I wrote this on February 22nd, but I was scared to post it because I didn’t want my friends to get mad at me thereby breaking my own cardinal rule of writing: Don’t censor yourself. Corwardly Lion that I was and gaining courage post Oscar Season I’m editing and posting so I can say what I have to say while it’s relevant (eye roll).
I went to see Black Panther. I don't get out much so I'll be honest I thought it was a movie about The Movement and was down to see it on the strength of that. Luckily, I figured out it was a Marvel Comics thing so I wasn’t that kind of disappointed, but disappointed I was.
Number 1 and 2 had to do with on and off screen business that qualify me as an honorary member of #teamtheatersnob, but I'll briefly indulge.
1. The green screen. I’m tired of seeing it.
2. If Vibranium World is that bad ass where’s my Matrix effects? Where’s my Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?
In other words, y'all didn't have any movie magic technology left in the can for the biggest black superhero movie of the millennium?
The for real though disappointments weren’t even about the movie. They were about the conversations overheard about the movie. Black people talking about this being our movie irritated me. I wanted to say that this is hardly our movie, but you know what? It is and that irritated me even more. Black Panther put black people’s biggest problems on screen which we typically don’t usually like to air in the public media-sphere, but Wakanda made us do it.
Was it me or did we just watch a movie about tribal wars between hood-niggas and bougie blacks? This movie is not futuristic at all. This is very much present tense and apparently a part of our collective future tense. If this had been a real African/African-American (I slash because we’re never quite sure where we stand on this) Superhero Movie, some spirit would have appeared out of no where in a cloud of smoke and wear Wakandans out because they killed that boy’s father, tried to sweep it under the rug and then went forth and prospered. Unh. And y’all will argue all day at the barber shop about Michael Jordan not giving back? Just sayin’. Read some African stories. That’s what Superhuman Africans do. African-American Superheroes? They in-fight over old beef. I’m beat.
These fabulously dressed actors (shout out fellow Hamptonian and now Oscar winning designer) remind us how race, class and capitalism were, are and apparently will forever be intertwined in black life that supposedly matters. Wakandans, our fictitious Talented 10th, having acquired the secret to success, kept it for themselves like true gatekeepers, benefited from it financially and did the obvious—got new clothes, cars, attitudes and accents. And that’s just on-screen. I won’t even go into how our movie grossed over a billion dollars for the Marvel brand which is not a black owned business, because then I’d be making it too deep. I heard someone say of those who watched it bootleg, "If you don't give Wakanda your money that's just wrong." Trust and believe, as good as giving to Wakanda made you feel about yourself, your money didn’t go to Wakanda. Most of it went to David J. Grant and/or Kevin Feige.
Fans flocked to the scene to see ourselves as powerful, intelligent and strong dressed and painted for the occasion. Which was a problem. In case you weren’t in a black barber shop or kitchen table at the time, I’ll fill you in. There was lots of sidebars about the costumed audience. Folks were mad because we gave the Marvel twins our money and spent more so we could look cute doing it. The one’s that geared up said that nobody had an issue when people put on R2D2 outfits and dressed up like Chewbaka for Star Wars and that they thought it was cute when their kids had on warlock outfits for Harry Potter. They were right about that, but we didn’t because back then that was "white folks shit." I’ll let you marinate on that.
Personally, I don't care if you want to dress up. Dress up, black people, if it makes you feel happy because believe me, you deserve as much happiness as you can muster. Maybe we do need our own Halloween to live up to. I didn't dress up to see Black Panther, I went in my Clark Kents. Why stray from my own script? While sitting there stewing about what I saw, I wondered what the real life Black Panthers would have to say. I already know what will come from all of this. Things to buy and sell us on. Mattel action figures. Wakandan Barbie. I heard that there's already talk about a Wakanda curriculum so they can "teach this to the children!"
Four words. Not on my watch.