starred in the first film based on a Marvel character with a black lead, couldn’t be more enthusiastic about “Black Panther.” “Excited is definitely not the word,” the star of the “Blade” trilogy told Slate. “Overcome, overjoyed, clutch the pearls, I am ecstatic about it. That’s because Snipes, one of the biggest action stars of the ’90s, knows what doors the film will open for African-Americans throughout Hollywood.
“I know what it’s going to do, the impact it’s going to have, not only on the minds of the community, but on the industry and the minds of those who are now the new gatekeepers,” he said. “When they see the money, that’s a wrap. It’s a wrap. It’s inevitable that it opens up new opportunities, it’s like dropping a load of seed in the mud. It’s going to grow” (cf. https://pagesix.com/2018/02/13/wesley-snipes-overjoyed-about-black-panther-hype/?utm_source=zergnet.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=zergnet_2582624).

Danai Gurira, one of the cast in Black Panther speaking to
Danai Gurira, one of the cast in Black Panther speaking to “Good morning America.”

Brain-Gabriel Chidozie Ndubuisi on the other hand wrote:
It is only in archaic civilizations that physical strength confers political power. Before I watched the BlackPanther, I had argued in a group that I expect that the author romanticizes un-civilization and poverty, and I was right. Wakanda is still an underdeveloped country in all its glory.
First of all – the political structure is still what one would expect of a backward civilization. The physically strongest person becomes king. The country’s “ministry of technology” headed by the late king’s teenage daughter. Decisions and laws are still passed by unelected elders who become lawmakers by bloodline. Decisions guided, not by logic, but by customs and traditions. No nation develops this way.
Second, Wakanda is an underdeveloped economy. The only valuable natural resource they seem to have is vibranium that fell on them from outer space. In fact they not only do not export it, they have hidden themselves away from the outside world – they don’t trade. Fair enough, we can assume they have within Wakanda everything they need. But the face of their city doesn’t suggest any serious economic activity, considering this country is supposed to be home to 6,000,000 people. There aren’t any tarred roads – Yes, roads are very important for any civilization in which goods and people are transported by land. Roads make it possible for food to be effectively moved from distant farms to markets, or from farms to processing facilities. But wakanda was beautifully without roads.Finally, consider this:

Spiderman is just a teenager who happens to augment their local law enforcement.

Batman and Ironman are just rich guys who also happen to augment existing local law enforcement. Captain America is just a soldier who augments existing military. All these people have superpowers, but still are forced to work within existing law enforcement, existing political infrastructure, if they’re to be seen as the good guys their physical powers didn’t confer on them any political powers. But Black Panther had to be the king. He is the law, he is the institution. The leader of a nation running around in superhero costumes. The leader of a nation. Black Panther is a great Marvel superhero movie, I enjoyed every second of it, but it’s not a compliment to Africa.
In another review about the Black Panther, the following was written by Christopher Lebron

Wakanda is an isolationist country… so how did they come about everything?

Wakanda is a fictional nation in Africa, a marvel beyond all marvels. Its stupendous wealth and technological advancement reaches beyond anything the folks in MIT’s labs could dream of. The source of all this wonder is vibranium, a substance miraculous in ways that the movie does not bother to explain. But so far as we understand, it is a potent energy source as well as an unmatched raw material. A meteor rich in vibranium, which crashed ages ago into the land that would become Wakanda, made Wakanda so powerful that the terrors of colonialism and imperialism passed it by. Using technology to hide its good fortune, the country plays the part of a poor, third-world African nation. In reality, it thrives, and its isolationist policies protect it from anti-black racism. The Wakandans understand events in the outside world and know that they are spared. This triumphant lore—the vibranium and the Wakandans’ secret history and superiority—are more than imaginative window-dressing. They go to the heart of the mistaken perception that Black Panther is a movie about black liberation.

In 2018, a world home to both the Movement for Black Lives and a president who identifies white supremacists as fine people, we are given a movie about black empowerment where the only redeemed blacks are African nobles. They safeguard virtue and goodness against the threat not of white Americans or Europeans, but a black American man, the most dangerous person in the world.

Even in a comic-book movie, black American men are relegated to the lowest rung of political regard. So low that the sole white leading character in the movie, the CIA operative Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), gets to be a hero who helps save Wakanda. A white man who trades in secrets and deception is given a better turn than a black man whose father was murdered by his own family and who is left by family and nation to languish in poverty. That’s racist. Black Panther is not the movie we deserve. My president already despises me. Why should I accept the idea of black American disposability from a man in a suit, whose name is synonymous with radical uplift but whose actions question the very notion that black lives matter? (Read more at http://bostonreview.net/race/christopher-lebron-black-panther).

Ryan Coogler, the director of the movie
A display of Ryan Coogler, the director of the movie “Black Panther.”

On the otherhand, Joy Isi Bewaji wrote on her Facebook page thus:
It’s confusing, though, how they couldn’t decide whether to stick to voodoo (black magic) or advanced technology. Wakanda had technology that stunned even a white man in present day America – a federal agent, yet they had to fight with spears and swords and rhinoceros? You can’t win any war with a spear no matter how skilled you are. Mass killings don’t happen with anything except automatic weapon, which a spear is not. Technology didn’t stop Wakanda from running a system where Kingship is attained through blood and combat. What that means is, like “Gulder Ultimate search,” it’ll take forever to get a woman near that throne.

Do blacks want to be seen as gorillas or do they want to have conversation with the rest of the world? Choose your fucking hustle, black people. “Another white man for us to fix,” or something like that, said by T’Challa’s sister is racist. If we turn that around and had a white man say so even in an inconsequential low-budget series, social media and all the gorillas in the jungle will lose their minds. So, no! 
Black people, you can’t fix your insecurity by trying to make the white man look irrelevant. That race will never be irrelevant. They rule the world even without screaming on the roof top. And I noticed the subtle shade of race. The white man looking lost around technology like a kid in a new school. Whites are behind this entire present world. Not even a cool black movie can take that away from them. There’s nowhere in the movie where technology met conversation. We didn’t meet the geniuses behind Wakanda’s advanced life. The technology exists, but it seemed the people preferred sand and spears and voodoo liquid. I think they planned to marry African culture with modern realities. It is why they had the tribe, with lips elongated to accommodate a house, dressed in suits. I think Lupita needs eye whitening. You are in Hollywood. The blood clot patches in her eyes are distracting.

Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira (both featured in Black Panther.
Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira (both featured in Black Panther).

Barr. Olakunle Allison wrote this about Black Panther:
Sometimes I feel like God Himself sovereignly ordained it that Africans would find their identity only in the books written by Caucasians. That is, the so-called white skinned race. I heard someone wondering why all comic superheroes are always white but that Black Panther broke away from that norm. Well, of course comic superheroes are whites because white folks created them!
I don’t even expect any rational being to probe or challenge that norm. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Wolverine, Iron Man, Captain America, Incredible Hulk, Aqua Man, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Spider Man, Thor etc. I can go on and on. All these superhero characters have one thing in common; they were creations of white folks. Interestingly, even all the Black superhero characters are also creations of white folks. I mean ALL. Cyborg, Thunderstorm and even Black Panther just to name a few. 
Let’s break this down. Some Africans and Blacks have said and argued that Hollywood has never been fair to people of colour in superhero movies. They argue that Blacks are not EVENLY REPRESENTED in such movies UNTIL the Black Panther movie came. Well, maybe that’s because Blacks don’t create superhero characters. 
We don’t create our own characters, yet we blame those who create their own for not creating for us. Does that allegation even make sense? For how long will the black race keep looking up to the white man to do things for it? And when the white man fails to represent us we blame him for that too as if he owes us anything. Does the White man exist just to cater to the needs and ego of the Black race? Why do we always look to whites for handouts? Do whites owe us eternally?

