Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

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Elheru Aran
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Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-04-05 07:20pm

A couple quick thoughts that I've been dwelling on for a couple weeks since I saw the movie. Posting separately as I feel they merit discussion in depth beyond just pro/con movie review stuff, and the movie thread has slowed down of late anyway. If moderators disagree, feel free to punt.

--First: Wakanda's tech level. Shuri might have Tony Starked her way into some spur of the moment tech advancements like the sonic barrier around the trains to make vibranium mining easier, but the flying UFO-jets existed before she was born. And a city the size of the Wakandan capital doesn't spring up overnight. Then there's that cloaking field... Shuri is... what... maybe early 20s? She may be smarter than Tony Stark (that's the claim I've heard batted about anyway) but I don't see her actually developing much in the way of useful new technology in like... childhood or whatever. I could see her helping Wakandan scientists come up with new ideas and such though, until she got old enough to become apparently the leader of their technology development department.

Basically: If they were THIS high tech for generations... where did that come from??? Just 'lol vibranium' isn't going to cut it. Super-metals aren't a tech advancement in and of themselves-- they're cool, and they let you do some interesting things, but they won't advance your tech without the knowledge and ability to use their properties to the fullest extent. So where was Wakanda developing this technology? How? And how the hell did nobody cotton on to that there was something very interesting happening in their corner of Africa?

I mean. We see what appears to be some form of war-hammer with a vibranium head in a museum. That's what I'm talking about there-- it's a super metal, being used like an ordinary metal. When did they go from 'make fancy rocks with super metal' to 'make flying jets, high tech nanobot catsuits, fancy holograms, weird sand-table thingies, with super-metal'? Never mind the casual use of repulsorlifts and force-field technology... I can grant that they've had vibranium for a long time, millennia apparently. But you don't just draw vibranium out into thread, weave it into cloth, and poof it casts a force field when you hold the cloth in a certain way, because if it did, you might as well just throw out any pretense of suspension of disbelief. There has to be more to it than that. Micro-batteries in the cloak design, the vibranium is woven in a certain way to resonate when activated and project a sonic barrier of some kind... something like that. Other things like that.

If I was writing it? I'd have depicted the technology as being a fairly recent development. Maybe the UFO-jet in the prologue is the first of its kind. Maybe Wakanda really was a Lesotho-like agarian society, relying upon being in the middle of nasty geography and aggressive tribes to keep its boundaries closed, until say the mid-20th century, when it started sending its best and brightest overseas to various institutions. I could live with some kind of technological leap in the 60s or so when they figured out how to apply the up-and-coming technology of the West to vibranium. Maybe it gave them some kind of early microprocessor thus allowing an early quantum leap in computing. Better computers allowed them to model and develop new uses of vibranium, like weaving it into cloth for various effects like the Border Tribe's blanket-cloak forcefields.

To be fair, the movie was pretty light on specifics of their recent history, focusing on the whole 'these are special snowflakes who've been hiding for millennia and just now they're gonna come out'. If they went like I speculated above-- being low tech until fairly recently-- then it would have been easy enough for a particularly inaccessible small African country with little to offer to avoid international attention, while carefully building up their tech base to where they could, say, project the cloaking field over the site of their capital city, thus allowing building the city without detection by satellites, which wouldn't have been likely to be pointed at a Third World country with minimal international ties anyway.

Second: A somewhat deeper issue, maybe. This is a little more personal. Background, as a child I lived in Nigeria for 13 years until I left for college, with some travel across West Africa in the process.

Wakanda as depicted in the movie... doesn't come off as African to me. It comes off as a fantasy vision of pan-Africa, an Afro-American Fairyland or Elfland. It mishmashes diverse African cultures into one vague location-- West African Muslim, Maasai, Zulu, Himba, Basotho, Ethiopian, Tuareg, Ghanaian. The Mountain Ape tribe or whatever they were called are pretty much pure fiction, fairly sure nobody like that ever existed in Africa. If anything they look like Hyperborean barbarians... Jabari, that was it. With the fur and leather... you might see some leather in African garb, but definitely not much in the way of fur apart from decorative trims.

I get it to a degree-- it's fiction. They can do pretty much whatever they want. And to a certain extent, I'm okay with a heavily cosmopolitan culture in the big city, incorporating diverse African tribal and cultural elements into a Pan-African vibe. If they've been infiltrating other countries for a long time (assuming N'Jobu and his generation of War Dogs weren't among the first) they'd naturally have hidden elements in other African countries around them, who would then have brought home various cultural influences that they assimilated. The Wakandan capital and its inhabitants actually looked fine to me-- IRL, a certain degree of cultural migration isn't that unusual in urban areas, as they're a natural convergence of multiple cultures. When not engaged in ceremony, Border Tribe aside for obvious reasons (maintaining the pretense), the Wakandans tended to wear African-influenced versions of Western garb or less exaggerated versions of their traditional wear. This is perfectly authentic for Africa, and honestly most of the world really.

