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Round Table Discussion on Marvel’s “Black Panther”

As soon as I got out of the movie theater after seeing Black Panther for the first time I knew I wanted to do this round table with my fellow Talk Nerdy With Us writers. Passionate, influential, stunning, and a superhero movie to boot. It effected me so much, that I have been thinking about it ever since. And yes, I’ve seen it more than once and plan on seeing it at least once more in theaters. It’s that good!

Obviously I am not the only one who feels passionately about this movie. I’m joined by fellow writers Traci-Anne, Candice, Jenni, Christian, Shadia, Arlene, and Alexis. We’ve touched on eight topics–Opening Thoughts & Expectations, Chadwick Boseman, The Aesthetics of Wakanda, KillmongerWomen of WakandaSocial & Political ImplicationsWhat Black Panther Means to You and Final Thoughts–which cover a good spread of the movie, but we just couldn’t cover everything. We hope you enjoy reading our thoughts and invite you to share yours at the end!

Spoilers ahead, obviously.

Opening Thoughts & Expectations

Allison: I love Marvel. Ever since the first Iron Man movie, my life has been changed. Watching the MCU movies always bring me to a place of happiness and contentment. And I knew Black Panther would be no different.

I haven’t read any of the Black Panther comics so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the introduction of new characters is always exciting. And T’Challa’s introduction in Captain America: Civil War was so intriguing. It made me so excited to learn more and see Wakanda.

Traci-Anne: From the moment I went to the theater everything was amazing. I even enjoyed standing in line waiting to get into the theater (which I had to show up an hour early for, despite having my tickets already). People were dressed up, they were joking around. I live in a predominately black area and you could feel the excitement from everyone. It was only the second day the movie was open, so most of us hadn’t seen it yet. We were anxious to see if the film would live up to expectations. Let’s just say, none of us were disappointed.

Candice: The reviews and the people who got to see the pre-screenings created a huge cloud of hype around the movie. It seemed like the buzz began to eclipse reality a bit, to the point where I had to remind myself that this is a superhero movie done by Marvel and they aren’t really known for taking risks.

But everything about this movie was a “risk” for cinema: an all black leading cast, a CGI-majority environment, a movie about Black Panthers that will hit the big screen in America’s current social and political climate… etc. etc. But it turns out, I dialed my expectations back for no reason.

I can confidently say this is the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen. For the first time in a while, the hype was completely warranted.

Jenni: Going into the theater I expected to be blown away and I wasn’t disappointed! I knew going in that Black Panther would be a game changer for the MCU and films in general.

Christian: Going into the movie I had extremely high hopes and expectations. As an avid fan of everything Ryan Coogler has directed so far, I was ecstatic to see what he could do in the MCU. I watched a sneak peek at SDCC last year and the energy in the room was unprecedented. I remember thinking to myself, “If just an ounce of this vibe could be replicated when the movie premieres then we’re going to have a record breaker in our midst.” With that being said I was still a little nervous. I knew I would love the film, even if the cast just stood there on screen for 2 hours, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to be received among audiences who initially knew little about T’Challa and the Black Panther.

Shadia: I went into Black Panther will high expectations and I had a feeling it would exceed it once I saw it. From knowing about the first announcement of the movie back in 2016 and the cast announcements that came along with it, I just had A LOT of faith in the movie. I’m so proud of the movie and how brilliantly the studio was able to market Black Panther to the public. It was engaging, suspenseful and just really attracting all around. I remember when the first trailer hit last summer, my timeline went crazy (as did I) and I think from that moment on until the premiere, I was 100% READY for the movie. The people that got to see it weeks in advance before the premiere did a good job in giving out a non-spoiler review for the audience and everyone seemed to love it. When I finally saw Black Panther, I had so many emotions going through me, a feeling I haven’t gotten in a long time for a movie. I saw it twice and I’m definitely going to see it again! I thought the opening was great, it was introduced really well. Though I gasped when I realized it was Sterling K. Brown’s voiceover telling his son, Erik, about Wakanda! I liked how they opened it in Oakland as well.

