Marvel’s “The Black Panther” is a solid enough popcorn movie, although not nearly as great as some would have you believe. I personally would not rate it in the top 3 of Marvel Studio movies. It is, however, also a movie that promotes rampant statism and obedience to ‘leaders.’ It is no wonder that this character sided with Iron Man on the wrong side in “Captain America: Civil War.”
As is virtually always the case with movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), “The Black Panther”, too, is technically very well made. Almost everything is in order in the technical sense of it. It is a perfectly acceptable box office hit in that regard. The CGI effects are not always up to snuff though. Somehow the effect houses have still not managed to bring living organism motion into the realm of physical realism. CGI-created people and animals still move around the screen like videogame characters, often without any sense of real gravity, locomotion, or realistic velocity. “Black Panther” is no exception although they have come a long way since the terrible CGI movement in the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” movies.
The acting ranges from acceptable to good, but it shouldn’t be any surprise that there are no Award winning performances here. The “type” of acting being done in the movie has been done a zillion times before, and there is nothing here that would require any of the actors to challenge the limits of their talent. From what i’ve gathered from various reviews, Michael B. Jordan supposedly hits it out of the park as Erik Killmonger, the main villain of the show. But honestly, all i saw was an actor doing a simply good enough job in a hardly challenging role. Not that Chadwick Boseman was any better. He could have simply been there to cash a paycheck and it would have about looked the same. Of course, actors can only do so much with what they’re given, so in all honesty Boseman couldn’t do much. Veteran actors like Forest Whittaker and Angela Bassett do a good job, but again, in roles that don’t stretch their considerable talent in the slightest. The best are probably Andy Sirkis, who seems to be having a lot of fun as Ulysses Klaue, Letitia Wright as the cheeky Shuri, and Danai Gurira, who does a convincing job of acting a tough warrior. She’s had practice, of course, by playing the Samurai-sword wielding badass in “The Walking Dead”.
So far, so above average. What should interest libertarian/anarchist movie spectators, however, is the story and through its story, it’s moral and political message. What is it telling us about what it thinks is the proper role of the state, and what does it tell us ordinary people should behave like in this context.
Well, things get really depressing for libertarians there in a hurry.
I could get into any of the alleged SJW/cultural marxist themes and characters in the movie one by one. But in fairness, i just wasn’t all that distracted or annoyed by it. Full blown SJW movies that force leftist propaganda down your throat do so overtly, by virtue signalling, messaging, lecturing and judging those who disagree with their politics. “Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” is a perfect example of this. And the whole intent behind cynically feminist bombs like “Ghostbusters” is also quite clear, as being a vehicle for man-bashing. However, while “Black Panther” has virtually nothing but black characters and actors, this is completely logical and organic to the story, as its story plays out mostly in a fictional African nation, after all. Sure, one of the villains is white, but the main villain is black just like its hero. And another white character kind of plays comic relief. So there is no overt anti-white racism here. A jokey retort at one point calls Everett K. Ross, the white CIA agent played by Martin Freeman a “colonizer,” but then again, he is a CIA-agent. So us libertarians can hardly complain. If anything, the movie treats its white CIA-agent really well, which if anything adds to the blind authority worship that the movie promotes.
The thing about “Black Panther” is that while some of those on the right saw things you could expect from Social Justice Warriors (female army that is equal to a male army; all black actors; strong females, etc.) they were presented not in any lecturing, in your face way, but as if it is entirely normal and taken for granted. There is no smug lecturing that i can recall about the female warriors beating the male warriors, for instance. It is just one group of warriors opposite the other, and no specific attention to gender is played.
It’s political correctness is mostly to be found in it’s story, along with its blind worship of authority.
The story, of course, goes a little something like this:
After the death of his father, T’Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people
This powerful enemy is Erik Killmonger, a man whose father was killed by T’Challa’s father for turning against his home nation and wanting to help the world by exposing his home nation’s access to a native natural resource, a uniquely strong metal called Vibranium. Erik’s father felt that the nation of Wakanda, a tremendously rich and advanced but politically isolationist country, should open its borders, help out other nations in need and make its Vibranium available internationally to the oppressed masses. As can be expected, with his father having been killed because of this, Erik will step in his footsteps and try to exact revenge on the people who were ultimately behind his father’s death, as well as achieve his father’s aims.
