Black Panther: Race and Feminism

SPOILER ALERT

Today I finally got to watch Black Panther. I had been waiting since Captain America Civil War because Chadwick Boseman was so damn suave and cool in that movie. Honestly, after watching so many Marvel movies, this is by far the most worth it. I am not a massive Marvel or DC fan. I didn’t grow up reading the comics. I did watch the old superhero movies and cartoons of Spiderman etc. But to me, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight was such a game changer to the superhero genre. His Batman movies went beyond the typical good guy bad guy and approach a grey area of good and bad in everyone which is a realistic portrayal relevant to reality. Life would be too easy if we viewed people as simply black or white.

I saw similar elements trying to shine through for the Black Panther movie. Not as successful (to me) as the Dark Knight but a worthy try for Ryan Coogler as a still maturing director. I haven’t watched his other movies (Fruitvale Station and Creed) but if it is anything like this one, I would definitely watch it soon! I have to say I have to watch Black Panther again to really catch everything going on in the movie because there were so many elements to it that my brain went into overdrive during the whole 148 minutes.

I felt that this movie was such a wholesome movie with a real plot which I feel like many Marvel movies fall short of because they are trying to fit too many things in one film. Most Marvel films to me (though I haven’t watched all) always try to fit in action with tons of CGI, easter eggs for future movies and bombastic actors but all fall short due to lack of a real plot. Sometimes I feel that filmmakers forget that the story is the most aspect of a film is the storyline. You can have amazing effects and explosions but the story is set mediocre from greatness.

The biggest selling point of Black Panther is obviously representation for both race and gender. It is amazing how they showcased African culture without being stereotypical. Culture reflected in the story, fashion and setting of the movie. I was so mesmerized by all the scenes shot in “Wakanda” because it showed Africa beyond the typical safari. To put it simply, it was just cool! The intertwinings of African culture and technology was something that caught my eye because most people might think that culture gets lost with modernization. But Black Panther showcases how you can be modern but still stay rooted to your ancestors.

The other representation would be the portrayal of female characters. Never have I seen such strong portrayal of strong and confident women without the need to be a mean bitch. The award for this would definitely go to Danai Gurira as Okoye as the female general of the Dora Milaje. I would want her to be my bodyguard any day. She was tough, fierce and funny. Though her Korean was a little cringy, Lupita Nyong’o was the second standout for me. She is a constant showcase of talent. My other favorite is Leticia Wright as Shuri who played the younger sister of T’Challa. She showed a lady can be smart, resourceful and witty. These are the kind of female representation that I have been waiting for in all of mainstream entertainment.

Moreover, they did hit subtle jabs at the current nationalist movements of the far right groups since the election of a certain ignorant man to the White House. There were references to the past colonization by the English who sometimes forget that they use to invade the homes of innocent in an effort to bring their “culture” and influence around the globe. Erik Killmonger played by Michael B Jordan made plenty of references to slavery and the oppression of African Americans in past and current America. Before he died, Erik wanted to be buried at sea with his ancestors aka slaves who were shipped to the States who jumped to their death in the waters rather than become slaves. His character’s anger was based on Wakanda’s isolationism to not share its technology and resources worsen the oppression. The big message is we cannot isolate ourselves at the risk of not helping those who are truly in need. (Are you listening leaders of the world?) Sometimes we get to caught up in protecting ourselves that we negate those who are in real need.

I hope as a viewer catch the layers and messages intertwined with the amazingly cool fight scenes and Vibranium tech. The amount of depth that each character and subplot carries in this movie is refreshing for a Marvel movie.

All in all, I felt like Black Panther was a big middle finger to the predominantly milky skin testosterone entertainment industry that rules the industry. I hope this is a first of many movies that showcase real talent in acting and storytelling when given the opportunity. The people behind Black Panther deserve all the compliments that go their way.

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