Experiencing Black Panther (w/Minor Spoilers)

Like a million other people, I went to see Black Panther this weekend, and while it was not the lifechanging event for me that it was for some people, it was still an incredibly emotional experience . I went to see this movie with my 67 year old Mom, hereinafter referred to as Mom, and my 12 year old niece, hereinafter referred to as The Potato.

First some background, because it’s not that we didn’t love the movie, and hadn’t been waiting with baited breath to see it, but there’s a backstory to my feelings about all of it, which are going to inform some of my final review.

I grew up in a home with a very pro-Black message. My mom used to be a member of the local chapter of Black Panthers. She mostly worked with children, volunteered to provide neighborhood lunches, went to meetings, she was a believer, and has always been about showing pride in our heritage. She left the Panthers because she didn’t think the local chapter was doing enough, and because she was then raising me. She was nineteen and unmarried, but she never stopped teaching.

So when I say we were raised in a pro-Black household, that’s what I mean. It wasn’t preachy or intense. Just the constant message that other Black people are worthy, her children were worthy, stories about her childhood growing up in Jim Crow Mississippi, that our history is important, and the stories of other worthy Black people. We celebrated MLK Day in our house, and the first time I heard MLKs voice was my mother’s recording of the I Have A Dream speech, on my Mom’s record player. She talked to us about him, and what he believed. She was also the one who told us about Malcolm X, and his beliefs, as we didn’t learn anything about him in school.

My Mom’s love of Black people also revolved around feeding people. Either it was knowledge or food. She always stressed education really hard in our house, and she was our biggest audience cheerleader for any, and all, academic achievements. In my Mom’s mind, everyone deserves to be fed what they need. Whenever anyone needed something to eat, my mom was right there, shopping, giving money, volunteering. If anyone comes to my mother and claims to be hungry, they’ll be fed, without judgement. I’ve seen her treat total strangers. She has a boatload of nieces and nephews, and many of them had their first educational experiences with my mom, as she taught them all their pre-school basics.

Because of all this, I know my Mom’s tastes in movies and tv shows pretty well. (I also wouldn’t be the total geek-girl I am if it wasn’t for her.) When Roots first aired on TV, she let us stay up to watch that with her all week, and talked to us about what we saw, what we felt about what we saw, what we learned, and what it meant. I watched Shaka Zulu with her when that came out in the eighties, and we discussed that, and by that time I had a little knowledge under my belt about that subject, and then later I introduced her to Zulu Dawn. Dead Presidents, Boyz in The Hood, Friday, Set It Off. These are all movies she loves, because they have Black people in them just acting Black, not in relation to white people, so I knew I could talk her into seeing her first Marvel superhero movie by telling her it had an all Black cast, and was set in Africa. She was a little dubious at first, but after hearing all the excitement, and seeing the trailer several more times, she started to get excited too.

So yeah, I was proud to walk into that theater with her this past Sunday, and share my first love, superheroes, with her first love, Black Americans. I got to feed my Mom.😄😄😄

We went to a noon matinee, and I was surprised that the audience was mostly White. Contrary to racist opinion, I was very happy to see so many White people there, embracing the idea of watching a Black superhero movie, many of them, I could tell, for probably the first time. I saw a lot of elderly parents too, and while I don’t know what they thought of the movie, they seemed to enjoy it, and most of the young people remembered to stay for the end credits, to see what The Potato calls, The Cookies. (I think it’s important for White people to see this movie because it’s a quick glimpse into the kinds of dialogue Black people are always having among themselves.)

I’m from the Midwest so we’re not very demonstrative in public here. Black people here keep it kinda low key. Plus, it’s very cold here, although the day we went was very nice. The audience was well behaved and laughed in all the right places, and cheered in all the correct places. They loved Shuri and M’Baku the most, it seems, and I heard at least a couple of audience members singing along to the end credits, All The Stars Are Closer, by Kendrick Lamarr. (I tear up every time I hear that song now.)

My mom really got into the story, too. She was very upset when T’Challa reached his lowest point. She said she wanted to leave then, but soldiered through it. But you guys know, her favorite character, was Okoye. My Mom loves Badass women, and she so rarely gets to see Black women kick ass and not care about anybody’s name. I think I told y’all once that her spirit human is Pam Grier. Well, Pam has been replaced by Danai Gurira. (She thought it was awesome when I told her that was Michonne from The Walking Dead.) She was totally psyched about what a BAMF Okoye was, so I gave her some backstory on the character, and the actress.

The Potato, of course, fell in love with Killmonger, because she’s 12, and it’s probably some type of law that all pre-teens must be in love with Michael “Bae” Jordan. I was expecting to fall in love with Okoye too, but was surprised to find that, the character that moved me the most, was Eric Killmonger, and I’ll have something to write up about him later. He’s the only character that brought me to tears. Twice! He is probably the most well written MCU villain ever. (Technically, he’s not a villain, though. He is, what would normally be called, an adversary.)

Actually, the last twenty minutes, and something about the end credits song, just moved me. I’m still unpacking that, though, so I don’t know if I’ll post about it. There was a sweetly melancholy feel to it, and it’s all tied up with theme of lost children, and leaving others behind. There were some deep themes in the movie, which can get really personal, depending on whether or not you’re a member of the Black diaspora. I feel like this movie was a message, not just to African Americans, but Africans too, regarding the treatment of their “lost children”, the ones taken from home,and the ones who later left of their own volition. I definitely have something to say on that issue.

Anyway, we have plans to see this again this Sunday. It was a lot to take in, and I’ll have review up by the end of the next week, maybe. (Im putting all my other reviews aside, for the moment, to focus on that. ) I want to talk about, not just how this movie looked, but how it sounded, thoroughly unlike the sound of any other MCU movie! Just the drums before the opening credits, had me more than a little verklempt!

It really is not like any of the other Marvel movies. The closest thing I can think of to it, is Blade, and that’s not part of the MCU. The best movies about us feel like a kind of “Day in the Life” documentary, and this had that feel. It’s about people, who just happened to be Black, going about their regular daily schedule of saving their world, with some futuristic weaponry, and car chases. There are White people in this movie, but they are not the motivating factor for anything, and pretty much just along for the ride, while these people handle their business. This is particularly amusing to me, because outside of work, this is generally how I’ve always lived my daily life anyway, with most White people just on the periphery, with one or two of them having the occasional walk on role.

Just like with Blade, the first time I saw it, my mind kept moving in and out of the story to notice tiny details, like the mask Killmonger wore was replicated on the top of T’Challa’s personal ship, some of the Wakandan ships were shaped like locusts, all of Shuri’s outfits kept changing, each outfit more beautiful than the last. (Shuri is the Queen Amidala of Wakanda!) Lupita Nyongo has the most beautiful and flawless skin, M’Baku’s statement that his tribe were vegetarians, and how M’Baku’s throne room was decorated with giant staves. His tribal totem is the Ape God Hanuman, so if you remember your 2001 prologue, the stick is the first tool ever used by primates, so it makes sense that was his tribe’s signature weapon. And you absolutely must stay seated for the main battle, involving the three main tribes, and rhinos!

I’ll have more later, until then: