THE BLOG
05/02/2018 15:40 SAST | Updated 05/02/2018 15:40 SAST

FILM REVIEW: Will 'Black Panther' Change The Face Of U.S. Politics?

Popular culture as an art form can be an expression of resistance and protest.

The premiere of "Black Panther" in Los Angeles, January 29, 2018.
Mario Anzuoni / Reuters
The premiere of "Black Panther" in Los Angeles, January 29, 2018.

COMMENT

Can a mere Comic Book Movie have the potential to change the face of U.S. politics? History teaches us that revolutions often ignite from less than zero.

Most revolutions ignite due to some "small" inciting incident. The Russian Revolution kicked off due to a late delivery of rye bread, which caused long angry bread lines. The French Revolution was kicked off by the representatives of the "commoners" being locked out of the government meeting. So they met in the tennis courts, thus creating a new "Tennis Court Constitution". After that, heads began to roll.

The Romanian revolution against communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu started when police blocked a simple church service. Worldwide, most revolutions are ignited by something "small", i.e. a meeting in a pub, a picture of a protester holding a flower, a lone act of oppression against an innocent that galvanises popular anger and discontent. Revolutions ignite from less than zero.

On February 16, a "comic book movie" has the potential to start a revolution. Why? Because this is a "black-conscious" comic book movie. Because popular culture as an art form can be an expression of resistance and protest. Because during this time of intense repression against people of colour in the U.S., a fictional story that highlights people of colour (specifically, peoples of Africa and the diaspora) is a spark that can lead to a blazing inferno.

Why would a mere comic book movie have the potential to ignite a revolution? Because it has a cast of predominantly black actors, is highlighting a black story, and presenting Africa and Africans in a positive light. This is unheard of in the U.S. As the "Black Panther" trailer states, "The world is changing."

When the movie trailer first appeared, it hit a record 89-million views in 24 hours. This is unheard of; this is "revolutionary". The opening-day ticket sales exceeded that of any other Marvel release. The movie is directed by a young black-conscious director whose parents were social workers and whose breakout film, "Fruitvale Station" was a biopic of Oscar Grant, one of the many innocent black victims of senseless police violence.

The "Black Panther" soundtrack includes Kendrick Lamar, a Grammy-winning hip-hop musician extremely popular with the younger generation. Any one of these factors would be potentially igniting. Together (in these repressive times), they are straight-out explosive.

Why would a mere comic book movie have the potential to ignite a revolution? Because the current U.S. president is both loved (by his supporters) and hated, due to his crystal-clear policies and attitudes targeting people of colour. He is the avowed enemy of black folks, immigrants, or anyone who is not European or "white" enough.

All fall within his target range to bully, shame, accuse and blame. To the incredulous onlooking world, he demonstrates that he is true to one campaign promise: ke wants to make "Amerikkka great" (a.k.a. "white") again.

On February 16, a comic book movie has the potential to change all that. This comic book movie will be highlighting a different kind of world, a very different kingdom – Wakanda.

In Wakanda, (unlike Charlottesville) innocent, peaceful antiracist protestors are not murdered with impunity (and presidential approval) by racist fanatics. If they are, they do not go unpunished.

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters
Cast member Chadwick Boseman poses at the premiere of "Black Panther" in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

In Wakanda, innocent protesters who are peaceful women of colour do not have their movements (Black Lives Matter) labelled "black identity extremists" and "terrorists" by the F.B.I., C.I.A., right-wing news media, or the commander in chief.

Wakanda is not that kind of party, not that kind of kingdom. Wakanda is about justice – something long missing from the dialogue in Trump's "king-dumb".

In Wakanda, little children of colour have heroes that reflect them, their values, their hopes, their dreams, their manhood and womanhood – as well as their skin tone. In Wakanda, not only do black lives matter, black heroes matter.

In Wakanda, justice prevails, not an endless, horrifying trail of "not guilties". This movie will open up a tear in the Wizard of Oz's not-so-magical curtain of facades, deception and racist brainwashing. This will open up a whole new world. A cinematic word of "living colour" – like the one we really live in.

This is the exact reason my small publishing company is working on projects that create positive stories, black superheroes, children's book with diversity, etc. We are encouraging writers and artists who reflect the real world existing here in 2018 – a world of panoramic, beautiful, rich, colourful diversity. The world (and the U.S.) is ready for some new stories.

Move over, Captain America and Superman. Make some room for today's superhero – Black Panther is here to stay. The Black Panthers of history [i.e. – the black-conscious political movement born in the U.S. in the 1960s] were systematically destroyed by U.S. authorities. Comic book superheroes are a little harder to kill than Fred Hampton [a Black Panther activist killed by U.S law enforcement in 1969].

What if conscious fathers and mothers of every ethnicity took the opening day of "Black Panther" off? What if they took their kids to go see what a new diverse world could look like? What if Twitter blew up with a new hashtag (#ODBlackPanther), encouraging people of colour and their allies to take the opening day of "Black Panther" off? What if the new diverse U.S. bought every open seat in theatres playing "Black Panther" to send a resounding message to Weinstein's decrepit Hollywood: "Reflect us all!"

The lineup for Marvels' movie has more combustion in it than long rye bread lines and tennis court meetings. It has a far more powerful force driving it - the imaginative genius of the African diaspora.

What if February 16, opening day of "Black Panther", became like a new July 4 – a modern celebration day of liberty?

What if we celebrated the unique virtues of every culture, including those of peoples of African descent? What if we replaced the tragedy of Charlottesville with the glory of Wakanda?

The "world is changing", as the "Black Panther" trailer states. Sometimes, something as "trite" and innocuous as a comic book movie can spark a revolution. The lineup for Marvels' movie has more combustion in it than long rye bread lines and tennis court meetings. It has a far more powerful force driving it – the imaginative genius of the African diaspora.

The powers that be murdered Dr King, Malcolm X, and key leaders of the original Black Panthers. But there is something kind of special about the characters from comic books – they fester in the fruitful imaginations of children. That is the garden where triumphant and lasting revolutions are born.

This article was previously published on the author's website: http://frankblaney.com/will-black-panther-ignite-revolution