Folks, if Africans want Black superhero characters for their kids they should create them. We should engage our imaginations like the whites do and create fictional heroes for ourselves, make movies out of them and quit the useless entitlement mentality. We have loads of deities, icons and folklores in Africa from which we can draw inspiration and create our own superheroes. Let’s get to work and stop feeling entitled. 
At the end of the day, the Black Panther movie character that every Black is proud of today was not created by a Black man. A white man created him for us. And we still blame him for doing so too late. Are we even serious as a race? What makes us feel the white man owes us a comic hero? If anyone accuses Hollywood of discrimination in superhero movie making, that person has an entitlement mentality and will never achieve much. If you want it so badly, create it. We shouldn’t always wait for whites to define us. The entire Black Panther movie was created by a White man who then hired Blacks to direct it and act. 
Let that sink in.

Was ‘an African Culture’ duly represented in Black Panther?

In the quest to answer this intriguing question, let’s assume there’s an African culture to begin with. Afrofuturism on the other hand, is taking science fiction and mixing it with African culture and giving it an Afrocentric spin. Ruth and her team of 100+ ensured the costumes of Wakanda were an accurate homage to Africa. She says “there’s a huge misunderstanding of what Africa is. Most people think it’s just one big thing.” She pulled references directly from various tribes all over the continent.

The many faces of Kenya's rich cultural heritage.
The many faces of Kenya’s rich cultural heritage (image courtesy: gettyimage.fi).

“The Dola Milaje in the comics are wearing red, so we looked at the Turkana tribes, beautiful primary red and beads as well as the Himba tribe that used the oxidized clay and soil and mixed it with shea butter. They’re sub-saharan, so they put it over their skin and clothes.”
The beadwork was inspired by the Maasai. The neck rings came from the South African Ndebele tribe. Lupita Nyong’o’s look was inspired by the Suri tribe.  Nakia’s all green wardrobe wouldn’t work against the usual greens.
She also took the South African Zulu married woman’s hat, and had it 3D. “The triangle is the sacred geometry,” Ruth said. She calls it the Okavango pattern and that made him (in the movie) not just a superhero but an African King. 

Dr. Joshua McNamara, a lecturer, Screen and Cultural Studies of the University of Melbourne wrote this about “Black Panther:
It hits our screens in the wake of Black Lives Matter, and the growing international recognition of an ongoing civil rights crisis around the world, including the recent criminalisation of African kids here in Melbourne. Political stakes are high. How can African-American civil rights activism be made to fit with the autocracy-busting super-powered global justice tropes of the Marvel Universe, whose heroes are usually affluent, white males? Wakandan culture feels so indiscriminate that the whole thing starts to look like the Pinterest feed for ‘tribal Africa’.
Ironically, this treatment of Africa as somewhere to be repossessed and repurposed carries on the very practices of colonisation that the film so clearly wants to overthrow.In creating this Pan-African cultural backdrop, Black Panther inadvertently starts to participate in the long Western history of treating Africa as just a prop in other peoples’ dramas. Africa becomes an object, in this case a stylistic one, to be consumed, with Wakanda becoming the placeholder for an African-American — and not a particularly African — fight for global identity.The image powerfully drives home the aspiration and hope invested in the symbol of an African(-American) country leading the world. It also articulates how desperately the world needs the image of a black superhero (Read more here https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/black-panther-how-global-civil-rights-found-a-home-in-a-superhero-movie).

Jamie Broadnax, editor-in-chief and creator of the website Black Girl Nerds, felt Black Panther, would “bring in a lot of people [of color] who don’t even really go to comic-book movies [since] they’re going to see themselves reflected in a huge way that they just haven’t been able to see before,” especially since the film avoided black pain, suffering, and poverty, usual topics in films about the black experience. Writing for Time,  Jamil Smith felt Black Panther, which he described as a film “about what it means to be black in both America and Africa—and, more broadly, in the world,” was “poised to prove to Hollywood that African-American narratives have the power to generate profits from all audiences. And, more important, that making movies about black lives is part of showing that they matter.” He added, “In the midst of a regressive cultural and political moment fueled in part by the white-nativist movement, the very existence of Black Panther feels like resistance. Its themes challenge institutional bias, its characters take unsubtle digs at oppressors, and its narrative includes prismatic perspectives on black life and tradition (cf. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Panther_(film).

Compiled by David Francis.

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