Arlene: I always have that little twitchy thought in the back of my skull whenever any hugely anticipated film comes out, “It won’t live up to the hype. It can’t possibly be as good as expected!” But it was. It was even better than expected.

I think I managed to stay away from most of the trailers, because other than the cool costumes and backdrop I had no expectations at all about the plot.

Alexis:  I have been waiting for Black Panther ever since the trailer came out. I went into the movie with great anticipation but kept my expectations low, because I really didn’t know what to imagine storyline wise. I kept a distance from press interviews that might spoil certain story points and overall I was really impressed and surprised by the movie.

Chadwick Boseman

Allison: Where do I even start with Chadwick Boseman? He’s smart, kind, well-spoken, and flat-out funny. I have been impressed by Chadwick for several years now, but watching how he presents himself during the madness that is a Marvel press junket impresses me even more. He carries himself so well. And I realize now that is probably why he’s perfect for T’Challa.

Traci-Anne: I’ve been watching this man act for years, but this had to be my favorite role of his. He conveyed power, empathy, insecurity, and courage. His ability to emote through his facial expressions makes him an amazing actor. I loved him before and I love him even more now. I look forward to seeing Chadwick in more roles in the future.

Candice: Everyone has something to say about Michael B. Jordan’s rendition (which is deserved), but I don’t see enough about Boseman’s rendition of this iconic and pivotal character. He had to play a character that was much more nuanced than other male characters in this film.

In a narrative divided by tradition vs innovation, Boseman had to play both sides and play the gray middle,  without it seeming forced by the plot. He did an amazing job at scaling these differences and actively portraying organic growth in just two hours and 15 minutes. A huge round of applause for this amazing feat, Boseman. I couldn’t have fallen more in love with T’Challa.

Jenni: Is Chadwick single? Because WOW. Talent, looks, gravelly voice. SWOON. But seriously, Boseman brought T’Challa to life. I admit I didn’t know who he was prior to being cast, but now I find myself researching his roles and needing to set aside a Chadwick-end (Chadwick + weekend. Get it? GET IT???)

Christian: Chadwick was breathtaking. He embodied T’Challa’s almost boy-like qualities at the beginning of the film to completely transform into the king Wakanda needed. I feel like the T’Challa we see at the beginning of the film (and in Captain America: Civil War) is completely different than the one we see at the end of the film and that’s mostly due to Boseman’s brilliant performance. He’s strong yet kind and I think a lot of people resonate with him as a king, because it’s what we yearn for in a leader.

Shadia: Chadwick was phenomenal. He nailed the role and just seeing him graciously work his way through as T’Challa/Black Panther was amazing. T’Challa embodies what an honorable, humble and sincere man is supposed to be. He’s genuinely a good person, with such a poised personality. Chadwick was the perfect person for this role. I’m still in awe. When he’s in the suit? PERFECTION.

Alexis: I thought Chadwick did an incredible job. Since we already saw Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War I felt that we, as the audience, had the advantage of seeing T’Challa’s next chapter and Chadwick had room to flesh out the character, not as an origin story but as a character that has to learn an important lesson. T’Challa has to correct the past mistakes of his father and learns his father’s imperfections, beliefs and views are not the only ones that matter. T’Challa listens, learns and tries to do better. He doesn’t let himself tackle anything alone, because he has support. Chadwick encompassed T’Challa’s journey with flying colors and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Aesthetics of Wakanda

Allison: Every single image in Black Panther left me awestruck. Between the costumes, and the sets, and the visual effects, there is so much to marvel at. (Pun intended) The first time I watched the movie I saw it in a typical theater, but the second time I saw it in IMAX. And if you can, GO WATCH IT IN IMAX. You will not regret it.

Traci-AnneBlack Panther is proof of what happens when you have black people in control of the hair, wardrobe, lighting, and filming of black characters. It is not something that is always done with skill. The look of Wakanda was stunning. There is also the way they pulled in the looks of various African nations and tribes to differentiate between the different Wakandan tribes. Nothing was done without intention and it is clear to see how this worked.

Candice: In a few articles, the design team, Perception, talked about how challenging it was to create the tech and graphics in the infinite world that is Wakanda. But given free reign to really let loose and create their world, and it’s exceptional tech look, they really outdid themselves.

