Black Panther is for the Kids

Kids love superheroes.  Though recent decades have found superheroes skewing older with the explosion of comic cons and an indistry hungry for hot characters in barely-there costumes kicking ass and laying waste, let’s not forget that superheroes are also the bread and butter of childhood dreams.  We already know that Black Panther is for black people, a love letter of ancestry.  But did you know Black Panther is for the [age appropriate]children (Please read that in your best Old Dirty Bastard voice)?

Unlike lots of other superhero movies, Black Panther doesn’t include massive violence or hot chicks with their boobs out.  There are a few intense scenes, but nothing as frightening as what your kids are seeing in an active shooter drill.  More importantly, Black Panther challenges all sorts of stereotypes, giving viewers a different way of looking at blackness than we have seen in a mainstream American production.  My sister in law is taking my niece and nephews this weekend, and I’m here to help with smntks Black Panther movie FAQ kids edition.

Alert: major spoilers.  Please watch the movie first.

Overview

Black Panther is a movie about T’Challa’s rise to the throne of a fictional country Wakanda.  Along the way, T’Challa must learn about what it means to be a good man and a good king.  He learns about the mistake his father made and struggles to make a different choice.  The film is set in Wakanda, a fictional African country that was never colonized by another country, and lives in peace and isolation.  The country has a military–the Dora Milaje which is comprised of women. The country is made up of five different tribes, each unique, with their own skills, geographies, and styles, but these groups live in relative harmony under a king.  The country’s well being is based on its possession of vibranium an extraterrestrial material hidden in a mountain in Wakanda.  When outside forces conspire to sell some stolen vibranium, T’Challa must respond, but that opens the door to an unexpected challenge to the throne from Eric Killmonger, his long-lost cousin.  The result of their conflict changes T’Challah, and Wakanda forever.

Why is everyone saying this movie is special?

Black Panther is different from other major American movies:  for the first time in a Disney movie, Africans are represented as intelligent technologically skilled modern humans.  Most representations of black people are very stereotypical, casting them as criminals, super sexy singers and athletes, gang members, and reality stars.

In the movie, Black Panther black people are royalty, technologists, generals, and activists.  This is the first action movie with a majority black cast set in Africa.  This is the first time an American film has shown an African country that was not colonized.

Why is everyone black?

The film takes place in Africa.  The majority of the population of African is what we would in America consider black.  There are millions of European, Indian, and Chinese people in African, but with a population of nearly two billion people, it is safe to say they are a minority in every country.  Most countries have a white population that is under 10%, 1 out of 10.  That doesn’t mean that all Africans are alike.

There are over 3000 different ethnic groups across 60 countries in Africa.  Just like the people of Wakanda, there are many different groups of people in Africa with their own ideas, culture, and ways.

Is it racist to have a movie with all black people?

No.  Racism is when one race has power over a group of people from a different race. Racism is about unequal power, not just unequal numbers. Black Panther does not end inequality in our country. Black Panther does not give black people power over white people.

film-diversity.jpg
Roughly Three-Quarters of Film Actors Were White in 2014 SOURCE: USC ANNENBERG’S MDSC INITIATIVE

Having a movie with a mostly black cast is unusual.  This movie will not stop other movies with white people being made.  This movie does not try to focus on white people or disrespect them.

What’s a colonizer?

A colonizer is a person who takes over another country in order to steal their resources for their own profit.  England, France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, and Portugal all colonized large parts of Africa.  They shipped people, gold, rubber and other natural resources and sent them to their home countries to build wealth and power.  Colonizers controlled the countries they took over with violence. While colonization ended for most African Countries 60 years ago, the effects of having their resources a stolen and many people killed still linger today.

 

Is Wakanda real?

While the country of Wakanda is (sadly) not real, a lot of what you see in the film is.  The fashion in the film is drawn from the whole continent of Africa.

Lip plates, neck rings, textiles, and hairstyles are based on real looks that originate all across the massive continent of Africa.

Is Vibranium a real thing?

No, there is no vibranium, but like the style in the movie, the idea is based on something real.  African is rich in material resources: gold, minerals, oil, rubber, diamonds and more occur naturally in Africa.  While these materials may not seem very modern, other lesser known resources are actually what fuels all our technology. Our wireless devices require a material called coltan mined primarily in the Congo.  Like vibranium, this element powers all sorts of technological devices.

Like vibranium, many western companies would like to get their hands on it and are willing to go into the Congo to retrieve it for themselves.  T’Challa is not wrong in worrying what will happen if they open up to the world.  Many countries in African are still trying to ensure their natural resources are not stolen.