These latter aims, obviously, sound remarkably like the ideals of mainstream leftists as well as neocons, who believe that prosperous and advanced nations serve to benefit the world even if at the expense of those nations and their peoples. So how come these people are regarded as the movie’s villains? Well, this is where modern Hollywood’s enamoration with moral “shades of grey” comes in. We are supposed to see, at least initially, that heroes can make morally “dubious” decisions, are imperfect, arrogant, stupid, or any other label you can stick on them. Simply admiring people who are good is a thing of the past in Hollywood where bad people are made to look better by making the good people look worse.
The heroic characters will, make no mistake, ultimately see the ideals of the villains to be righteous ones and basically give the terrorists their due. Only problem they ultimately really have is not in the traitors’ ideals but in the ways they’ve gone about them; their actions, their tactics.
Which, of course, are those that are not sanctioned by the state. Even though states perform these types of actions a million-fold. But we can’t have individual civilians do what states do, can we? Individual people are supposed to know their place as the ruled, and only governmental leaders, or kings such as in the case of this movie, get to make decisions pertaining to whole nations and whole populations.
But whom made these men king?
The story is typical for modern films in that it tries to deal with real world events within movie universe context. In this case, the overt political message is one of isolationism versus interventionism, or whether a nation should open its “hearts” and borders to help people from the outside, even at its own expense if necessary. While the movie’s antagonist actually takes the interventionist side (and therefore gets sympathy from leftist movie critics, if only for his motivations), he is clearly presented as a vicious, murderous lunatic who uses his grievances as an excuse to go on a power trip. The so-called relevancy and importance of his grievances, however, are still saved by the film by virtue of T’Challa adopting them anyway in the end.
The message is: open your borders; let immigrants and refugrees in, regardless of any problems they may bring along with them; spend money and resources on other nations that need help, to overthrow bad rulers or governments (note that the government of Wakanda is monarchic, not democratic, and that rulers are selected by heritage and fascistic “might makes right” procedures).
So obviously in terms of foreign policy, “Black Panther” espouses internationalism, foreign aid, open borders or at least a very charitable immigration policy, and helping to overthrow dictators in other nations. This is all about as progressive as it can get in terms of foreign policy. The movie was clearly written and produced by Democratic Party voters.
All of the points of view as presented in the movie, are presented and represented by people with power. In other words, by people working for the Wakandan government, or monarchy as it happens to be the case. Bureaucrats, civil servants, military officers, tribal heads, and those seeking a position of power in Wakandan government are the ones that are represented in the movie. Virtually no ordinary Wakandan citizen that i can recall has anything to say. Any Wakandan characters in the movie that are not part of the government are either played by meaningless extras or are fawning government/monarchy worshipers. Suffice it to say that all of the points of view that are propagated are pro-power and pro-rulers. The views presented about Wakandan leadership are by and large positive and optimistic, with Erik Kilmonger being the exception. But even Kilmonger has the “right idea” if not the proper methods.
The clear message here, is that government is benevolent and wise, even if initially they are “wrong”. That they have the best interest of their people at heart. That they are decent and well-meaning people. And that you as a citizen are really just an inconsequential cypher who really should just trust your leaders to do what’s ‘right’.
What is especially interesting is how liberal Democrats, or the left in general, seem to fawn over this movie, despite its heroes not being democratic at all. Wakanda is a monarchy, where leadership is transferred by heritage (only to be challenged in a physical fight, which oddly is more akin to a Spartan fascistic ‘might makes right’ doctrine). There is no voting. No democratic rights for the people. They are simply to accept being subjects and to trust their leaders to be benevolent. Aren’t the left, and liberal Democrats in particular, supposed to be all about democratic rights for the common people, and about equality? Aren’t the left against classism? Funny how there is no ‘leftist’ criticism of this aspect of the movie. The latter could be explained, of course, if we realize the movie is depicting a non-white, non-Western nation, and therefore to suggest that what we can demand for the West we can also demand for non-Western parts of the world in terms of rights for ordinary people, would be ‘neo-colonialism.’ How else to explain it? What’s good for the goose is most definitely not good for the gander. Leftist hypocrisy at play.
When it comes to its “McGuffin,” or in other words, its object that is fought over, it is called Vibranium, apparently the strongest metal in fiction-land, and a natural resource in Wakanda. It is quite clear that this resource is both managed, and basically owned by the Wakandan monarchical rulers, as they get to decide its use and whether it can be exported. Typical libertarian questions abound: who discovered it? Who owned the land? Why does the Wakandan king get to determine what happens to it? Does the Wakandan king literally own the whole of Wakanda? All of these questions are irrelevant within the context of the film, of course, because the ruler owning the whole land and dictating the usage of any natural resource is a given. There are, as far as i can tell, no such things as real private property rights in Wakanda. Which leads me to believe that aside from being monarchistic in its leadership, Wakanda is near-or total communist in the way property is dealt with for the rest of the nation (though no waiting lines for toilet paper are shown), while the Wakandan Court, of course, bathes in opulant wealth.