Another aesthetic I absolutely loved were how rooted in culture their traditional colors and clothes were. The Black Panther team did a lot of background research and the vibrancy and authenticity of the tribes really shone throughout the movie.

The scene where T’Challa is wearing all black, Nakia is wearing all green and black, while Okoye is in all red, truly shined through. It only made sense that the colonizers be in blue.

But back to the people of Wakanda, it was amazing to see these different subcultures, with hugely different aestethics, beliefs, and demeanors come together. In a way, the aesthetics acted as a sub-level to the narrative’s theme of respecting cultural differences yet still aiming toward becoming a better united people. I loved it.

Jenni: I need to book a trip to Wakanda ,because not only is it beautiful, it’s the futuristic city sci-fi films have been promising us for decades. I’m also glad they chose to show snow in the mountains. Just because it’s Africa doesn’t mean it’s hot 24/7.

Christian: Wakanda was absolutely beautiful but also, almost more importantly, realistic. From the trailer, I was a little bit afraid it would look too dreamlike and not enough like a real place, but I was proven wrong very quickly. Upon my first watch (I’ve watched it four times now!), the reveal of Wakanda, with T’Challa’s “this never gets old” line, brought tears to my eyes.

Shadia: Let’s see… visually stunning, gorgeous, and a breathe of fresh air to gaze your eyes upon! Just imagine what Africa could have been if it wasn’t colonized and stripped away from it’s resources. A beautifully cast, showcasing so much color and so much culture was pleasing to watch.

Alexis: Can I visit Wakanda? Please? The structures, costumes, and overall look was incredibly beautiful. I’ve noticed Marvel movies tend to look worn-in or dark-toned, none of the colors really stand out. The only movie that stood out to me, before Black Panther, was Thor Ragnarok and that movie is probably one my favorites because of its color pallet. Black Panther was colorful and vibrant and felt alive. The costumes were incredibly detailed and specific to each tribe. And the opening, depicting the history of Wakanda, felt creative and different. The movie itself seemed like you were celebrating a culture and being invited to a new world. It’s something I have never seen in a Marvel film before and I hope it sparks a pattern for future films.

Killmonger

Allison: First of all, Michael B. Jordan is a national treasure. That smile! But we’re here to talk Killmonger. What a performance by Michael. I have never been one to root for villains. And I did not want Killmonger to ‘win,’ but I wanted better for him. I wanted him and T’Challa to change the world together.

Traci-Anne: #KillmongerWasRight

Yeah, I said it. He was right. BUT his methods were wrong. He had the same ideals as Nakia, but very different methods. T’Challa realized Killmonger and Nakia were right by the end too.

He also had one of the most poignant lines of the movie. “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage.” Just think on that line for a second and see there are no lies.

Candice: Killmonger has been an interesting character to narrow down. He’s not the textbook version of a villain, because you see the environment and the pent-up anger that turned him into such a reactive radicalist. However, I do believe he is the villain. I enjoy that people are finally willing to see nuance in a black person, even if it’s a fictional character.

However, choking out a woman for hesitating, burning all of the flowers so Wakanda can have no future protector, and killing indiscriminately is a villain through and through. We can talk about degree and nuance, but he’s not just an antagonist, he’s the villain of this story.

Jenni: What a sympathetic villain! Black Panther actually took the time to explain why Killmonger is the way he is. He’s relatable, especially for kids who believe they have been giving the short end of the life stick.

Christian: Killmonger is probably the most complex villain we have ever seen in any Disney movie. He wasn’t 100% wrong but also wasn’t 100% right. When he gives his first big monologue, as temporary king of Wakanda, I remember thinking to myself, “He had a point,” which then led me to question if maybe I have villain mentalities. After much thought and discussion amongst friends, I concluded Killmonger is someone who seeks justice and will do whatever it takes to get it.