That doesn't excuse the distinctive look of the various Wakandan tribes, though, which presumably are cultural traditions going back a long time. This would be the equivalent of for example a South African tribe dressing like Tuaregs, or Berbers walking around in Zulu outfits. The prologue establishes that these tribes have inhabited Wakanda for millennia. So why do they look like all these people from other places? If it's War Dogs bringing home assimilated cultural traditions, why are these traditions spread through the whole tribe rather than just individual fashion choices? Particularly if Wakanda has been closed off to the outside world for millennia-- how are people bringing home modern African looks when they aren't in tribal garb? Do Wakandan tourist groups tour Africa on the regular or something? Which isn't impossible, I suppose, but sounds unlikely.

Out of context, obviously it's an easy way for production designers to differentate the various tribes visually, and to use more or less authentic African looks rather than cooking something up from scratch like the Jabari with mixed success. But at the same time, to me at least, it comes off as a Western, Americanized notion of what 'real Africa' looks like rather than... well, what African people and cultures really look like. Hint: They're a lot more homogenous than you might think, in their own specific geographic location and cultural homelands anyway. That said, there's some migration of traditional costume between cultures in various countries with the advent of modernization, but it would still be very unusual to see for example a West African baban riga in Kenya.

Along with the inexplicable high tech, this is in large part why Wakanda feels like an African-American Elfland to me. You even more or less pass through a literal hidden doorway in a mountain (the cloaking field) to enter it, the city at least. A fantastic (in the literal sense of the word) synthesized composite Pan-African culture, with tech greater than the West, remaining fiercely independent for millennia rather than being subjugated and exploited by colonial rule. This is not a bad thing at all-- far from it-- but, for me at least, it fails suspension of disbelief on the scientific and cultural fronts.
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Majin Gojira » 2018-04-06 10:25am

Short Answers:

#2 is basically not a problem, but a feature. It's, at it's core, a fantasy for African Americans of an African Nation That Was Not Conquered and is Super Special Awesome. There's a lot more in the history of the development of that idea, but that's the short of it.

#1 has an answer in the comics to a degree. Before Reginal Hudlin's run (which has its ups and downs, and this change is definitely one of its downs), it was well established that Wakandan technology is not just a product of their isolation( because historically isolated cultures do not advance much, if at all, without outside contact). It was a product of two things:

1) Vibranium

That stuff is pure phlobotinum, especially in the MCU. I mean, kinetic absorption and redistribution is just the start of it. It's probably a superconductor as well, with who knows what else added to it.

2) The World's Best Spy Network.

It was a thing in the original Black Panther and Fantastic Four Comics that Wakandan Royalty would send some of their children off to learn at the best schools in the outside world so they could bring any technological advancements to Wakanda for them to improve on through a combination of using Vibranium sources and supreme Multiculturalism (mixing technology from all across the world).

IE: They'd have copies of texts from the Library of Alexandria before it was burned, and combine that with discoveries from India and China. They'd be steampunk before the fall of Rome.
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Khaat » 2018-04-06 10:38am

Majin Gojira wrote:
2018-04-06 10:25am
IE: They'd have copies of texts from the Library of Alexandria before it was burned, and combine that with discoveries from India and China. They'd be steampunk before the fall of Rome.
I want that movie, too!
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Majin Gojira » 2018-04-06 11:06am

Khaat wrote:
2018-04-06 10:38am
Majin Gojira wrote:
2018-04-06 10:25am
IE: They'd have copies of texts from the Library of Alexandria before it was burned, and combine that with discoveries from India and China. They'd be steampunk before the fall of Rome.
I want that movie, too!
Sadly, we won't get it because of Huldin.

Huldin gave then Kirby Ubertech in the Victorian Era.

Kirby Ubertech. In the Victorian Era.

Yeah.

He's also the person who thought it would be a cool idea to show how awesome Wakanda was by saying they had a Cure for Cancer but weren't sharing it for no adequately explained reason.

At least when the Amazons' Purple Healing Ray, they explicitly pointed out that it could easily become a terrible weapon and knew most outside world governments would pervert their healing tool into a weapon.
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Khaat » 2018-04-06 12:31pm

Majin Gojira wrote:
2018-04-06 11:06am
He's also the person who thought it would be a cool idea to show how awesome Wakanda was by saying they had a Cure for Cancer but weren't sharing it for no adequately explained reason.

