How Black Panther Builds Complex Characters From the Politics of Colonization
In the original and in Wakanda Forever, heroes and villains are deeply layered, reflecting real-life issues facing people of color around the world.
What ingredients make a hero or a villain? Despite so many film franchises attempts at bringing nuance to the dichotomy between good and evil, their formulas for these characters, particularly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, seem painfully reductive: Heroes make speeches about justice and fight to valiant, soaring theme music. Villains? God complexes and more stylish fashion.
A notable exception is the Black Panther films, which imbue heroes and villains with a complexity that derives from the politics around colonization and the African diaspora. In these movies, the line between hero and villain isnt simply one between good and evil; its a boundary defined by the relatable ways each side reacts to the real enemy: the white nations and institutions that benefit from the enslavement and disenfranchisement of people of color.
Black Panther and particularly the new sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, exhibit a reverence for their heroes thats rooted in familial and cultural legacy. TChalla (Chadwick Boseman), the king of Wakanda with a superhero alter ego, is grounded in and supported by his lineage: not only do his mother and sister act as his moral foundation, but so do his father and the Black Panthers who have come before him. Its noteworthy that the ceremony to become the next Black Panther involves being buried and speaking to ancestors for guidance.
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