Shadia: One of the most complex and complicated villains of the MCU. For some reason, I think he ties with Loki from Thor. I think Killmonger was so compelling because you understood where he came from and he wasn’t exactly 100% evil from the get go. Over time he was consumed with vengeance, with the isolation of growing up without a father and losing that sense of belonging and acceptance from a land he was royally supposed to be a part of. He was a lost boy. It’s sad, but the way he went about exacting revenge was worrisome. He did have a point to his ideology, but he went about it the wrong way.

That said, I’m glad they had his character bring up the hush-hush tension between Africans and African-Americans. Also, kudos to my fave, Michael B. Jordan, for absolutely KILLING it in his role! He put a lot of heart in this character.

Arlene: I loved Killmonger. I loved that he was a complicated person and not the usual cartoonish superhero villian.  You actually feel for him and understand where he’s coming from based on his history. And what he says makes sense, even if the means by which he plans to implement the needed changes to Wakanda are terrible, his motivation is never called into question.

Alexis: Michael B. Jordan, you have stolen another piece of my heart. Killmonger was, by far, one of the best Marvel villains in their entire line-up of films. Marvel isn’t known for great villains but they struck gold with Killmonger. Michael really did an amazing job showing why Killmonger was full of anger and wanted revenge. Killmonger was ruthless when trying to get to Wakanda, and I empathize with his character, but his methods were not the best. Killmonger had a right to be angry, but he let that anger become too much of his identity. That cost him.

Women of Wakanda

Allison: Honestly, I could write a book about the women of this movie. Each and every one of them had their own unique personality, even when in a group setting like the dora milage. Okoye, Nakia, and Ramonda all have impressive qualities, but Shuri is my girl! Beautiful, intelligent, strong, AND sarcastic. Where have you been my whole life?

As a woman who works in STEM, seeing Shuri in her lab, developing probably the most advanced tech in the world, was a game changer. When I was growing up I didn’t have someone like her to look up to. It makes me extremely happy that young girls now have her. To me, Shuri is the hero of Black Panther. She obviously designed most of the tech, plus she was directing Ross on how to fly the airship while fighting hand-to-hand with the Border Tribe. #HeroStatus

Traci-Anne: It is so heartening to see black women on the big screen as powerful, independent and able to have feelings. It is rare to see a black woman have her own character arc in a tentpole movie. We are usually shown as the sassy best friend, the baby mama, the help, the slave, but never fully rounded characters with their own storylines. It was amazing to see so many beautiful, strong (physically, mentally, and emotionally), intelligent black women in the film.

Candice: If you’re looking for the unsung hero with a different perspective and approach to hail, look no futher than Nakia. She had innovative ideas to help the black communities. Instead of using death as a catalyst, she wanted to use education and money. This is the queen who should have been praised for her critical thinking skills and her desire to help people through WISDOM and RESOURCES, not genocide.

Ramonda, Shuri, and OKoye were also queens in this story. I loved Ramonda’s resilience and vigilance, Okoye’s loyalty and passion, and Shurri’s wit and tech expertise. The women in this film were nuanced and each had their own arcs. I appreciate the Black Panther writers for ensuring they were well fleshed out.

Jenni: The future is female! Every single female character had depth and wasn’t just present for the male characters. Sure they were either related to, in love with, or employed by T’Challa, but that didn’t mean they didn’t have their own lives. Shuri is the smartest character in the movie, with her scientific knowledge. She’s also my new favorite Disney princess.

Christian: The women of Wakanda are the glue, the fight, and the brains of the nation. Whether it’s the dora milaje saving everyone’s ass, Shuri casually running a nation with high level technology, all the while finding time to pick on her brother, Nakia fighting for those outside of Wakanda, or even Queen Ramonda’s silent strength. There is no doubt Wakanda would not be what it is without its women.

Shadia: I love my fierce, badass, intelligent and beautiful female warriors!!! I love how they weren’t used as plot devices, as love interests and all that. They took the lead in this movie and were capable of doing whatever they pleased. I loved seeing them shine. Nakia, Okoye and Shuri were perfect. I love the dora minaje! Shuri was my absolute favorite, her commentary was hilarious. Here’s to many more strong female characters.

Arlene: The ladies absolutely owned the screen! They were never window dressing. They fought alongside their male counterparts and faced obstacles with level heads (i.e. no “He hurt me, so I think I’ll cry” scenes). They were inventive and witty and fully realized. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I really loved Okoye… man she owned that car chase scene.

