Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Black Panther
Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is definitely one of the most political movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, using the isolated nation of Wakanda for a nuanced discussion about the benefits of globalism vs. protectionism. This theme extends to the mid-credits scene, in which King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) proclaims his intention to share Wakanda’s knowledge and resources with the rest of the world for the first time. In the process, the movie throws some shade at the current (real-life) President Donald Trump, noting that in difficult times, “The wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers.”
The movie touches on a lot of topics that have been in the news over the past few years. When T’Challa wonders if Wakanda could start taking in refugees from war-torn countries, military leader W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya), argues that refugees bring their country’s problems with them. Countries worldwide have had similar debates with regards to refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. The movie’s antagonist, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, is also furious with Wakanda for sitting safe behind their borders with massive resources and advanced technology, while black people all over the world face poverty and oppression.
Although Black Panther ultimately defeats Killmonger and wins back Wakanda’s throne, he and Killmonger ultimately agree on one thing: it’s wrong for Wakanda to sit back and do nothing while people suffer around the world. The movie comes down on the side of globalism – people around the world choosing to help one another, rather than hiding behind their own borders.
In Black Panther‘s mid-credits scene, T’Challa makes a speech at the UN, declaring his intentions to share Wakanda’s knowledge and resources with the rest of the world for the first time:
“Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We cannot. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we as brothers and sisters on this earth should treat each other. Now more than ever the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.”
Black Panther‘s cast and creators trod carefully around the movie’s connection to current politics in the press conference attended by Screen Rant, with Chadwick Boseman saying that anything that seems like a reference is just coincidence, and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige saying that “things have happened in the world which make the film seem more relevant.” However, Feige also said that director Ryan Coogler wrote the script “a year and a half ago, two years ago,” which means it was written at a time when Trump’s proposal for a massive U.S.-Mexico border wall was at the forefront of the news cycle.
Avengers: Infinity War is set to reflect the spirit of T’Challa’s UN speech, as it will see Wakanda join forces with the Avengers in an epic battle against the cosmic threat of Thanos and his Infinity Gauntlet. Black Panther‘s post-credits scene indicates that Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is one of the first outsiders to be accepted by Wakandan society, after T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) cures him of the HYDRA programming that made him vulnerable to a set of trigger words. Bucky is seen recuperating in a hut on the edge of a Wakandan lake, interacting with children, and being invited to learn more by Shuri. In the first trailer for Infinity War, Bucky can be seen fighting alongside W’Kabi’s army.
Blockbuster superhero movies tend to steer clear of overtly engaging with contemporary politics, instead conveying broader messages using metaphors (like the fear and oppression of mutants in the X-Men movies). But while Black Panther isn’t actually set in our own universe (Matthew Ellis, played by William Sadler, is the current U.S. President in the MCU), that doesn’t mean the movie can’t still throw a little shade.
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