Marvel’s Black Panther is smashing box office records left and right, due in no small part to the mainstream media’s dogmatic marketing campaign, while triggering strong emotions left and right, if you catch my drift. There has been much talk of the politics of this movie and yet they cannot be overstated.
Set in an “Afro-futurist” world unencumbered by white influence or oppression, but somehow light-years ahead of the Western world in technology and sophistication, the isolationist nation of Wakanda is led by King T’Challa, also known as the Black Panther. It exists beyond an invisible barrier or wall separating this rich flourishing African country from the rest of the beleaguered continent.
Wakanda is strong on border security and King T’Challa is utterly anti-globalist, expressing grave concern for the allowing in of refugees or outsiders. Consequently, Black Panther has been likened to President Trump, to the ire of many. But the conservative sensibilities of the titular hero will be overlooked or jeered by leftists who will empathize more with villain, Erik Killmonger, who wishes to open Wakanda to the world in rather aggressive fashion by exporting Wakanda’s advanced vibranium technology in the form of weapons to overthrow so-called white oppressors.
The sort of far-fetched ahistorical escapism within this film is only forgivable in the context of a comic book universe. Since the characters, action, and world building are essentially on par with other recent MCU offerings that have all been quite consistent, it is safe to declare that Disney has delivered an entertaining and enjoyable action movie with Black Panther. Not quite, however, the defining marvel of our time as our media expects us to believe (though don’t be surprised if they successfully launch it into best picture consideration). And it most certainly is not what you would call progressive.
GQ recently called Black Panther “a lesson on how to recover and move forward from society’s mistakes.”
While the movie’s ending does show T’Challa shifting to the left by deciding to set up an outreach center in Oakland, California, thereby beginning to open Wakanda to the rest of the world, the greatness of Wakanda, in large part neatly explained by the mighty powers of vibranium, is also undeniably a testament to Wakanda’s long-held conservative, right-wing policies.
One could argue a step further and point out that Wakanda is effectively an ethnostate. With zero immigration, zero refugees, it is a true example of a people pursuing its own chosen destiny whilst preserving its own traditions and culture with no outside interference.
I somehow doubt this was the example or lesson that GQ and others meant for us to take away from Black Panther, but there you have it.