Alexis: I can’t choose between these ladies, because they are all my favorite. Okoye kicks ass in this movie and she is confident within herself. She is also conflicted when she does not want to serve under a new king (Killmonger), but her line about being loyal to the throne shows she puts Wakanda before herself. Nakia was a big surprise to me, because I had no knowledge of her character prior to the film… except I knew she and Okoye were sisters. Nakia was another fierce warrior, and wasn’t just a love interest for T’Challa. She wanted to fight for those who couldn’t fight for themselves. She’s independent, but shows love for the people who mean the most to her. Shuri is a shining light and I can’t get enough of her. She is the smartest person in the world and creates all her brother’s tech. She also kicks ass and is a loyal sister and friend. I want to be her best friend.

Black Panther‘s Social & Political Implications

Allison: Honestly, as a middle-class white girl, I feel like I am the least qualified person to talk about this topic. There’s a lot of meaning in this movie I DO understand, and so much more I DON’T. And I’m okay with that. I applaud Ryan Coogler and all the writers for being bold with this film. The only thing I want to include is a quote from T’Challa’s U.N. Speech at the end of the movie. “The wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers.”

Traci-Anne: Holy crap, the subtle political implications of this film… Yes, there are the heavy-handed, colonization and responsibility to the world messages, but there are more subtle things at play too. Like the fact that the final battle was on an underground railroad. Ryan Coogler is a genius. I will probably have to watch the film a million more times to catch everything he does.

Candice: So much social and political commentary in this movie! I think it’s important to explain that, at least in this movie, I don’t agree that T’Challa represents MLK. MLK was all about peace, and T’Challa believes in peace until he has to defend himself or his people… then he will not turn the other cheek, which was MLK’s doctrine.

T’Challa represents Huey Newton, the founder of the Black Panther Party in the beginning years of the group. The Huey that created the breakfast program, protected his people from the militant police, and got all of his people to exercise their rights as citizens to vote, etc. While Killmonger represents Eldridge Cleaver, a radicalist who split the Black Panther party in two, because he wanted to be the new leader and stop the Black Panther Party from “conforming.”

In this way, I think the message is to choose forgiveness and not become oppressors. However, it’s also to defend yourself, stand up for what you believe in, and most importantly, help those around you when you can.

Speaking of helping those around you, how about I return to the backbone of the film and T’Challa: the women of Black Panther. Black women are the unsung heroes of all black movements. They work in the background, but their integral to the support and viability of the civil rights movement. Black Panther embodies this completely with how they portray Okoye, Nakia, Shurri and Ramonda and their dynamics with T’Challa, Killmonger, and W’Kabi.

Jenni: One of the things that really struck me was the scene where Killmonger is at the museum talking to the curator about the African pieces. He mentions wanting to steal them and she scoffs. He replies along the lines of “How do you think your ancestors got them?” I’ve worked in an archive library with a lot of historical pieces and it never really hit me how they were obtained. That scene was a major gut puncher and I’m glad it was there. It, along with the rest of the movie, really made me check my privilege.

Shadia: I can see how it can get complicated, having to protect and serve your nation but also thinking about the rest of the world and not being able to help. Nakia brought up a good point to him and I’m glad T’Challa made the decision to do something toward the end of the movie. It’s never too late, right?

Arlene: I hope this shows Hollywood you can make a wildly successful film with people of color and that it opens the floodgates for even more diversity in film. I think it’s kind of a beacon of hope right now, considering the socio-political climate in America right now.

The film deals with isolation, repression and institutionalized racism and faces those issues head on. One of the best parts was having T’Challa–the hero–admit he was wrong and do the right thing in the end.

What Black Panther Means to You

Allison: When I watched the movie for the first time, I had one recurring thought, “This isn’t for me.” And every time I thought this I smiled. I truly believe Black Panther is not for me. It’s for the 8-year-old black boy sitting in front of me on the edge of his seat, mouth open in awe. It’s for the teenage girl who loves STEM but doesn’t think she is smart enough. It’s for the middle-age black man walking out of the theater with tears in his eyes, because there is finally a superhero that looks like him. I have never been more proud to be a Marvel fan.