At least when the Amazons' Purple Healing Ray, they explicitly pointed out that it could easily become a terrible weapon and knew most outside world governments would pervert their healing tool into a weapon.
TBH, any "cure for cancer" could be weaponized: program it that nerve cells are "cancer", or bone, etc. Unless the Wakandan cure was hand-waved to be un-corruptible (good luck keeping that in comics!) Sometimes under-explored is better than over-explored or poorly explained.
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-04-06 12:32pm

Oh I'm aware the subject of the high-tech has been explored in the comics, that's not particularly an issue for me. The problem for me is that the movie doesn't explain it within the context of the MCU. To the casual viewer, Wakanda springs forth like Athena from Zeus' cranium, no particular explanation given.

At least if it was alien tech (one theory I heard before the movie released) that would have been an easy enough explanation. Of course they got all this fancy stuff by reverse engineering a giant alien ship built of vibranium that's under their land... something like that. Cliche? Sure. It's not like Marvel movies are immune from that. Or maybe the early Wakandans took down an alien spaceship that had come to harvest the vibranium mountain, something like that. But when you depict it as being entirely organic, entirely the product of the Wakandans' ingenuity and scientific genius... it stretches things a bit. The fact that it all comes down to 'lol vibranium' is fricking annoying, because I'm pretty certain that stuff breaks physical laws left and right, beyond all the high-tech nonsense.

Honestly I'm not really familiar with the comics version of Black Panther, but at the bookstore the other day all three omnibus compilations of BP were by Hudlin, so I imagine he was writing it for quite some time. I can see how his work might have heavily influenced the background and setting in that case.
Majin Gojira wrote:
2018-04-06 10:25am
#2 is basically not a problem, but a feature. It's, at it's core, a fantasy for African Americans of an African Nation That Was Not Conquered and is Super Special Awesome. There's a lot more in the history of the development of that idea, but that's the short of it.
I get that it's a fantasy, and to a great degree, it's extremely successful as a fantasy. It's obviously moved a great deal of people very effectively. I have absolutely no problem with this-- it was a very good movie, well written, designed (my problems with the thinking behind it aside) and executed. As I said, obviously they can do what they want because it's a work of fiction.

My problem is more a matter of personal taste, and philosophy. Some things seem... off. M'baku threatens Ross with cannibalism, and then laughs it off with being vegetarian? Haha, very funny. It's not like Africa has been stereotyped as a land of cannibals or anything like that before. It's the kind of joke that you laugh at the first time (because the delivery was pretty well done), but after that you start wondering.

Maybe some of it is self-aware (the magic flower drink to give the Black Panther his powers is purple... a sly 'purple drank' reference?), but on the other hand, if you think about it a bit... why does a highly advanced, futuristic African society emulate other African cultures? Why not a futuristic version of those cultures? Why do they look like they stepped out of National Geographic? Was there no thought given to how they might be *different* from the rest of Africa? Why is not Wakanda depicted with its own unique culture and traditions that are entirely its own?

Take the language; it's Xhosa. Which is pretty cool to hear (well, not me personally, but at least the captions said [Speaks Xhosa] when that came up)... but it's a real language. Being used in a fictional country. Not the first time, of course, it's not like Klingons speak English in Star Trek. That particular fictional race in a TV show and the occasional movie has its own language with words and grammar that was created for them. It's not like the biggest Western fantasy epic of all time, Lord of the Rings, has its own language either. Or, maybe it was too hard to invent a language for Wakanda? Let's just use one that's already around, because most Western ears won't hear the difference, and most African ears will just be happy to hear one of their own languages onscreen in a major Hollywood film?

They get points for trying to depict a broad range of cultures... but that's precisely the thing; it's a small country in the middle of Africa. It's not Africa as a whole. It's an unique body in its own right, part of Africa but separate, not some fantasy-UN or whatever. It shouldn't be effectively a cut-and-paste of National Geographic photos overlaid upon a vague utopian Pan-African fantasy. That does the real Africa no justice.
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by streetad » 2018-04-06 09:53pm

The whole thing is Africa as seen through the distorted lens of US race relations. From the pan-African culture you mentioned to the notion that the Wakandans would somehow feel responsible for/connected to all black people everywhere in the world.

I guess it's just the nature of the source material; it absolutely doesn't ring true as an authentic African nation however...

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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by GuppyShark » 2018-04-07 03:33am

Thanks for creating this thread, Elheru.

I was always curious about how this movie would be received in Africa itself. What little media coverage I've seen suggests it is doing very well there.

