Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman explains why he thinks T’Challa and his privilege are the film’s true enemy. Marvel’s latest film is sparking all sorts of discussions and debate, from the effects of colonialism to the modern state of the black diaspora. But much of the focus on the thematic weight of the film has revolved around Erik Killmonger. Though clearly a villain, his revolutionary bent opens up some new ideas for superhero cinema and teases an exciting direction for the MCU.
Black Panther is set to pass Avengers: Age of Ultron at the box office this weekend, brushing aside the notion that politics and blockbuster entertainment can’t go hand in hand. Just as critics have showered the film, its cast, and the creatives involved with praise, audiences around the world continue to turn out for what’s fast becoming one of the biggest films of all time. Amidst all of this, the debate still rages about who is the true villain of the film. And for Black Panther‘s star, there’s an unlikely answer.
The Atlantic held a discussion between Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong’o at the Apollo Theater along with correspondent (and comic writer) Ta-Nehisi Coates. Given the participants, host, and venue, the topic naturally focused on the socio-political elements of the film, with Boseman offering his unique take on who he thinks the movie’s villain is:
“I actually am the enemy. It’s the enemy I’ve always known. It’s power. It’s having privilege.”
While there’s some black and white elements of good versus evil in Black Panther (it is a superhero action movie, after all), the film has also raised some intriguing questions about whether Killmonger had the right idea but simply the wrong methods. For Boseman, the privilege that T’Challa has as the ruler of a wealthy, secluded nation is precisely what makes his character inherently more problematic than Killmonger.
“Killmonger is trying to achieve greatness…but there’s an expectation of greatness for me. I don’t know if we as African Americans would accept T’Challa as our hero if he didn’t go through Killmonger. Because Killmonger has been through our struggle, and I [as T’Challa] haven’t.”
Not all audiences will agree with Boseman’s assessment, but it’s been fascinating to watch so many heady conversations emerge from Black Panther. For some, superhero entertainment is merely a way to tune out the world. But for others, the medium has a long history of tackling social and political issues in a fantastical way. In that regard, it mirrors some of the best sci-fi and fantasy in allowing us to look at our current world from a somewhat removed perspective. It’s this approach that has been so interesting in the Black Panther comics of the past few years that Coates has written. And soon, the Black Panther writer will takeover Captain America comics and explore that hero’s long history of fighting injustice—even when its from his own government.
We don’t know when Black Panther 2 will arrive yet, but both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 should tackle Wakanda opening itself to the world. By the time the sequel to this year’s film arrives, we could be looking at not only a different take on the nation, but on T’Challa himself. And if Black Panther proved anything, it’s that the king of Wakanda has a lot left to learn about ruling.
Source: The Atlantic
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