Traci-Anne: I am a huge Marvel fan. I love comics and, especially, comic book movies. In the past 20 years, we have seen movie after movie about white men saving the world, but now we have a movie with people who look like me, thriving in a country more advanced than anything we have seen before. We see a black teenaged girl rocking at STEM. We see black women being bold and complex. We see black men being empathetic. That is not a world many people are used to seeing on the big or small screen. I can only hope that the killing Black Panther is doing at the box office will help change the course of media and allow for more nuanced portrayals of black people.

Candice: Black Panther means a new horizon for the black body in film. Black bodies are no longer props, comedic relief, or plot tools to push the narrative forward. We can tell and sell interesting stories about our experiences, without them solely being about slavery. The important thing here, I think, is to shatter the myth that people don’t care about the black narrative.

Jenni: This movie means so much. It means black heroes are real. It means female empowerment is real. It means science and technology isn’t just for men. It means successful films can feature people of color. Not support, FEATURE.

Christian: I remember sitting watching Captain America: Civil War and looking at Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle and Chadwick Boseman and reveling in the fact that there were three black men in a superhero film. Flash forward to two years later and Black Panther is out breaking records. As a black woman in the entertainment industry I feel proud and inspired, especially given the reception Black Panther has gotten from all audiences.

ShadiaBlack Panther means representation, representation and more representation for me. This was a movie that needed to happen. I can only imagine what it must feel like for black children growing up now to look up to a superhero who looks them, bad ass women who look like them and feeling like they are BEAUTIFUL and are REPRESENTED. I wish I had that growing up! I hope this movie will inspire more conversation, more inclusion and more diversity within communities and especially in the world of Hollywood. Black Panther means a lot to so many people, myself included. Great movie!

Arlene: We can face our failures and still rise.

Alexis: To me Black Panther means Hollywood is finally taking into account that diversity sells. It not only sells, but when done right it can make a huge difference for a community or communities of people who feel underrepresented. I am glad people are celebrating and praising this movie, because it’s a great film – not just as a superhero movie, but as a film that is told with respect for culture, amazing characters, and beautiful storytelling.

Final Thoughts

Allison: One of Killmonger’s last lines is “Imagine a kid from Oakland believing in fairy tales.” That one hit me in the heart. I want kids in Oakland to believe in fairy tales. I want all kids to believe in fairy tales and I hope Black Panther is just the beginning of creating those fairy tales for them.

This movie has changed the way I watch film in the best way possible. And to say that about a superhero movie surprises me. Avenger: Infinity War is going to be crazy, and I don’t think I’m ready.

Traci-Anne: Oh, man. I have so many thoughts I can’t even put them together. Shuri is now the best Disney Princess ever and I need her and Spiderman to have a film together. The Adventures of the Teenaged Geniuses. I volunteer to write it.

Black Panther was powerful and gave a strong message, but it was also hilarious, giving us some of the best lines in the MCU and a new dope handshake to greet people with. #WakandaForever

Candice: A great narrative that took a real part of history and turned it into this fantastical world that I’ll always carry with me. Wakanda forever!

Jenni: Every time a new Marvel movie comes out I try to rank it. Immediately upon exiting the theater I had placed it as my #1. After mulling it over a couple of days, I think I’m placing it at #2 (sorry, CA: The Winter Soldier, you have to share).

Shadia: Can we have Ryan Coogler direct ALL the movies from now on? This man is a genius and I can’t wait to see more of his work. Wakanda Forever!

Arlene: I think as time goes on the film will take on more and more meaning. It’s historic and groundbreaking and signals a change in superhero films forever.

Alexis: I love this movie and it’s diversity and the representation it brought. I hope this movie gives the message that we as audience members are craving diverse storytelling that represents cultures accurately and honestly but also in cool and creative ways. Can’t wait to see Black Panther in Infinity War

We all hope you enjoyed reading what we had to say about Black Panther, I know I had fun putting this together! We’d love to hear your thoughts below.

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