On the topic of Wakanda as a specifically African-American wish fulfillment; Hollywood has been jerking my white ass for a long time I don't have a problem with someone else having a turn. They do at least acknowledge Wakanda's pacifism in all the outright atrocities going on in Africa by having T'Challa's love interest rescue some kidnapped women in a nearby country.

On in-universe Wakanda tech: The MCU has been in a tech elevator since WWII: A supposed intelligence agency had airborne aircraft carriers (!) and ray guns as of Avengers. A culture that has access to a mineral with exotic properties? Maybe they can put a thousand more gigaflops in a slice of vibranium than a piece of silicon. The only problem is this tech is so incredibly lucrative that Wakanda must have been really ruthless about keeping it within its borders, which makes Cap's shield all the more extraordinary.

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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Q99 » 2018-04-09 04:17am


Basically: If they were THIS high tech for generations... where did that come from??? Just 'lol vibranium' isn't going to cut it. Super-metals aren't a tech advancement in and of themselves-- they're cool, and they let you do some interesting things, but they won't advance your tech without the knowledge and ability to use their properties to the fullest extent. So where was Wakanda developing this technology? How? And how the hell did nobody cotton on to that there was something very interesting happening in their corner of Africa?
They have a scientific community that's never been invaded/faced brain drain from war, has a material with all *kinds* of useful properties and thus once they get to a point where they can usefully study it, studying it pays off in droves including in making tools to figure out new uses, and a world wide spy network to funnel them outside tech.

And... they've kept a tight border for centuries and had the border patrol equipped with non-obvious defenses (metal weave in their outfits, armored rhinos for backup), and had a superhuman Black Panther to take care of troublesome leaders and such looking towards them.


Centuries of peace + resources to fuel development + being smart about it = advancement.

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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by J Ryan » 2018-04-09 04:30am

Q99 wrote:
2018-04-09 04:17am

Basically: If they were THIS high tech for generations... where did that come from??? Just 'lol vibranium' isn't going to cut it. Super-metals aren't a tech advancement in and of themselves-- they're cool, and they let you do some interesting things, but they won't advance your tech without the knowledge and ability to use their properties to the fullest extent. So where was Wakanda developing this technology? How? And how the hell did nobody cotton on to that there was something very interesting happening in their corner of Africa?
They have a scientific community that's never been invaded/faced brain drain from war, has a material with all *kinds* of useful properties and thus once they get to a point where they can usefully study it, studying it pays off in droves including in making tools to figure out new uses, and a world wide spy network to funnel them outside tech.

And... they've kept a tight border for centuries and had the border patrol equipped with non-obvious defenses (metal weave in their outfits, armored rhinos for backup), and had a superhuman Black Panther to take care of troublesome leaders and such looking towards them.


Centuries of peace + resources to fuel development + being smart about it = advancement.
Plus they have access to an actual afterlife. Your preeminent scientist dies young? Get a relative to go through the ritual and have a chat with them. Being able to access the memories of the deceased must be a massive boon in R&D.

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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-04-09 08:31am

streetad wrote:
2018-04-06 09:53pm
The whole thing is Africa as seen through the distorted lens of US race relations. From the pan-African culture you mentioned to the notion that the Wakandans would somehow feel responsible for/connected to all black people everywhere in the world.
That's the thing- a lot of them don't. Or they talk about it in more general terms like "the world is terrible, the world is a mess, we could fix the world by force but at what cost?" The one person who explicitly says "Wakandans are connected to all black people everywhere in the world" is Killmonger. He has obvious personal motivations for it (having grown up as one of those "black people everywhere in the world" and not as a Wakandan).

And the big reasons he gets support in saying it is in large part because he kills Klaue (getting him credibility) and because after he by all appearances kills T'Challa he's teeeccchnically the king and all that. Not because suddenly all or even most Wakandans suddenly sprout an ideological commitment to his cause.

The Fighty Tribe with the rhinos backs him, yes, but that's mostly because he killed the highest-profile terrorist and enemy in living Wakandan memory, immediately after their new king conspicuously failed to do so.
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-04-09 05:11pm

J Ryan wrote:
2018-04-09 04:30am
Plus they have access to an actual afterlife. Your preeminent scientist dies young? Get a relative to go through the ritual and have a chat with them. Being able to access the memories of the deceased must be a massive boon in R&D.
Highly debatable actually. It seems to be a particular property of the Heart-Shaped Herb, which seems to be exclusive to a specific ceremony and person, namely the current Black Panther. I'm pretty certain they don't let just any Wakandan indulge so they can go have a chat with Dr. Senior Technician Grandpa or whatever.
Q99 wrote:
2018-04-09 04:17am
They have a scientific community that's never been invaded/faced brain drain from war, has a material with all *kinds* of useful properties and thus once they get to a point where they can usefully study it, studying it pays off in droves including in making tools to figure out new uses, and a world wide spy network to funnel them outside tech.

