Ever since his first appearance in Captain America: Civil War, there has been an increasing buzz about the ruler of Wakanda, T'Challa, the warrior audiences everywhere know as Black Panther. Now that trailers for his first feature film are all over the internet, people unfamiliar with the character are eager to know how he fits in with this increasingly political Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's a comic book world, you say? No politics involved?
Politics In Superhero Films
Whether you look at X-Men, Wonder Woman, or even the trailer for #BlackPanther, it's clear to see that today's world of comic book movies is becoming increasingly political. For instance, the backbone of the plot of Captain America: Civil War revolved around whether it was right to have an organization that would effectively regulate what individuals did. Granted, these were individuals graced with superior abilities, but the threat of regulation more or less split the Avengers right down the middle.
It was a theme earlier explored in the very first X-Men movie as well — did governments have the right to regulate the goings-on in the lives of men and women? Is it right that certain individuals who do not have any sort of criminal record be made to report to their local governments to "register" as a specific sort of individual?Shades of WWII, anyone?
When we look at Wonder Woman, the political scene is largely reflective of the role of women at the time; women were to be seen (sometimes) and not heard. Women were very frequently not even considered people in the eyes of the law — a fact that angered my 8-year-old daughter when she saw that reflected on screen — and because of that sort of influence, it was clear to see the political ideologies operating. The film could be seen through a feminist political lens, and while Wonder Woman is a DC property, it's clear to see that superhero films as a whole are gaining more of a political bent.
Politics In Black Panther
In the case of Black Panther, issues of isolationism and rights of ascension seem to be what the main focus. Connect this to real-world America — there are no Sokovia Accords as there are in the MCU, but it seems the United States has a leader who is more interested in seeing his country stand strong on its own terms. Relationships with other countries are becoming increasingly tense because the current president is effectively saying, "This doesn't work for America — bye," or at the very least, making the relationship between countries fractious.
It would appear that in Black Panther, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), is trying to protect his native Wakanda, which has rich vibranium stores, from the greed of other countries. Vibranium is the substance used in Captain America's shield and in Black Panther's suit, among other iconic items in the MCU. Marvel boss Kevin Feige said that the sense of political isolationism is very strong in #BlackPanther.
"You get into conversations about, ‘Should we help the people on the other side of that border, because they need help and we could help them …. but it would potentially endanger us.'"
Feige added that while this was unintentional, the political scene in the United States has played out in such a way that the relevance of a film like Black Panther becomes even more significant in today's 21st century society.
"These are conversations we were having two years ago because that is inherently the story within the comics. Now it’s going to seem like the most highly fluid thing we could have done.”
Right now, it seems as though Black Panther could be poised to reign in this increasingly political Marvel Cinematic Universe. Audiences will have to wait until February 16, 2018 to find out.
What do you think Black Panther can add to the political landscape of superhero movies today?
(Sources: Bleeding Cool)