“The black elite around the globe should be afraid. That is one of my takeaways from “The Black Panther”, a Marvel movie that when examined closely went beyond anything else so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The MCU, rebooted by the first installment of “Iron Man” has been expressing a political narrative that was heightened as recently as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” But “The Black Panther” has taken the politics to a global level as expressed by a final conflict between two men who, without their fathers, find themselves rudderless in a political torrent.
I will start with the anti-elite, anti-hero, Kilmonger. Kilmonger represents the 90% of the African Diaspora that is resource-less. He sees an elite that does not want to or maybe does not know how to distribute the gains from the precious little resources the Diaspora has.
While the educated continue to delude themselves that they are doing well in America, for example, they tend to ignore the poverty that they drive through every day to jobs that have more than a glass ceiling as a barrier to break. They see a disproportionate number of black entrepreneurs forced to go solo after the glass ceiling crashes on them only to face further discrimination from bankers who refuse to throw the lifeline of business credit their way.
In addition, they are increasingly disconnected from the continent that spawned their ancestors, a continent, while rich in resources, still faces challenges extracting and processing those resources and turning them into output.
And while Africa itself is emerging, its growth, like that of America and the West, is driven by credit and IMF/World Bank aid. The poor, who are bearing the undue suffering of this economic and social model have no effective leadership. Like Kilmonger, they are rudderless.
T’Challa, whose character has been getting, in my opinion, too much premature love from the celebrating daishiki wearers that attacked the box office last weekend, represents an elite that believe they have arrived because they live in gated communities and have generated income from monopolizing the little precious resources that the Diaspora has. They are increasingly out of touch, using technology to create, much like the Wakandans, a moat around themselves.
Kilmonger’s father died while Kilmonger was still in his youth. There was no father to help guide him toward being the leader that could effectively create a narrative of Diaspora-wide self sustainability. He had to teach himself by leaving the confines of Oakland and traveling the globe training himself to be a warrior. Unfortunately, his message came from an emotional place, from a place of anger toward a family that had betrayed him. His energy was poorly channeled, again, because there was no father to guide him. For this reason, Kilmonger was the wrong man for the right message.
T’Challa was weak. This weakness led to him crafting a half-assed policy of outreach based on an equally half-assed narrative of “diversity.” Telling the world that Wakanda would step out of its isolation and show the world how to live as “one human tribe” is basically the same policy that led to and keeps the African Diaspora in check. Africans who war with each other are too distracted to lead any globe toward one-world bliss. And history shows what happens when Africa lets it guard down. The colonizers find a way to institute their old playbook of domination.
Cinematically, this movie outdoes every other Marvel movie. The movie has its own unique texture driven by the infusion of various African cultures and the human element of the story. It is the only time I felt tears welling up during a Marvel film as the story not only reminded me of my challenges from losing my father at 26, but displayed the challenges each man had to endure as they reconciled the lack of a father’s guidance in a world that tears their immediate, tribal, and global families apart.
Overall, a great movie, but not for the reasons the daishiki wearers expected.