Black Panther: Can We Just Enjoy It?

Black Panther, the Black superhero movie we’ve been praise dancing for, drops in a little over two weeks. Longtime fans and anxious newcomers alike have been posting, tweeting, and spreading the good word of our king and savior, T’Challa, and his squad of female warriors the Dora Milaje. This week we got to gaze upon the most moisturized actors in Hollywood as Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and the rest of the cast of Black Panther blessed us with their presence on the purple carpet. It is amazing to see Black people from all walks of life come together to geek out over such a momentous occasion in Black cinema.

We are all the photographer.

However, with all the appropriate levels of excitement, there’s bound to be a handful of overzealous fans, who worship our lightskinned Egyptian ancestors through Dr. Umar’s Facebook sermons, who pull ashy thoughts out of their third eyes. Exhibit A:

Noooo. Nooooo. No no no no no no no no (Georgina voice). LITERALLY no.

Let’s Talk Money

First off, Black Panther’s opening weekend sales are projected at over $100 million, which is really good for those of us that live in the real world. Second, a quick Google search would inform you that T’Challa, *fictional* king of Wakanda, is worth $90.7 Trillion.

That’s trillion. With a “T”. Not an “M”. Not a “B”. A “T.”

He’s got 30 more of these back at the crib.

Everyone who bought a ticket to the movie (including people who are not Black) would have to go see the movie almost a million times to make that much money. Tickets are like 15 bucks a pop now, and that’s if you don’t see it in IMAX! And even if we as a people were able to save up that much money, you really think a group of African countries are just gonna mooooove on over so a bunch of nerds can live out some Afrofuturistic fantasy based on a comic character created by Stan Lee? So, let’s not talk as if we’re emptying our savings accounts (we’re not) or act like we could just go recreate a made-up country most people just realized was a thing three months ago.

Where the Money REALLY Is

Another gripe I’ve been seeing is people complaining about Black Panther not being shot in any African countries. The bulk of the film was shot in Atlanta and South Korea, and the jungle scenes were shot in Argentina. To that I say… so? Marvel uses Cleveland to shoot their New York scenes all the time. Ryan Coogler spent several weeks in South Africa to study all he could before he began filming, so it isn’t like he didn’t try. And don’t you think Coogler would have shot in some African countries if he could? He is very much under contract at Marvel, a huge corporation that is giving him the resources to make this film. If they say he can’t film in Africa, then he’s not filming in Africa. At the end of the day, the creators are telling a story inspired by African culture, not a whole ass biopic.

The man does his homework.

The Music Matters

You know what? I’ll even throw in one of my personal complaints.

I’m a first generation Liberian-American, so I grew up in an immigrant West African household. When I spent two years in my countries of origin for middle school, I was exposed to a wider selection of Afrobeat artists than my parents raised me on, so when it looked like Black Panther was finally getting made, I was hoping that the soundtrack would prominently feature some African artists like WizKid, Ayo Jay, and P-Square, a brother-brother duo whose last name is OKOYE! Ok, maybe half of P-Square because one of them dipped, but it still would have been dope to have these artists spit some bars about Wakanda.

Instead we got an album produced by Kendrick Lamar. Now I was cool with it because he’s a dope MC and SZA’s verse about depression on “All The Stars” gave me LIFE, but when I heard Future come out of nowhere on the second track, “King’s Dead” reciting the raunchiest Three 6 Mafia line in nursery rhyme fashion, I screamed out a lung.

Like…why?

Like… did no one listen to his verse before they sent it in, or… what? As of today, only two songs have been released from the soundtrack, but it’s really anyone’s guess if the rest of the album slaps or not. We’ll just have to wait until February 9 to find out.

Critique But Also Enjoy

I say all that to say this. I, too am a fan. I, too nitpick every single detail of whatever I’m watching, especially if there are Black creatives behind it. I’m also a young Black person living in post-BLM America where many of us have been inspired to detach from the system and live as pro-Black as possible, even down to our favorite fictional characters. But the truth of the matter is, Black Panther is just that, a fictional character owned by a huge corporation run primarily by old, rich white men whose main goal is to turn a profit by selling pretty looking merchandise.

However, these facts shouldn’t rob any Black person of their joy. The look on a young Black boy’s face when he sees a Black Panther toy commercial or a grown Black man’s face when he sees a Black Panther Lexus commercial is something special that shouldn’t be over-analyzed. There’s no think piece on capitalism that will change the fact that Black girls of all ages will see themselves in a spectrum of intelligent, strong, dark-skinned natural hair-wearing Black women in a major Hollywood blockbuster for the first time. African speculative fiction has finally reached mainstream culture, and it’s a great feeling. After countless narratives of African countries being nothing but poor, fly-covered Ebola people living in shitholes, here comes a film that’s going to make the world take a second look at how wondrous Africa really is.

You know the difference between you and T’Challa? He makes product placement look good.

Black Panther is going to inspire the current and next generation of Black creatives to keep making their own heroes, so maybe years down the road, we’ll have a Black hero made by a team of Black creatives breaking box office records. Maybe we’ll see more solid investment in creatives like Marcus Williams or Loyiso Mkize, so we can have shows like Tuskegee Heirs and Kwezi in our Netflix queues. There’s a bright future ahead for Black speculative fiction, and we have the efforts of Ryan Coogler, the cast of Black Panther, and the fans that support the film to thank for that.

Let’s not miss Bast’s blessing throwing a fit over the fine print.

Lookin’ like a new age Living Single. We stan. (Image courtesy of Entertainment Weekly.)

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