There have been some interesting points made on the Black Panther open thread that Scott started, some of which I agree with and others of which I very much don’t. I saw the movie on opening night and absolutely adored it. There are, of course, things to nitpick, but I think that it succeeded in its most essential tasks of a) being a thoroughly enjoyable feat of storytelling, b) being black as hell (seriously, only two characters of any consequence at all are white, and the movie would stand fine on its own without them) and still commercially successful, and c) getting a popular movie audience thinking about the complex dialectics of freedom struggles — African-American and otherwise — historically and now.
The dynamics of the first two are obvious. As for the last, and in brief since I’m sympathetic to those who wish to avoid spoilers: the film spends a lot of time flirting with a supposed (and supposedly irreconcilable) dichotomy between “rational and less violent black heads will prevail and help perfect the world” (as repped by T’Challa) and “after all that’s been done to us, it makes sense for black folks to burn this whole damn thing down in order to save ourselves” (as repped by Killmonger). Ultimately, however, it pulls back, with T’Challa and Killmonger (who can be read as carriers of each of those freedom struggle traditions) see each other, even if they disagree fundamentally. Maybe it doesn’t completely avoid framing their positions as “good” vs “evil,” but I do think there’s more nuance than that.
In any case, there are tons of good things that have already been written about the film and why it’s important. I just wanted to highlight this story that I found particularly moving. A teacher took seven black seventh-graders to see the film. Here’s some of what they had to say. It’s important to understand what this film means for black kids who have rarely had an opportunity to experience something like Black Panther before:
I want to see the things they have to offer [in Africa]. After all, the media does not show the good. We see Africa as a third-world country but it is probably so much more. — Scottia Coy
To see a black person control a whole country and creating all this technology really made me feel I can do more with my brain. — Jaheim Hedge
For people of color, it shows us that we that we can get through any obstacles that are thrown at us if we work together. We can also help the world by sharing our resources. — Jaheim Hedge
This film is important for black people because we must represent ourselves and not be scared to show who we are. Also to make ourselves known to the world. — Ethan Tudor
Black women are as strong as any men and black little girls can be superheroes. — Gabriela Myles
If Black Panther were in our country, I feel like Black Panther would be in control of violence and racism. Black people would come together. — Marquez Celestin