Blogs,  Vic Stanley

#WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe

Written by Victor Stanley Jr.

 

In an article for CNN titled “Black Panther’ Is a Movie and a Movement,”[1] Lisa France discusses the cultural impact of the Marvel movie Black Panther. The point that Ms. France is trying to make can be summed up in the following quote from her article: “…a film that explores what it means to be black, centered on a black superhero, featuring a mostly black cast, and helmed by a black director is on pace to be one of Marvel’s biggest blockbusters.”[2] One of the most notable and talked about aspects of the movie is its “blackness,” it is a movie that celebrates African heritage and culture. The movie has broken numerous box office records and has, as the title of the article suggests, become a movement.

Ms. France talks about how moviegoers are dressing up in traditional African garb, celebrities are buying out movie theatres for screenings, and social media is buzzing about the powerful impact of the movie. The articles contains quotes from several of the actors in the movie expressing how great this movie will be for Black people, that it provides a different type of Black narrative not commonly seen in film and television. One Hollywood director made the following comment about the film, “‘It means that my kids and young black kids everywhere will see themselves as heroes capable of leading their own narratives,’ tweeted director Matthew A. Cherry.”[3] Black Panther is now one of the highest grossing superhero films of all time, which only adds to its being a cultural phenomenon.[4]

One wonders if beyond all the hype, Black Panther contains messages beyond Black empowerment, and what the messages are saying to the many people, especially kids, that have gone to see the movie.

In order to avoid any assumptions that I may be prejudice, racist, out of touch, etc., I would like to note that I am a Black man born in Chicago and raised there and in Northern Virginia, and that I was very much raised in the black culture, and that I applaud Black Panther for its positive depiction of both black men and women.

However, Black Panther, at its core, seems to be another way of utilizing our society’s current focus on racial issues as a way to smuggle in other items on the secular progressive agenda. It follows in the footsteps of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and organization that masquerades as an effort to help Blacks, but again serves as a vehicle to promote and propagate liberal/secular progressivism. In both the film and BLM issues such as 3rd wave feminism, new age religion, globalism, the demonization of Europeans, and more are prevalent.

We would do well to remember that the Marvel films are being watched by our children and teenagers who are very impressionable. While they may not be aware of some of the more subversive messages contained within these films, we can be sure that they are shaping the thinking of our youth. I would like to point out that in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 “God” is depicted as a malevolent bisexual being who must be killed in order to save humanity, he is then killed by his own son; a shuddering message indeed.

In Black Panther every major male character is either morally, emotionally, or physically weak, if not all three. In contrast, the female characters have no flaws, they always do what is right morally, they do not fail in battle, and they manage their emotions well. Thus the film depicts men as weak and women as the more dominant and stronger sex. This is seen more clearly in the fact that the Black Panther/King of Wakanda only brings women with him on his missions while the men stay in Wakanda and tend to the home; the women are also part of the king’s elite royal guard. Toward the end of the film the main male warrior bows to his wife—who is the main female warrior—in submission in order to end the civil war. In addition to the heavy hand of third and fourth wave feminist ideas, Black Panther also promotes Animism, that is ancestor worship, as being integral to the Black narrative, as well as globalism. The Animism is apparent just by watching the movie, although, even in the ancestor worship we not only see the main characters shun the traditions of their ancestors, but the ancestors are also painted as morally corrupt and wrong.

Black Panther, for all that is good about it, stands as a movie that feeds our youth ideas about men and women that are opposed to the Christian teachings surrounding this topic. It also promotes a sort of disregard for tradition and the honoring of parents, again, two principles that Scripture teaches. We must remember that nothing in our culture in neutral, everything we engage with is saying something, it contains a message, a philosophy, a particular worldview that it is attempting to communicate through whatever medium presents it. Entertainment is never simply entertainment, so we must be mindful and cautious of what we and our children consume.

I’d like to see pastors, theologians, and Christian leaders discuss why despite the current influx of Bible based movies (Samson is in theaters right now) none of the actors reflect the actual ethnicity of the characters they are depicting. From movies about Moses to Noah, Ben-Hur to even the Passion of the Christ and other movies and television programs few, if any,  of the characters reflect their Middle Eastern, Northern African, or Sub-Saharan African ethnicity. With the growing belief among young Blacks that “Christianity is the white man’s religion,” it would be great for Christian movies, and movies produced by Christians, to depict Bible characters as their true ethnicities, and to tell more stories about Christianity among minority groups.

Christianity was in Africa as early as the New Testament Church, and it dominated Northern Africa until the Muslim Moors conquered it in the 7th century. And Christianity quickly reached India. In fact, Africans, Middle Easterners, and Asians were the first Christians and predate European Christianity by a couple hundred years, even the Church in Rome was initially made up mostly of Jews. It would be cool to see movies being made that tell the stories of early African Christians and Christianity in Africa.

 


[1] Lisa Respers France, “Black Panther’ Is a Movie and a Movement,” accessed February, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/15/entertainment/black-panther-movie-movement/index.html.

[2] France.

[3] France.

[4] Scott Mendelson, “‘Black Panther’ Box Office: More Records And Milestones As It Nears $900M Worldwide,” Forbes, accessed March 5, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2018/03/05/black-panther-box-office-more-records-and-milestones-as-it-nears-900m-worldwide/.

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