Can you really fly a spaceship or drive a car from far away like in the movie?

Sort of.  While we don’t have vibranium models to navigate–yet–there are lots of ways that people use tools across distance using the internet.  The internet of things allows you to close a garage door, feed the dog or turn on a light from your phone.

da Vinci for robots.jpg

We can also use the internet to control robotic medical tools that will allow surgeons to operate on someone from another location.  So we can control some things from far away.

intel_lebron_car_0102_lv_1080x10801.jpg

Self-driving cars, like the one T’Challa rode, are also something inventors like Tesla and Google are working on now.  Experts predict we will have self-driving cars on the road in the next 10 years, by the time my nephews can drive.  Look out, T’Challa!

Why did they let the girls fight?

Women are able to do anything that men are able to do, and that includes fighting in the military.  In America, women are barred from combat positions.  Other countries, like Israel, allow women to be soldiers just like men.

Across the continent of Africa, there are lots of women who have fought in battles.  Here is Yaa Asantewaa who fought colonialists in Ghana

64d23a17b4071082f39258b277be55f9

Here are the Dahomey Amazons, an all-female fighting force that the movie’s Dora Milaje was modeled after. Like the Dora Milaje, they acted as security forces.

671b4966af9abced8d1be38cd9b6b9d4--dahomey-amazons-african-tribes

Why is the scientist a girl?  Princesses can’t do computer stuff.

Girls and women can do anything they want.  There are lots of women scientists who invent technology, map the stars, and fly to space.  Girls don’t need to worry about their looks or chase boys.  girls are smart and strong and want to do amazing things, just like boys. People of every gender and every orientation can choose any job, goal or friends that they want.

That means that people will have the best and brightest person doing work, like Shuri.  Imagine if she wasn’t allowed to do tech because she was a girl:  there would be no suit, not car driving from far away, no way to save Wakanda.  That’s why it important to let all genders and races work in all the fields, especially science, math, and technology.

Why did T’Challa’s dad kill his own brother?

d54acb32c933fb149a1de56baf67333e.jpgBecause it is hard for a good man to be king.  T’Chaka had to choose between caring for his baby brother and putting the people he led at risk.  Knowing the history of colonization, T’Chaka chose to keep his country a secret so no one would know what they had.  His brother had good intentions–to help back people struggling with racism, and police brutality–but his decision to use vibranium to commit violence was a way that T’Chaka thought would create more problems for Wakanda.  It was a difficult choice, and even though he was a king that doesn’t mean he made the right choice.  Leaders are not always right.  We need to hold leaders accountable when they do the wrong thing.

If it was wrong for T’Chaka to kill his brother then why did T’Challa kill his cousin?

5a8a11342000003900eaf3a0.jpgBecause it is hard for a good man to be king.  T’Challa is a king, but also a human.  Like all humans, he sometimes has to make hard choices, choices where you aren’t sure what is right.  He did not agree with Eric that they should use vibranium to start a war around the world.  Eric was determined to use their technology as a weapon, and use violence to end racism.  T’Challa removed him from the throne to stop him from doing this.  But Eric was right that T’Challa had a responsibility to try hard to help black people all around the world.  Eric reminded T’Challa that even though Wakanda was amazing, their black brothers and sister around the world still faced serious racism and need to be free. That is why T’Challa ended the film by opening up Wakanda to the world, to help all black people around the world who were his brothers and sisters be free.

What did Eric mean about the ocean?

In the end, Eric said:

Nah, just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships. Because they knew death was better than bondage.

During the transatlantic slave trade, slave ships carried Africans into slavery in the United Staes and the Caribbean.  Slaves were chained below deck in torturous conditions.  Rather than be turned into slaves, some Africans Jumped overboard while the ship was at sea.

This sad event tells us that the conditions that Africans were kept in were very very bad, and they chose death over imprisonment.  Eric too decides he does not want to be imprisoned for trying to kill T’Challa and take over Wakanda to start a war.  While Eric was trying to use violence, he still was T’Challas family.  He cared about justice and hopefully, he will be back in the sequel.

Have a question you’d like added?  Throw it in the comments! Hope you enjoyed the movie Ebin, Kaden, Seba, and Kelton!

 

 

 

 

Susan X Jane

Susan X Jane is a diversity educator, speaker and trainer. She thinks a lot about media and race…a lot. She teaches Communications at Wheelock College, writes and speaks about media…and race... and generally encourages everyone she meets to think about the way media shapes their sense of self and their ideas and beliefs about the world. If you're reading this, she wants you to think about it too. Want to talk about it? Let's go.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s