A film like Black Panther after Trump’s alleged ‘shithole country’ remarks on some African nations functions like a curt reply to those who ever doubted the people of colour. What could have been a mourning of good old days, contrasts with the expectations of the Marvel fans who are used to only White superheroes.
Wakanda was a cultural embrace- even the sky scrapers looked similar to African huts. The scar tattoo, the lip discs, T’Challa’s jet looking like a Sub-Saharan African mask, the colour and the prints and the comment of Okoye on guns as primitive- everything felt like a breath of fresh air. The young king’s dilemma on his new role, on whether to protect only his country or save the entire oppressed, on repeating his ancestors’ fault of not respecting the kin or righting their wrong- Black Panther throws a lot of questions. The film criticises the past generation for not respecting the tradition enough and sympathises on the lost new generation that are scattered all over the world.
The Killmonger stands for the African American, being born to an African in a White American woman, split between his paternal home which abandoned him and his navel chord to the outer world which nurtured him and his anger together. Killmonger dies with honour and T’Challa this time corrects his father’s mistake. The civil war in Wakanda is easily solved by ‘love’ when Okoye confronts W’Kabi’s giant rhino. What the animal recognised took a while for the war maddened Wakandan to realise. In short, Black Panther tells us that loyalty is not the only thing deserves honour but love too is seminal for one’s own existence.
The film had a very effortless sense of humour by blending the Afro American etiquettes employed brilliantly by Shuri. Her dap and the sneakers joke tell us that you don’t need to be all prim and proper as Bond’s Q to be an inventor. Another important element is the women of Wakanda- unapologetically loyal, fearless and dutiful rather than freezing while on a mission.
Perhaps Black Panther consciously avoided the matriarch side of the Black women in the film because it only comes after their slavery phase. The absence of children in Wakanda was conspicuous. The Jabari king M’Baku stands for putting his country before his revenge; also for not snatching something you should earn by a ritual fight. The inclusion of an American as a CIA agent who has only one task to do in the film was prudent and it helped Black Panther not to seem smug. At last, the covert politics comes out overt as T’Challa speaks in the UN when he says, “We must build bridges, not barriers, to help others”, reminding us of Trump’s Mexican wall.
While Twelve Years A Slave and Get Out show the whining Black man who escapes from the clutches of the White, Black Panther conjures up an African fantasy world which can be a home to the entire world- Vibranium, here, standing for anything and everything that was stolen from Africa by the colonisers (Kareem Abdul Jabbar, hollywoodreporter.com).
Next is the phenomenal soundtrack by Kendrick Lamar, one of the strongest political rappers in U.S. His lyrics in an early song “I got loyalty, I got royalty in my DNA” could be an additional tagline for Black Panther . Lamar’s inclusion was a necessity for the film or so it seemed for Ulysses Klaue when he says amidst a stunt “Put some music on. Is it a funeral?”
Food for thought- Will a film like Black Panther ever be released in India?
Before we brush off the relevance of that question by blaming on the lack of studios and technology of Indian cinema, we must know that we had a Black Panther movement in our history as well. Inspired from the Black Panther movement of U.S, there formed a party called ‘Dalit Panthers’ in the 1970s in Bombay. After all that hullaballoo over Padmavat, do you think a Dalit Black Panther is ever possible in India?
The rest I leave you to ponder.