Director: Ryan Coogler
Writers: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Main Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kuluuya, Letitia Wrigh, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Martin Freeman, Sterling K. Brown & Andy Serkis
“Black Panther” follows T’Challa/ Black Panther who, after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to take his place as King. However, when an old enemy reappears on the radar, T’Challa’s mettle as King and Black Panther is tested when he is drawn into a conflict that puts the entire fate of Wakanda and the world at risk. (Rotten Tomatoes)
Perceptions of Africa
The film begins with the news report informing us of King T’Chaka’s passing:
“The tiny nation of Wakanda mourns…”
So it soon becomes evident that because Wakanda does not accept aid, it is henceforth perceived by the outside world as weak.
As opposed to independent.
It’s during Nakia’s undercover mission that we see Africa for the first time: we see dark scenes of suffering, human trafficking, guerrilla warfare, and death. These are scenes that I as a child in the UK used to see of Africa on the news, which are all stereotypical scenes of “poor Africa”, “always fighting amongst itself”. The scenes I’m sick of seeing now.
We return to the real Africa, which is Wakanda with (soon to be crowned King) T’Challa/ Black Panther and Nakia – this is when we see real Africa for the first time; Wakanda is advanced, built up and ahead of its time, full of life, vibrant and colourful.
The British are extremely ignorant about the geography of Africa. This is not only apparent in reality, but also evident in the film, during dialogue scenes, for example, in the museum Killmonger catches the Historian out. In the finale of the film, the UN request of King T’Challa what a nation of farmers can offer the rest of the world. This is in response to T’Challa’s speech to the UN, explaining how they will share their knowledge and resources with the outside world. Bitch, he just told you! The rest of the world show a complete lack of respect, regardless of their intellectual and technical superiority.
“You savages didn’t deserve it [the weapon]” Klaue
Klaue continuously refers to the Wakandans as savages, regardless of the fact that he knows that they are superior, and this is only because of the colour of their skin.
Everett is extremely disrespectful and infers a perception of how the West perceive the ignorance of Black people – particularly women, when he says:
“Does she speak English?” (not actually speaking directly to Okoye).
“Wakanda is a third world country” exclaims Everett in disbelief when Klaue tells him about the vibranium. This is also why he also appears extremely shocked, confused, perplexed and ungrateful when he awakens after Shuri has just saved his life! He doesn’t even thank her – as a white-American, he is overwhelmed that Black people in a “third world country” have saved his life. His actions do however, redeem him later on.
Perceptions of Women
Shuri is the characterisation is female STEM academia: passion, intelligence, discipline and superiority over her male peers and also balances normality and humour when she is with her brother. Everett is also incredibly intimidated by her and the Black Panther is non-existent without her.
Women in Wakanda are noticeably stronger with natural hair/ without their hair: during the shootout, Okoye classically whips off her wig and uses it as a weapon. Shuri has braids, which according to Princess Gabbara in Ebony magazine (2017), is a reminder of our ancestors’ strength and labour. Cornrow for Africans and Canerows for Caribbeans remind us:
“of how some worked tirelessly out in the fields with a lifetime of hopes and dreams on their backs and how we’re an extension of those hopes and dreams.” (The History of Cornrows, Princess Gabbara, JANUARY 20, 2017)
The Burdens of the Generational Cycle
I’ve chosen to focus the crux of my review on the burdens of the generational cycle, because as a psychology and mental health student, with a special interest in cultural psychology, this resonated with me the most while watching Black Panther.
In the Ancestral Plain, King T’Chaka tells his son T’Challa that he has been preparing him to be king since he was a child. As Black children, we are cursed with burden from when we are born; we never really get to be children. Those burdens could be race, gender, parentification (the theory of role reversal where the child is forced to become the parent, which is extremely common amongst Black families), abuse… the list is endless for some Black children, who carry these burdens into adulthood.
In Black Panther, T’Challa’s uncle, N’Jobu is murdered by King T’Chaka, which is covered up by Zuri. N’Jobu betrayed Wakanda to Klaue, so T’Chaka kills N’Jobu as punishment, but made the fatal decision to abandon his Nephew (Killmonger) in America. Once T’Challa finds this out, he is then forced to deal with a new perception of his father. He is left to wonder: Do I want my father’s mistakes to define the rest of my life? But in the midst of his angst, the ‘mistake’ then shows up at the border, angry and these are some of his first words to his family:
“Y’all sittin’ comfortable”
“Two billion people are over the world who look like us, suffering”
“Is this your king? He’s supposed to lead you into the future!”
T’Challa is paying for his father’s mistakes, mistakes of lying and failing. This becomes T’Challa’s burden.
T’Challa must also take on the role of the parent, because he must make decisions his father ran away from.
King T’Chaka believes that he made the right decision:
“He was the truth I chose to omit”.
Most parents do, even if that decision will have a negative impact upon future generations, which is most likely so in Black families and we see that the children are the ones who are left to break cycles begun by parents and grandparents.
“The sunsets are the most beautiful in the world… But I feel you will not be welcome [in Wakanda]”
Abandoned: N’Jobu appears to be describing both he and his son, as they have both been rejected by their own people. Killmonger also echoes this, when he gives his first speech to his generals, when he demands to know where Wakanda was when we [the rest of the Black population all over the World] needed them for so many years. Inside, he is also still the little boy angry at being being abandoned – where were you?
T’Challa refers to Killmonger as “a monster of our making” which is a true description of who the boy grew up to be. He also recognises that past kings never owned up to past failures, past mistakes and past heartbreaks and therefore, have never taken on such a burden like him as a young king.
In Killmonger’s dying words, he refers to Wakanda as a “fairytale”, which is why he requests to be buried in the ocean with his ancestors in death, as opposed to being healed but in bondage. Let us not forget that Killmonger’s life has been ruined too: he should’ve grown up in Wakanda, but he was abandoned in America – which isn’t his home, and neither is Wakanda, because it’s a fairytale to him and also a place of bondage. T’Challa refers to Killmonger as a “monster”, but it’s not a monster that their fathers created: it was an orphan, who then became a broken man.
Pretty deep for a super hero film, eh?
The majority of the poor reviews on IMDB have been from white people (thankfully we only listen to Rotten Tomatoes though!), who unfortunately cannot see past the Black in the panther. Well guess what? This Marvel film isn’t for you then is it? For some Black people, this has been their first Marvel experience and it’s been great, because as this review has proven, Black Panther is more than just your average super hero to Black people.