I don’t have a lot of things that I truly love. The husband will tell you that my response to most experiences is “it was okay.” Hearing me say “it was good” is rare enough, “I loved it” is an anomaly, and “that was amazing!” is almost never uttered.
I was super excited to see Black Panther. Black culture in all its diverse glory is amazing to me and I want to see it flourish and grow and be celebrated. Not even my excitement could have prepared me to the magnificence that was this movie. It was gorgeous from start to finish. It hit so many raw places for me and I’m so white I could blind someone. I’m just going to cover a few important themes here, but really you should just go see the movie for yourself.
Toward the end of the movie I found myself holding back actual body shaking sobs. On the surface what was happening in the movie was very sad (no spoilers!) but it took me a little bit after I got home to realize why this story affected me so deeply.
What happens in this story is akin to what happened to us in American in 2016. An outsider with links to the system, came in with destruction in mind and used the rules of the system to gain power, and is primed and ready to wreck EVERYTHING. The disbelief and horror on the Wakandan faces when Killmonger seems to win the blood challenge is what we felt when Trump became a reality. This story made me relive all of that without me even realizing it, and it was a subconscious, emotional journey. So when things (of course – not a spoiler) turn out okay as they do in most superhero stories, I think I was crying with relief.
While I was crying with relief I was crying with sympathy. Killmonger is not your usual villain. He’s out for revenge, not just for himself but for his dad too. He wants justice, and that desire is fueled by a child’s anger at the unfairness of a situation that is not related to T’Challa directly but involves Wakanda specifically. The idea that he has trained, focused, and grown up with the one goal of returning to Wakanda to fulfill his father’s dream is equal parts terrifying and inspiring. Both men only wanted to provide the wherewithal to their non-Wakandan black brothers and sisters to fight back against the oppression they experience elsewhere in the world. To have that goal firmly in his grasp, only to fail – something about that just struck me deep in my soul despite the methods he used to achieve his goal.
It was the oddest feeling to rejoice that Wakanda remained safe a location and an idea and mourn the dreams of Killmonger, who was shut out of this dream through no choice or fault of his own. The catastrophe of the African diaspora, the colonization of Africa, the slave trade, and all the other colonizer-related disasters to happen to Africa has prevented many individuals of African descent from connecting with their heritage. WE can only imagine what Arica would be like now had she not been robbed of her people, who may have brought about the Afro-futurism that is featured in this movie if they had been left alone to thrive and grow and love and create.
This movie screams the question “What if?” over and over, and it is the saddest, most terrible thing.
What if Wakanda wasn’t completely locked down and disguised?
What if they were able to share their advances with the world?
What if they allowed refugees and showed them what was possible before their ancestors were stolen from their homeland?
These are all questions that we are all asking right now in real time, but are tackled by T’Challa and the strong women of Wakanda to the point where they can only open themselves to the global society and offer aid. It is a new era in Wakanda, and it is a great thing.
A short postscript about my favorite character Okoye. She is the leader of the Dora Milaje, a group of the deadliest warriors of Wakanda and personal guards to the king. When Killmonger becomes king and T’Challa is believed dead, she stays because her duty is to the king and Wakanda, but her hesitation begs the question – where should your loyalties lie? To whom to you owe your allegiance? When something like this happens, how do you protect your country from those who would seek to destroy it while still fulfilling your sworn oath? Which comes first: self, friends, family, duty, king, or country? It’s a question she’s never had to answer before, and so she can only do what she knows.
It is a relief to her when T’Challa returns and shows the challenge for the throne to be unfinished, because she can “technically” now fight against Killmonger while still staying true to her beliefs and her country. This makes her so real to me – I would want her character to rebel but the reality is that she needed to see that her country is more important than who sits on the throne, and by learning that lesson she becomes even more dangerous to anyone who might try the same thing again.
Through conflict we are made stronger and smarter.
Wakanda Forever. ❤
Heading to week 9, and I’m not sure what I’ll do next. I’ve done so much already!