SPOILER ALERT: I don’t think you can spoil Black Panther really but if you haven’t seen the movie and you plan to, you probably shouldn’t read this entry.
A note to make certain readers feel better: I jump across several ideas in my blog posts because I do a lot of free writing. It’s not because I’m incapable of “controlling my fingers” or because I “don’t care”
So Black History Month is a thing that happens in the west in February where black people have been taken in mass against their will hundreds of years ago to work as slaves and now since the enslavement of people of color has been abolished (sorta) there are people who would wish that the bad history of the abuse die and never be told. However, trying to suppress history is usually a bad idea and African Americans were being upset about the misrepresentation of black people’s roles in the American history when taught in school, so they came up with Black History Month to tell real history about Black People and to celebrate the achievements of those who’ve done great things.
Now when we come to my Ethiopian community, we hear about this Black History Month but it’s black history day everyday here, so no big deal. Those of us who don’t even know what Black History Month is about, find ways to either be offended by something so far, far away or we embrace it as ours even though it usually really isn’t.
Okay. So, let’s go ahead and complain about something far, far away.
Black Panther came out this week and I was the person I normally hate in the cinema talking excitedly throughout the movie and then being annoyed when my friends watched it again the following day without me. I watched it the first day it came out because all the hype had gotten to me. The first time I saw the trailer, I was sitting on the balcony at In N’ Out right in front of the big screen at Edna mall. I saw the trailer on that giant screen and I literally started getting upset by how slowly January was going. Then a few days before the movie came out I was starting to be afraid that it might disappoint me because of how thrilled I was.
I lost a bet there because I wasn’t disappointed. I was the loudest sigh when the credits were rolling, and I think I hit a bunch of people in excitement.
I watched the movie judgmentally, picking at generic lines and wondering why the man in the green suit had a plate in his mouth because I thought that was something that Mursi women did and then I figured maybe that they’re doing a move on gender norm breaking thing. Maybe that Wakandan lord is a liberal. I don’t know.
Then because I never learn, I went on Facebook and found articles claiming that certain white people were offended by how much of the Black Panther cast was black people. This is so absurd I feel like maybe someone is making it up just to make white people look bad.
The two white men in the movie were a slight addition. The character of Ulysses was the embodiment of a greedy colonizer. His defeat in the movie represented something historical. The other white man was the good Agent played by Martin Freeman (I swear I saw John Watson the whole time) who was in the movie to just tie Black Panther to The Avengers. In my opinion, the movie would still have a solid plot with no white people in it. And still there are people with the guts to be “offended” that there weren’t more white people in the movie Perhaps because they couldn’t relate to it. One point they raised was how when previously made movies had a majority of white people cast, black people were offended.
Black Panther is set mainly in an African land hidden from the world. Where the fuck would the white people come from?! While most movies that people of color were offended by because they were excluded are set in a world realistically composed of all types of people. Making it wholly white doesn’t make a lot of sense there but I don’t know if that should have been offensive to black people either. And everyone these days is finding small reasons to be offended. Someone was offended that a Turkish company named a chocolate bar Negro and there was a whole bunch of people being outraged in that comment thread about the word Negro. I forgot to respond to that thread when it got stupid, but I guess those people hate all Spanish speakers too because the Spanish word for black is…Negro and no, it doesn’t mean slave. It just means black and if you are black of skin then to a Spaniard, you are Negro. Embrace it.
These white people unhappy by Black Panther have found ways to try to be offended without sounding racist. That didn’t work. Now we all just think they are stupid.
I don’t really get people being offended by the way movie characters are presented. There aren’t enough female heroines, they said so they gave us Wonder Woman. There aren’t enough black heroes they said so they gave us Black Panther. And I won’t lie, I didn’t like Wonder Woman too much, but I saw how the internet sighed in relief at the inclusion. I didn’t feel anything for Wonder Woman. She was a bad-ass woman. Good for her. And I don’t think Wonder Woman was even made to appease feminist complaints, but they didn’t fail from endorsing it as theirs. Why is it necessary to “own” these heroes though? Why can’t Wonder Woman just be a woman who is also a hero and why can’t Black Panther just be an African hero too? Why is the entitlement necessary?
When Okoye was doing flips and kicks in that long ass red dress, I was losing my mind. I trip walking on plane fields in a dress. Them making such great characters is insanely awesome but I didn’t just like Okoye because she was relatable even though she was. Before Okoye, I have loved characters like Hermione Granger and Scarlett O’Hara. Unrelatable in some ways but still great characters to aspire to.
A big plus that people probably haven’t considered when they were being offended that there were too many black people in the movie or how even after all that African representation and depth of story and detail that it was basically poetry, they still managed to not give enough emphasis on how Wakanda could be helping other African countries instead of just going straight to the US with that spaceship at the end of the movie, is how aspiring writers like me who appreciate well formed stories or other types of story tellers wholly African, could be motivated and know that great stories like that are possible and be inspired to tell some of their own.
I am not really a comic book fanatic because I haven’t been exposed to them. I do love good stories though and this one was insane. I will probably never do a flip in a dress but is the types of inspiration you get from these things really just what the authors said you’ll find? Remember how authorial intent, whether we like it or not, just gets lost along the way? Can you think of how the Black Panther you see could be completely different one from the one that everyone else sees because what you see in it might just be something different from what everyone else sees?
P.S People have a lot to say about Hollywood being racist. I don’t know that it is. But Black Panther was NOT racist. It was realistic….I mean I know it’s a super hero movie so that’s a stretch towards realistic…but you know what I mean.