The real-life city of Wauconda, Illinois, just became self-aware to celebrate the release of Black Panther. Ryan Coogler's film is a standout in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not just due to its memorable characters and thrilling story, but also the fact that it takes place almost entirely in the fictional African nation of Wakanda. Aside from a few scenes in Oakland, London, and Busan, the vast majority of Black Panther's story takes place in various locations in T'Challa's (Chadwick Boseman) home country.
Visually, Wakanda is depicted as a lush, technologically-advanced utopia hidden beneath the guise of third-world squalor. Politically, Wakanda is an isolationist nation that uses this facade in part to hide its most precious resource, Vibranium, from the rest of the world. So it's safe to say that the Wauconda, a small town of under 14,000 people in northeastern Illinois, is not nearly as complicated as the fictional Wakanda. Still, that didn't stop Wauconda from gaining widespread attention for simply having a name that sounds exactly like its fictional counterpart, due to the massive popularity of Black Panther.
A Reddit post showcases the townspeople celebrating the release of the movie by showing off various citizens and public officials wearing Black Panther masks. The collage includes a policeman, judge, and fireman, as well as a barber shop, winery, and various other businesses. Take a look:
Wauconda isn't just drawing attention to itself in the wake of Black Panther's release; the attention is coming their way as well. THR reported on Wednesday that the mayor's office had received numerous phone calls and emails asking about Vibranium, while some calls were from people who just wanted to shout "Wakanda forever!" The Wauconda high school principal also confirmed that their bulldog mascot would not, in fact, change to a black panther.
Much like the runaway box office success of Black Panther, the past week has been a whirlwind for the real-life Wauconda. They're gaining attention like they've never seen before, and just for merely existing. Considering they're a small town, all this attention might actually boost their economy. Black Panther fans from nearby Chicago may be willing to pay Wauconda a little visit now, if only to take pictures with the town signs. And that attention won't be dying down anytime soon as this summer's Avengers: Infinity War will also prominently showcase Wakanda.
Also, the hope is that Wauconda doesn't get too bogged down in pointless calls for Vibranium. Just because the town has a similarly spelled name that sounds like the made-up Wakanda, that doesn't mean it deserves to have its citizens' time wasted by overzealous fans. But for now, this is a fun time for the town as it looks to celebrate and gain from Black Panther's triumphs.
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