Black Panther

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Are There Lesbians? No

What Happens?
T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is crowned King of Wakanda, but as he determines the future of his country, the mistakes of his father’s (John Kani) past rise up to haunt him.

The Verdict:
I have been so excited to see Black Panther – all the joy I have seen expressed by Black people on twitter and the general internet has been absolutely infectious. Obviously as a skinny white girl it didn’t give me the same sort of delight and sheer relief that comes from seeing someone with my skin colour on the screen and making up almost the entire cast of the film, but I am so happy for all the little black boys and girls who get to have all these fantastic role models. Additionally, on a more personal note – with Idris Elba in Thor: Ragnarok and now Michael B Jordan, can we please just saturate the market with beautiful black men made hotter by dreadlocks? Not only would it be great representation (I only know enough about POC hair politics to know that it exists), but white boys forcing their gross, scungy hair on the rest of us might finally get the message and just. stop.

Black Panther was one of the best superhero movies I’ve seen in a while, including Thor: Ragnarok, which was brilliant. I think this is because it isn’t very much a traditional superhero movie so much as a standard action movie with a bit of superhero thrown in. There weren’t so many superhero tropes and it was less a part of the MARVEL franchise – there weren’t any characters from the other films in it and it was great! I’m a little annoyed that I have to be so thrilled to see a stand-alone movie that holds up without the greater franchise behind it. Can people stop making it so that you have to see all the movies in a series to understand the plot? I’m so over it! I also feel like I have been given a glorious vision of what a reboot movie of The Phantom could look like, and if anyone reading this is good at film I am happy to pitch you a script, even if it’s just for something fan-made (I am not even in the realm of fucking around, black Phantom is now my life’s mission).

As you may have seen from trailers and posters, Black Panther is unashamedly Black. It is a powerful and genuinely well-made film that addresses issues of race and class and how we have the power to change old, harmful ways of thinking. It is a well-timed film, a not-so-subtle call to arms and, more importantly, a call to support. I’m sure many POC viewers got many things out of Black Panther that I didn’t, but to me, the main message I received was how I can use my privilege to help others who do not have it. One of the main threads of the film was that Wakanda has access to powerful resources that give them the ability to make so many lives better, but they keep it to themselves in order to maintain their way of life. A repeated question becomes at what point will you concede that you can help others, at what point will you stop idly standing by and finally interact with the world? Another lesson that might have slipped under the radar for some is to learn when is the right time to stop speaking and when to listen. When the women go to M’Baku (Winston Duke) and Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) starts to speak, only to be told that he is not allowed to was a powerful moment for me. Sure, he’s white and it’s understandable that they would have some animosity towards him, but I feel that to say that is the only reason would be to over-simplify it. Ross is an outsider. He does not know what he is talking about. He is to listen and learn. It is also important that he is shown doing so. When the women bury T’Challa as part of the Black Panther ritual, Ross take’s M’Baku’s lead, something we can all try to be more mindful of – it is not up to POC to explain to white people what they are doing wrong. It is up to us white people to start paying attention and correct actions instead of just talking. I’m not trying to say that one of two white guys in the film are the only ones I can identify with, but they are the only ones not specifically for black people, so that’s who I’m talking about.

I love Shuri (Leticia Wright) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and definitely want to date Okoye (Danai Gurira), but these characters, no matter how wonderful, are not for me. They are for all the women of colour, specifically the black women, who do not get to see themselves accurately reflected on the screens in front of them. They are powerful without being “sassy black women” and they are allowed to be vulnerable and make mistakes. I love Black Panther, because I thought it was actually a pretty damn good movie and stood up to the hype, but I love it even more for the joy it has brought the people around me.

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