I’m one of those people who has grown exceedingly tired of black bodies being type-casted in large and minor Hollywood films. I am done with seeing black people (meaning everyone in the African diaspora, not just African-American) in chains, as slaves, as the help, being traumatized, playing the fool for comedic relief, being the token symbol of diversity or being the villain. It was stressing me out. We are not and should not be limited to these films, and so, when Black Panther was announced and the cast was majorly black, I was excited. Not only because it’s one of my favorite comic book series, but because of the representation.
Directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright, the film is the first of its kind — a Marvel film led by a black director and a primarily black cast.
The cast is primarily African America, African, and Afro-Caribbean. Ie. They’re all black. The movie is about the first superhero of African descent in mainstream American comics, (fact check it. 1966. Google is free.)
Now, imagine my annoyance when folks were big mad that black people were overzealous about the film when it released on Thursday and now I gotta pull out my spears to get yall all the way the hell together.
For starters, some of you are once again reaching into the common sense jar and coming up empty. Nobody expects Black Panther to be the spark of any Pro-Black movement, but you’d have to be absolutely and willfully ignorant to not understand the symbolism of the film.
I don’t care if it’s fictional or not. Wakanda, a nation in Africa, is portrayed as the wealthiest nation in the damn world. Google is your friend, Black Panther is the richest character in Marvel. Written by “the white man” as some of you hoteps like to say, that says plenty to me. Easily, Bruce Wayne or some other white man could have been the richest, but they know–as we truly know though–black nations are wealthy. While I am dismayed that this is hyped through a fictional film, that brings me to something we need to look at, which is also a little jab that yall should focus on.
Wakanda was never colonized. Europeans have no influence there. Put it together. Figure it out. See why the visual matters. Yall so “woke” but stay in a coma.
The women and the wardrobe.
Too often are black women commercialized as victims or uncivilized. Not in Black Panther. The women are the backbone of that nation. They are on the same footing as the men, because Wakanda has equity and equality all figured out.
The Dora Milaje is an all-female strike team that defends Wakanda from threats. Then we have T’Challa’s (played by Chadwick Boseman) sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), the tech genius behind Black Panther’s vibranium-weaved suit and gadgets. It’s strong black women everywhere in this film who stand side-by-side powerful black men.
“It really is something to really learn from when women are able to realize and actualize their greatness and their fullest potential without it being something that is highlighted in some garish way,” Film star Danai Gurira who plays Okoye–leader of the Dora Milaje–said. Lupita Nygong’o also plays a member of the Dora Milaje, as does Florence Kasumba. “But it’s just there, it’s just what is and everyone understands — the king understands, the men understand, everyone gets it. This is what allows our nation to advance and to be progressive and to be at the forefront.”
“That really is the thing,” she added. “Do we want to progress? If we want to progress, let women be all they can be. Don’t get in their way.”
Meanwhile, our ladies are not just sex symbols in the film either.
Ruth Carter–the costume designer– said her goal for all the characters was to root the costumes in traditional African attire while making each piece serve the story in a specific way. For Example, Carter drew some of her inspiration from the east African tribe called the Maasai.
“It’s really difficult sometimes to translate the passion behind what you’re asking for to craftspeople who have done brilliant work on many things but may not really understand completely the African diaspora,” Carter said.
Watch the video below for more details.
It’s one thing to have a documentary about tribes, but let’s face it, it’s an entirely different art to take a science-fiction action movie and weave in symbolism that represents a culture that is often overlooked in these types of film that hits such a large audience. What other box-office films, drawing millions, with a predominantly black cast, portraying our African-Heritage exists? So are we supposed to dismiss the film because it’s not “real” despite all the “real” issues that it targets? And yes, even down to the infighting because it would be terribly unrealistic if there was no infighting between people in a nation.
But more importantly, THE BLACK MAN IS KING. We know that black men are kings. We know that there is a long history of real-life kings. But to actually commercialize one? Yall always crying “they won’t ever show a black man with power in mainstream media” Oh? OH? Well looky here, but yall still mad. T’Challa runs a Black Ass Country, with Black Ass Wealth, and Strong Ass Black Ass Intelligent Ass Women, It’s dead ass the perfect Black Ass country, For Black By Black Blackity Gotdamn Black and yall…still..mad…For real? Because it’s “fiction?”
Look. I get it. This isn’t the way that some of you wanted us to get excited about the culture. You wanted us to go pick up a book, and read quietly to ourselves about Marcus Garvey and Mansa Munsa, and then go on Facebook and write think pieces (ie. long ass book reports) to a minor audience that includes you and your like-minded cult–I mean friends.
But we’re not all about that. I, for one, I am glad to have this film. I had to be politically correct when writing this piece because I really didn’t want to have drag black people just to make a point about uplifting black people. I think it’s counterproductive. And no, I am not entertaining white people because THIS AINT ABOUT YALL.
So rather than tell you to kiss my Wakandan ass, I decided to be civil and try to get you to see reason. Positive representation of our people (whether real or fictional) should be applauded. It paves the way, then, for more black talent whether cinematic, dance, activists, etc. to then have large-scale films of their own where we can tell more stories about our culture.
This film shows that there is indeed a market for minority-led productions. It shows that we don’t need to be dropped in a box. Black people want to feel good about being black. We get it already. Slavery, Segregation. Suffering. We know this. But damn, can I enjoy seeing us kick ass and be great?
I also get it, black folks have been extra. They’re going all out wearing garments that they probably don’t know the meaning of, dancing to rhythms and carrying on. But yall, they are happy. We, as a people, are happy about a film about “us.”
But I think Ira Madison from The Daily Beast sums up what I’m trying to say ideally.
“To describe ‘Black Panther’ as a black superhero film doesn’t do enough to praise how utterly disinterested it is in appealing to a white audience. At its core, Coogler’s film feels like a love letter to every black person who will step into the movie theater to see it, be they be of American or African descent. It is a film that honors the history of black bodies on our entire continent, from the kingdoms they built to the bondage they were shackled in, to the world that has treated them with cruelty at every possible turn.”