Marvel’s Black Panther received critical acclaim not only because of portrayal of a superhero’s journey but more so about the black cultures journey. Not only was the film a box office hit but it was dubbed as a cultural phenomenon. The movie celebrates the black culture in different mediums. For example, the racial dynamics present in the film caught the interests of the viewers. It portrays these dynamics as often problematic and complicated. As analysed using the racial lens, the film is truly crucial. First, the backbone of the movie is black from the writer to the director. The movie tells the story of a black character from a fictional country known as Wakanda. The movie is not only racially speaking by casting pre-dominantly black actors and actresses but the film also serves as a racial commentary about the world.
The main protagonist of the film is Black Panther and his ‘blackness’ serves as the focal point of the character’s identity. There is no white hero counterpart for the Black Panther. T’ Challa’s black root is the main source of his pride. In the plot of the film, the strong sense of pride of the people of Wakanda comes from surviving years of hardship and oppression. This experience of oppression also served as the motivation for the film’s main villain Kill Monger to plot revenge against society. In his opinion, the Black people have been victimized by racial discrimination for far too long and wanted to spearhead a black revolution.
Both T’Challa and Kill Monger were unapologetically proud of their heritage but the two characters differ in the method they wanted to parade their heritage. It some way, the two ideologies are comparable to historical figures that fought for black rights. T’Challa’s rationale was similar to that of Martin Luther King Jr. as he was a pacifist. On the other hand, Kill Monger takes on the philosophy of Malcolm X who shared the concern on black inequality.
Another notable character in the movie is Klaw who symbolizes white supremacy. Despite the lack of backstory, the character of Ulysses Klaw represents how whites exploit blacks. Klaw was a son of Nazi criminal and became obsessed with the power of Wakanda. He ‘enslaved’ some Wakandans to mine Vibranium symbolizing white colonialism and supremacy. In the film, he was fuelled by greed and wanted to extract the valuable resources from the Wakandans. He would kill anyone even the king of Wakanda.
Other racial elements present in the film are represented through the problems of Wakanda. Wakanda is an extremely industrialized country while its surrounding nations are suffering from hunger and poverty. One of the criticisms thrown at T’Challa was how his country turns a blind eye to the need of the outside world. For centuries, Wakanda has lived in isolation. The fictional country is known for its resources, beauty and advanced technology.
Likewise, the nation breaks gender stereotypes as Wakandan women are valued for their assertiveness and strengths. T’Challa was a capable ruler surrounded by equally capable women warriors. Similar to other African nations, Wakanda is also displays patriarchal tendencies despite valuing women. The obvious reason is that only men are eligible to be king and receive the power of the Black Panther. In the end, T’Challa’s leadership presents an opportunity to break away from the ‘old’ Wakanda and start anew.