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Did Anyone Else Pick Up on the Disturbing Messages in Marvel's 'Black Panther'?

February 26, 2018 in Blogs

By Leslie Lee, AlterNet

Black America deserves a more radical superhero to call its own.

The revolution has been commodified. During its opening weekend, Black Panther sold nearly half a billion dollars’ worth of tickets, thanks in large part to Marvel's ability to sell black pride to black people. It's a proven strategy used by some of the world's most successful brands. 

Take two figures as dissimilar as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Beyoncé. In recent years, the former has been photographed in a T-shirt with the hashtag #StayWoke printed above the website's logo, while the latter performed her Super Bowl halftime show alongside dancers in berets and leather outfits inspired by the black radicals of the 1960s. But just as Twitter has branded itself as socially conscious while verifying the accounts of white supremacists, and the NFL has nodded to black radicalism while black-balling Colin Kaepernick, Marvel has promoted a film as revolutionary whose politics are fundamentally conservative.

As a popcorn spectacle, Black Panther is one of the more competent superhero movies of the past decade. It's well-acted, well-written and frequently entertaining, even if its plot feels like several television episodes fastened together by lifeless CGI set pieces. Marvel's latest is more serious, thoughtful and ambitious than the likes of Ant-Man or Dr. Strange, and no one can accuse it of wasting its audience's time. Scratch beneath the surface, and Black Panther is a troubling film that preaches moderation to black audiences in a multiverse of radical white superheroes. A $200 million anti-revolutionary superhero film would have been hard to stomach during the Obama administration. In the age of Trump, when even a Star Wars prequel can be interpreted as a call to arms, it's inexplicable.

The film's fictional African setting is itself problematic. In the comic book series, Wakanda is an afro-futuristic paradise, lovingly rendered by the likes of Jack Kirby and John Romita Jr. In Black Panther, it's a mostly drab reimagining of Dubai—a utopia only insomuch as it hasn't been ravaged by the twin evils of white supremacy and capitalism.

Like Cloud City, Asgard, Themyscira or Atlantis, the Wakanda of Black Panther floats above the world, both its inhabitants and their troubles. …read more


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