by a retired teacher, 11-14-2022
Yes, movies are entertaining and fun, but they also convey important viewpoints about life.
Undoubtedly, we won’t all agree about the ideas in a movie. I’m sharing this review to offer some thoughts that you may wish to consider while thinking about the implied themes in the brand new Wakanda Forever film. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Here’s the original review:
For sure – as compared to many thousands of movies with no Black characters; or with just a few Black characters, all depicted as subservient; or with many Black characters but none given depth, complexity and leadership on the world scene – Black Panther is a breath of fresh air.
And it’s truly pleasing to hear about that day on the set, with hundreds of Black actors on the mountainside in a joyous mood between takes, celebrating the fact that so many actors of color have been employed in a major film, in a story about the most technologically advanced civilization on the planet. And it’s great to see women in leading roles: powerful, insightful, and on the cutting edge of scientific breakthroughs.
It’s also important to recognize that widespread enjoyment of the movie is due, in large part, to an unmet demand for a filmic world with the greatness of an Africa and a Black diaspora possessing the most advanced civilization in our contemporary world, embodied in Wakanda.
On the other hand, it’s a sad reflection of intense U.S. racism that 52 long years had to drag by – after the debut of the Black Panther character in a 1966 Marvel comic called Fantastic Four – before this movie finally got produced.
Much has been said – in glowing terms – about how wonderful this movie is. However, I have some major criticisms. We should keep in mind, all that glitters is not gold.
Strategies to Fight Racist Oppression
Three main strategies are shown in the movie. T’Challa’s father represents the view that Wakanda must exclude immigrants, must secret itself, and must take no steps to fight racist oppression on the world stage. At first, T’Challa agrees, but – representing a second strategy – changes his thinking, and embraces peaceful outreach. This is the reformist point of view.
Killmonger represents the third strategy: revolution – with sharp worldwide struggle against oppression, and a recognition that oppressors will never give up their privilege peacefully. This, by the way, is exactly what Harriet Tubman said about the struggle to abolish slavery. She said slavery couldn’t be defeated without bloodshed, as was borne out by the Civil War. She was correct then, and the same is true of today’s important effort to defeat capitalism, which is the root of racism and police brutality.
However, the funders and creators of this movie have the opposite point of view. They have created the character, Killmonger, as the representative of revolutionary strategy. Then they portray him – the only major African American character – as cruel, heartless, and power-hungry. This depiction of him is purposeful, to convince us – by making Killmonger the negative example of a revolutionary – that we should completely reject that strategy.
Who can forget the scene, once he has defeated T’Challa in their first fight, when Killmonger orders the burning of all the magic flowers. He does this so that no one else can ever drink their nectar and defeat him. When a woman opposes the unprecedented burning of the flowers, the film’s producers have Killmonger viciously attack that woman, grasping her tightly by the neck in a choke hold, and hoisting her up in the air, unable to breathe, reminiscent, in some respects, of a lynching. This, the film’s producers show us, is what revolution is all about. In reality, the opposite is true.
Those who believe in a world of real equality, and believe that a revolution is necessary, are very different from Killmonger. Real revolutionaries are motivated by love for the oppressed. Real revolutionaries strive for collective decision-making, for selflessness, and for mutual respect and kindness in all interpersonal relationships with other members of the working class. The funders and producers of Black Panther, on the other hand, don’t want that truth to hit the big screen.
Another problem with Black Panther, in my judgment, is that it’s guilty of some racism itself. Sure, it’s based on a comic. Nevertheless, it’s a racist idea that Wakanda’s advanced technology and civilization is based entirely on the happenstance of vibranium arriving by meteorite. The premise of Wakanda’s greatness – in the movie – is based on something external, a rare metal, not on something internal, human capability.
In actuality, for more than a thousand years, Africa did indeed have the world’s most advanced civilization, long before the golden age of ancient Greece. Africa’s leading role in the world – during those many years – was attained through its own development, not from dependence on something outside itself.
Additionally, in my opinion, the film makes Africa – except in Wakanda – seem primitive, which is a racist stereotype. In actuality, the architecture of the tall modern buildings in Wakanda were modeled upon real-life buildings in a number of African cities today, but you wouldn’t know that from watching the film.
And then there’s the CIA guy, a character named Everett Ross. Let’s keep in mind that the CIA, in addition to spying, acts as a thug for U.S. big business. The CIA assassinated Patrice Lumumba, first leader of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, when that country achieved independence, because Lumumba stood firm against colonialism, and stepped on the toes of foreign corporate interests.
The CIA also took the life of President Allende in Chile, when, at a later point in time, he was doing much the same as Lumumba, and the CIA then went on – in Chile – to orchestrate the killing of thousands of union leaders, communists and anyone else opposing the devastating exploitation of cheap labor by U.S. corporations.
Yet in Black Panther, the CIA leader is mostly shown as a good guy. He even takes a bullet to save the life of Lupita Nyong’o’s character, Nakia. What kind of truly anti-racist movie would imply that revolution is bad, and that the CIA is good – only a movie which, in essence, lends support to U.S. capitalism and, therefore, to the systemic racism at the heart of capitalism’s profitability.