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    My Thoughts On Black Panther And Black Heteronormitivity 


    If this image was the movie, I would have died happy.

    So, I watched Black Panther twice. If you know me, then you know that’s the biggest compliment I could give to any movie these days -- especially a comic book movie. I haven’t liked many movies in this genre for the better part of a decade. I decided to challenge myself, by engaging with the critiques of straight black men, prior to watching the movie a second time. It wasn’t totally a mistake. The results weren’t too surprising, but hey, I’m writing about a comic book movie -- so that’s something.

    Getting my initial impressions out of the way. I loved the spectacle of Black Panther. The color schemes. The purple hues of clouds in Wakanda’s background. The silvers and blues surrounding Shuri’s tech lab. I loved [almost] everything technical about this film. Seeing dancers like Khalid Ghajji get the opportunity to do stunt work work as Killmonger -- was a personal favorite.


    Ruth E. Carter really did that. So many details and patterns.

    The costume design by Ruth E. Carter was a character within itself in the film. On first viewing, I got the impression that the style of dress was based specifically on West African styles of dress and sure enough, Carter’s wardrobe research is all over Black Panther. She’s even giving out pattern tips and tricks on social media [if you ask nicely], because she wants everyone to have this information.

    I think, because so many technical details were executed well, the jarring moments in Black Panther were -- startling.


    [takes deep breath]


    Much like many movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther is incredibly straight. There’s a straight black man, caring for a straight black woman and there are *seemingly* straight black women protecting the vast and rich lands of Wakanda. I think it says a lot about me that I noticed this on first viewing, but was still ‘okay’ with how I felt about the overall impact of Black Panther “2018’s mega blockbuster.”

    Props to Nigerian photographer, Àsìkò for this amazing #LooksLikeMe photo shoot.

    I loved seeing videos of kids cosplaying as their favorite Black Panther character. Black folks showing out by bringing African drums to theaters -- I loved that the most.

    Finding out about the cut lesbian relationship after my first viewing was, really disheartening. I gave a lot of guff to white folks who are hell-bent on building these medieval worlds, sans black people. So seeing Wakanda not depict anything beyond straightness, looked awfully familiar. It was at this moment I wanted to find other straight black men in my personal life and online to see if they were critical of Black Panther.

    [takes deeper breath]

    What I found was that there were a great deal of black men that didn’t enjoy the movie based on the principle that the film wasn’t wholly owned by a black studio. There was a different faction of black men that thought black women defending black men was emasculating and ‘not logical’. There’s even a section of ashy black men that cotton to the idea that Black Panther, as a Marvel cinematic character, just isn’t as interesting as his white superhero counterparts. These critiques aren’t worth investment.

    However, I did find a small section of black men that disliked the film because it felt like an after school special. It’s because of that, I ended up watching the movie again and -- oh boy.

    My second viewing of Black Panther put me on a vast spectrum of enjoyment and disdain. I teetered between enjoying the musical cues of Babes Wodumo and wanting to claw my eyes out every time I saw a detailed CG scene cut to a cheap looking sound stage. This is a minor grievance in the grand scheme of a Marvel movie, because they all have this problem [especially Thor].


    Watching Black Panther a second time brought to light a lot of issues. Forest Whitaker's accent as Zuri, is bad. We need to come to terms with this, I’m sure West African Twitter are already letting him know. But yeah, it’s bad.

    This idea that T’Challa and Killmonger’s viewpoints are at odds bothers me, because both are reacting [poorly] to white supremacy and white colonialism. Which, okay, warranted. Killmonger, rightfully, wants revenge for his literal abandonment and goes about it by partnering with white men and our US Government. The only result we see from him in the film is killing women -- one of which, a black woman. When Michael B. Jordan isn’t giving us some of the best emotive acting in the film, he’s giving us some of the worst “African American Studies 101” line reads in all of Wakanda.

    I don’t think that’s totally Jordan’s fault, the writing in this movie has its ups and downs. Shuri is usually up, Killmonger is usually down.


    Really hope we get to see more shades of black folks in films of this magnitude. See? I said a positive thing!

    T’Challa is willing to make deals with white men if it means protecting his kingdom and capital gains. They both kinda lose me nearing the end of the film. Luckily, Danai Gurira, Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright and Lupita Nyong’o carry this film when it stumbles. Okay, yes, Winston Duke as M’baku is pretty great at representing othered black folks of an ostracized class [or clan] being forced to clean-up the mess during the film’s biggest power struggle.

    Black Panther opens up so many conversations [most of which were already happening], some of which aren’t worthy of the flawed film we got in the end. I’ve seen dialogues between American black women and African black women and the topic of detachment from Africa and it is worth doing a twitter search for.

    I’ve seen discussions between black queer, trans and non-binary folks and how they still feel left out. Black Panther as a film is a cautionary tale on what happens when you don’t listen to black women. The film is definitely a master class in how Marvel films, in general, promote diversity under very strict guidelines.

    There are layers of toxic masculinity in Black Panther and I'll leave that discussion for another time. But I did like it when the Jabari decided to help Black Panther and ultimately ... the film itself.

    The talk online from a lot of my black friends is ‘wanting to go to Wakanda.’ This black paradise free from colonialism. A world rife with communal marketplaces, tech innovation and a thriving wildlife. We still see straight black men fighting each other*. We see black women solving problems black men have created. We rarely see aged black elders [I see you Dorothy Steel]. We don’t see non-straight relationships. We only see able-bodies contributions. This paradise still looks very familiar.






    *An accomplishment I can give Black Panther that I can’t give any Marvel film, is that it came closest to a nonviolent resolution [M’baku saving T’Challa and T’Challa attempting to heal Killmonger]. I know it’s a pie-in-the-sky dream. I’d like to see a superhero movie climax with both the protagonist and big bad not kill each other.


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