03 Mar Is Black Panther Marvel’s Best Movie Yet?
When I was first introduced to the Black Panther, I was twelve and babysitting my siblings in the sweltering heat of Lagos, Nigeria. As usual, the power supply was spotty and so we had to put on the generator. When we finally managed to turn it on, my brother suggested we watch Disney XD. At first, I was wary-the unspoken agreement in our house was that Disney channel was for girls and Disney XD was for boys. We chose not to fight that rule. At the time, I had just entered an all girls’ school and was fighting to suppress my tomboyish nature but deep down I wanted to watch the boys’ channel and so I did.
That was the first time I was introduced to the Avengers: Earth’s mightiest heroes and in the world of Tony Stark, Steve Rogers and Hank Pym I knew I had found my tribe. But out of all of them, none of the captured my attention and piqued my curiosity like the Black Panther did. He was smart, educated and he kicked total butt. Above all, not only was he black, he was a monarch from a prominent African country. And for someone like me, who only ever got to see Africa in a bad light in mainstream media, T’Challa the King of Wakanda meant everything to me.
A call-and-response is a form of interaction between a speaker and an audience in which the speaker’s calls are punctuated by the audience’s response. The call-and-response is deeply rooted in African culture; it can be found in our music, our interactions, our literature. For a long time, it was an integral part of our storytelling. And so when the Black Panther called for his story to be told on the silver screen with director Ryan Coogler at the helm, the African diaspora responded. Millions showed up to movie theater in traditional attires, showcasing their cultures and breaking box-office records in the process.
One thing that stood out in the film was the attention to detail of the whole production. From the costuming and the set designs to the accents that all the actors sport, the production crew did their best to stay true to the African aesthetic. Another thing that stood out was how relevant the film was in the current world climate. Oftentimes, Marvel movies fail to push the envelope and question or even comment on the status quo, but Black Panther does more than that. The movie addresses issues of race, colonialism and the disparities that are often seen in the African diaspora and it does that while giving us stunning Afro-futuristic visuals and strong character development.
Marvel is usually known for portraying cookie-cutter female characters who lack significant character development but here’s where Black Panther is different. The movie offers us strong female characters and makes us fall in love each and every one of them. From Okoye who is Wakanda’s strongest warrior and the leader of the Dora Milaje (Wakanda’s Secret Service) to T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, who spearheads Wakanda’s technological innovations despite the fact that she is a teenager, the movie makes it obvious that these women are not only indispensable to T’Challa but they also live fulfilling lives outside of aiding their King. The movie also adheres to the historical reality of what an African patriarchy must have looked like before colonization. For many African civilizations women played a crucial part in building and maintaining the society, not as docile subordinates but as equals.