Because the king don’t cry, king don’t die
King don’t lie, king give heart, king get by, king don’t fall
Kingdom come, when I come, you know why
King, king, king, king
I am T’Challa! ~Black Panther // Kendrick Lamar
I saw Black Panther on opening night and it was amazing! Hands-down the best Marvel movie ever created: it was exciting, humorous, and inspiring. Not only do I want every single outfit worn in this movie but I lowkey wish I could move to Wakanda. Also, don’t be surprised if my future kids are named after characters in this movie.
I’ve seen the movie twice now and my thoughts have settled enough that I am prepared to analyze and share my thoughts.
Ok, you should’ve seen the movie by now, but I’m obligated to give you a warning: this contains spoilers.
During the duration of the movie I got chills realizing just how much some of the narrative mirrored our world today. I don’t quite remember whose line it was, but one of the characters stated that if Wakanda opened it’s borders then people would come, bringing their problems with them and pollute the nation. This mirrors some people’s attitudes to immigration in the United States: we shouldn’t let them in because they’ll “pollute our society”. It’s a fear tactic, the Wakandans feared corruption by the world just as some Americans fear the loss of jobs, their way of life, and their safety.
Even in Erik Killmonger’s character we find a relatable element. Without a doubt Killmonger is evil, I mean he’s a murderer, however his philosophies themselves aren’t evil and that’s what makes him an amazing villain. Killmonger is angry that Wakanda chooses to stand by as black people around the world are being oppressed while they have the ability to help. This frustration is understandable but his solutions are wrong: arm the population with weapons and mercilessly kill the oppressor. As T’Challa said, Killmonger would have the oppressed become the oppressor. A lot of people in real life hold this philosophy: that oppressed people should give colonizers a taste of their own medicine, but while it is a very visceral response and a natural one: it won’t solve anything. We should treat people as we would want to be treated rather than how they treat us.
I think everyone can agree that the fashion was top-notch. Even those who never notice the costume design in a film had at least one thing they were struck by fashion-wise in this movie. For me, I was struck by everything. My favorite looks were Shuri’s white dress with the tulle ruffle on the back, Nakia’s green jumpsuit, and T’Challa’s Kente cloth edged robe.
I also loved the symbolism that was laced through the looks. For instance, I noticed Shuri’s clothes were a lot more modern-Western influenced than the other characters, I think this is because she’s the youngest and represents technological innovation and the integration of culture. There was also a huge contrast between T’Challa’s and Killmonger’s kingly garb. T’Challa always wore his robe closed while Killmonger wore it open to expose his chest. I think is portraying Killmonger’s eagerness to show his power and strength but also his tendency not care about acceptability and tradition. T’Challa is just as strong as (if not stronger) than Killmonger but more reserved, tactical, and discreet.
I watched a commentary where the director Ryan Coogler was discussing the symbolism in the casino scene. T’Challa is wearing black, Nakia green, and Okoye red, these are the colors of the Pan-African flag. Also, when in everyone’s favorite scene Okoye flings off her wig to expose her shaven head, she’s symbolizing the casting-off of narrow European standards of beauty and embracing her natural glory. I really feel that.
Finally, we come to my one of my favorite themes in this film: female empowerment and specifically black girl magic. The Dora Milaje were spectacular, the concept of an all female warrior/body-guard squad really peaked my interest but it was even better in execution. What I truly loved throughout this movie was that women were allowed to be fierce and vulnerable, strong and sensitive, to show the multi-faceted nature of femininity. Sometimes with modern feminism we end up exalting women at the expense of men, but in this film everyone was allowed to be who they truly are. Having female body guards didn’t diminish T’Challa’s masculinity or make him seem weak and incapable, rather it made him seem stronger and more secure.
Ryan Coogler has been continually discussing the concept of “femininity as a weapon”, which I can’t get enough of. When Okoye throws her wig and Nakia fights with her high heel in the casino they’re using femininity as a weapon. The fact that all of the Dora Milaje fight in dresses even further portrays femininity as a weapon. One of my favorite scenes is when W’Kabi asks Okoye if she would really kill him, her lover, she responds without hesitation, “For Wakanda? Without question”. This comment exemplifies Okoye’s loyalty to her country, her heritage, and herself first and foremost. It’s so powerful to see them standing there: Okoye with her spear pointed at W’Kabi who’s kneeling before her. By her courageous display of loyalty she eventually brings him back to his senses.
Showing black women as beautiful, kind, smart, and strong is one of the best things that Black Panther does. Just the fact that Shuri, a 16-year-old black girl is the smartest character in the Marvel Universe is monumental, especially for me: a 16-year-old black girl. I’ve heard people say that this movie changed their perceptions of black women: it caused them to realize that black women are truly beautiful. Any movie that can change people’s perceptions is a legendary one indeed.
I could go on and on about this film so there may be a part two in the future. But for now, tell me what you thought of Black Panther, did you enjoy it? What did you gather from the film?
Stay fly, Wakanda Forever!