*More spoilers! You’ve been warned!*
Despite having a rare Sunday work function, I have not stopped thinking about Marvel’s Black Panther, which I saw late Saturday night. It is definitely my favorite installment within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and as an ardent comic book fan, I strongly believe this movie was executed with brilliance. However, this MCU flick went a step above from the effective simplicity we have grown accustomed to in superhero films, which are typically full of childhood fantasies of superhuman strength, out-of-this-world gadgets, and lawful goods versus lawful evils.
Black Panther was a movie that tackled many of our most glaring social issues through the lens of high-powered action, and speculative fiction.
If you haven’t noticed, the US has a president who is extremely different from our previous one. A president who created a pathway to the oval office by playing on people’s fears and spewing the rhetoric of unrepentant nationalism. As he bumbled his way into office happily riding a clumsily-crafted wave of bigotry, a similar wave of anti-globalism-fueled rage rolled through the UK, France, and Germany. Sure, there is no utopia when it comes to politics, but there are things which are inevitable. And globalism is one of these things.
In the mid-credits scene of Black Panther, T’Challa addressed an international delegation and stated, “In times of crisis, the wise build bridges, the foolish build barriers.”
You know very well who he was alluding to in that sentence. And the beauty of it rested in the fact that Wakanda was once dedicated to its own form of nationalism and protectionism, but through T’Challa via the fury of Killmonger, Wakanda realized the power of its collective value was greater when shared unto the world versus allowing it to remain in isolation.
But, they also realized that their value was not solely in their technology but within their culture itself.
If you are a true sci-fi fan like me, you probably love Black Mirror. One of the key elements of Black Mirror are the ethical debates within the series concerning the exponential escalation of technology. Coogler’s Black Panther serves as a response to the technological doom in Black Mirror. In Wakanda, history, traditions, and customs are not lost due to technology. The Wakandans embrace the old ways of their society along with the comforts their technological advancements have given them. I attribute this to the Wakandans having a firmly established cultural identity that is intergenerational and not debated.
No one in Wakanda is walking around denying the causes of their Civil War, or the origins of the vibranium mound. Their elders are not merely respected but adorned and incorporated into the governing of societal norms. This gives every Wakandan child a clear sense of belonging and identity—tools necessary for navigating the more ambiguous and treacherous areas of life.
To quote Bob Marley, “In this great future, you can’t forget your past.”
The Wakandans don’t only know their past, they understand that the present is a reflection of the past. Which directly aligns with their concept of restorative justice.
T’Challa spared the life of M’Baku, and extended an olive branch while telling him that his life has value. On multiple occasions, T’Challa had deep empathy for Killmonger and attempted to save his life in order to heal his psychological wounds. Even after Killmonger’s death, T’Challa travelled to the US and purchased the childhood projects Killmonger grew up in out of respect—T’Challa sought to establish a positive well-being for the people of that community by taking ownership of his father’s missteps and correcting the past, via the present, in hopes of influencing the future.
Walking out of the theater Saturday night, I desperately wanted life to imitate art. I wanted a more holistic approach to technology, history, and how we govern. I wanted a leader who understands what it means to truly serve their people. I wanted a new justice system.
I wanted Wakanda.