Again, interesting how leftist movie critics see no reason to investigate this aspect of the story. Benevolent forms of serfdom is no problem for them, apparently.
Things get even more repugnant when we see how Wakandan political society operates. Military officers at one point clearly express that their duty is to serve obediently, no matter who the king is, or what he does. Serving one’s nation is thus equalized to serving a master. Nationalism here is rampant as well as near-blind obedience to political leaders. Almost Nazi-esque. Sure, at some point there is finally a revolt within the military, but it’s too little too late considering the declaration of blind obedience made earlier, especially when there was no knowledge of T’Challa still being alive.
This aspect of the movie thus clearly espouses a near-worshipful statist attitude.
The decision to ultimate embrace the points of view of Erik Kilmonger and his late father, to open up Wakanda and spend its resources on people and countries on the outside, no matter the cost to Wakandan citizens, is an altruistic decision which, of course, is made by an unelected ruler no matter how Wakandans everywhere may feel about it. And so altruism is collectivized and imposed, and one’s own people are sacrificed on the altar of being “good” and progressive. Such a nice message for the applauding leftist media in the wake of the Donald Trump victory. If only America could always have the correct president, and if only that president could then rule by the proper sentimental, feel-good, virtue signaling motivations no matter what a “basket of deplorables” might think. “Black Panther” is one of the best Marvel movies, if not the best, indeed.
As we all now the current president of the United States has been in bitter conflict with both the CIA and the FBI, so what to do with the CIA representative in this movie? Do they depict him as a scheming operative looking to stoke fires of discontent in other nations, the way they usually do when they show CIA machinations in Hollywood movies?
Nah, they show this guy as basically a good guy that is a little bit goofy but has his heart in the right place, and is willing to sacrifice himself for the people of Wakanda, because the CIA is on “their” side now. Sure, some lip service to CIA history is paid when the CIA agent in “Black Panther” is jokingly referred to as “colonizer.” but obviously this is played for laughs. Look for CIA agents to be presented as “decent guys with their hearts in the right place” when the movie about Pinochet finally comes out. Well, at least if Donald Trump is still not seeing eye to eye with the CIA by then.
Other, less on-the-nose progressive points of view can be seen in the role of women in the Wakandan military. It is presented as matter of fact and therefore not shoved down your throat. But since no female seems to be in any way in the running to legitimately become ruler of Wakanda, either by heritage of through challenging the heire apparant, the question is just how feminist the movie really is. Sure, women can fight and die for the state and the ruler. Happy, ladies? But in a position of power? Don’t be silly. It’s still a good ole boys club. Maybe not old white men, but still.
By the way, how would that go? T’Challa about to sit on the thrown, but then challenged by a woman at the eleventh hour. Battle to the death. T’Challa, the movie’s hero, must kick the female challenger’s ass if he is to win. Would this example of equality be applauded by SJW movie fans? Maybe not.
In conclusion, the movie espouses views of equality, yet its leaders are not chosen through vote but appointed through blood lines. The only way to challenge such an appointment is to challenge them to a physical battle to the death, which is quite fascistic. There are no checks and balances because there is no democracy. Therefore you just have to hope that the leaders are truly noble, wise and kindhearted. But the system itself is not in any way criticized by movie critics who are otherwise very politically sensitive to movie content. So the message is to trust leaders, who clearly know better than you, who are wise and kind-hearted, and end up doing the right thing. Basically, a statist’s fairy tale about political power. Of course when they do err, they need to be convinced to change their views, which they will surely do. The error, of course, is one of non-progressive thinking. And the correct course, ultimately, is one of progressive thinking.
No matter how superficially or hypocritically they may be presented in the movie, equality, internationalism, socialism, feminism, open borders, and blind obedience to (the right) leaders are clearly the messages that the “Black Panther” has to enrich you with.
At no point in the movie are any individuals really allowed to think about themselves as individuals, with their own rights and liberties, and without a sense of obedient duty to the state and its non-democratic ruler.
As such, the libertarian rating for “Black Panther” can only be “BOMB.”
Is it any surprise that the movie is so beloved by professional movie critics?