What Black Panther meant to me
As soon as I heard Marvel was planning to create a Black superhero movie, I was psyched. I love Marvel and as a Black person and a Nigerian, it wasn’t that hard to notice the lack of representation in Marvel movies as I grew up. But I knew the release of “Black Panther” would change that. A movie taking place in Africa that doesn’t show it in a degrading light with a soundtrack produced by the legendary Kendrick Lamar? It was perfect.
The one thing I think I loved the most about the movie was the portrayal of the fictional African country, Wakanda. Most times when African countries are created for movies, it’s so it can be portrayed as a terrible third world country without actually insulting any real African countries. But the movie portrayed Wakanda, supposedly set in Central Africa, as a gorgeous, technologically-advanced place, with a rich culture and vibrant thriving people. It effectively showed the Africa that I see and love, instead of just the stereotypes and exaggerations we’re all made to believe.
Not only was the portrayal of the country Wakanda positive, it accurately captured different African cultures as well. Their vernacular, accents and languages reminded me of the way Nigerians spoke. The clothes they wore were similar to something someone in Nigeria would wear, and their dances and chants reminded me of ceremonies and family gatherings back home. They were also able to intertwine the supernatural aspect of superhero stories with the mystique and sacredness of African traditions and folklore without ridicule.
Another thing I loved about the movie was how they touched upon the complex dynamic between Africans and African Americans. As a first-generation immigrant Nigerian living in the United States, it’s easy for me to see this disconnect. Even though they’re both Black, Africans and African Americans don’t always see themselves as the same people, as African Americans’ identities are more strongly tied to the United States while Africans’ identities are more closely tied to their home countries in Africa. Thus, Africans (including those living in America) and African-Americans don’t always see the need to support each other as they don’t always see themselves as the same people.
This is brought up in the movie when the character Erik Killmonger wants to use the resources of Wakanda to help the disenfranchised Black people in the United States. This is because he’s half African American, half Wakandan and grew up in America. This is contrary to the Wakandans who only believe that “their people” are only Wakandan people, not other Black people across the diaspora, which is extremely analogous to Africans and the lack of unity between them and African Americans.
The dynamic between Africans and African Americans is a concept that is typically not explored in present-day media and culture and, as someone who finds it prevalent in their everyday life, I’m extremely glad “Black Panther” decided to tackle it.
The last thing I loved about “Black Panther” that I have to talk about is the amazing Black cast and the portrayal of Black women. The female characters in “Black Panther” RAN that movie. The country of Wakanda literally had an army solely made up of women, women who were willing to put anything on the line to defend their country and the throne. King T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri was SINGLE-HANDEDLY IN CHARGE OF ALL TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENTS AND INNOVATIONS IN THE NATION. Okay yes, maybe a 16 year old being in charge of a whole nation’s technological section was a little far-fetched. But I’m completely fine with Marvel making things a little unrealistic at times if it’s with the intent of creating powerful women characters. Besides the female cast, the rest of the Black cast was extremely amazing and it was refreshing to see so many powerful, humanized Black figures up on the screen. Additionally, many were actual African actors, which was extremely inspiring to see as an aspiring African actress.
I could go on about this movie for many more paragraphs, but all in all I found the movie amazing and extremely well done. It was full of powerful characters, actors and actresses that I, along with multiple others, will look up to for a long time.