And... they've kept a tight border for centuries and had the border patrol equipped with non-obvious defenses (metal weave in their outfits, armored rhinos for backup), and had a superhuman Black Panther to take care of troublesome leaders and such looking towards them.

Centuries of peace + resources to fuel development + being smart about it = advancement.
A fair point-- but if the outside world's knowledge of Wakanda is so limited, that means that in turn there aren't very many Wakandans venturing into the outside world, and those that do so openly are undoubtedly under strict orders not to divulge any information about their country beyond that which has been released for public consumption. That means that immigrants/tourists from a small African country, purportedly agarian, putatively without many resources, presumably posing as managing its own affairs adequately but not greatly affluent, probably can't go about hanging out high-level mathematics, nuclear physics, whatever knowledge. Dr N'Jabu, studying high energy magnetic fields, where did you get your doctorate from? University of Wakanda? Wakanda has an university? An university where they study what exactly in this little African country?

Which means you're left with spies. So say you have a random African gentleman show up at the football field of University of Chicago in 1942 casually asking about how they're building the first nuclear pile... somehow I'm pretty sure that wouldn't fly.

Of course, the alternative is generations upon generations of careful subterfuge... which in a fantasy universe I suppose is possible. Careful vetting of candidates (almost entirely drawn from the noble families of Wakanda, I suspect), infiltration into neighboring African countries, build identities as citizens of those countries, and proceed from there. N'Jabu of Wakanda will draw a lot more questions than Ngojabu of Nigeria, who happens to be a damn whiz at high energy magnetic fields...

I can see how it could happen. I just find it rather a bit of a stretch that Wakanda could remain so tightly protected, that the outside world could know so little about it, and that it could, despite those two barriers, still progress to an incredible degree.
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-04-09 06:24pm

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-04-09 08:31am
streetad wrote:
2018-04-06 09:53pm
The whole thing is Africa as seen through the distorted lens of US race relations. From the pan-African culture you mentioned to the notion that the Wakandans would somehow feel responsible for/connected to all black people everywhere in the world.
That's the thing- a lot of them don't. Or they talk about it in more general terms like "the world is terrible, the world is a mess, we could fix the world by force but at what cost?" The one person who explicitly says "Wakandans are connected to all black people everywhere in the world" is Killmonger. He has obvious personal motivations for it (having grown up as one of those "black people everywhere in the world" and not as a Wakandan).

And the big reasons he gets support in saying it is in large part because he kills Klaue (getting him credibility) and because after he by all appearances kills T'Challa he's teeeccchnically the king and all that. Not because suddenly all or even most Wakandans suddenly sprout an ideological commitment to his cause.

The Fighty Tribe with the rhinos backs him, yes, but that's mostly because he killed the highest-profile terrorist and enemy in living Wakandan memory, immediately after their new king conspicuously failed to do so.
Killmonger is IIRC only 'King' for a matter of a few days, maximum. Not enough time for him to have to oppress any popular revolts, just enough time to attempt to change the world via Wakandan tech. The population was undoubtedly still reeling to some degree, the Border Tribe is doing his bidding (likely it was their men in the dragonfly-planes and UFOs), but given time his views would almost certainly have intersected badly with modern Wakandan ethics, not to mention international relations ("the King of Wakanda is WHO now? And he gave all these African immigrants in our slums highly advanced weapons? You got some 'splainin' to do...").

To give the Wakandans some credit: Border Tribe aside, most of them seemed pretty unhappy about Killmonger becoming King, and seemed fully aware that this was a Bad Thing. They just didn't have the nards to do anything about it yet, and the Jabari (the ape tribe from the mountains) didn't particularly give a shit until T'Challa pointed out that he'd probably come for them sooner or later.

The Border Tribe seem to have been raring for action, particularly after Klaue blew up some of them in the... what was it, early 90s? It seems a bit odd to me because you'd think that people would be very interested in entering such a closed-off country, and thus they'd be keeping busy running down border-jumpers.
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-04-10 10:39am

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-04-09 06:24pm
The Border Tribe seem to have been raring for action, particularly after Klaue blew up some of them in the... what was it, early 90s? It seems a bit odd to me because you'd think that people would be very interested in entering such a closed-off country, and thus they'd be keeping busy running down border-jumpers.
They may be raring for action because they're the ones chasing down outsiders, interacting with outsiders, and generally perceiving the outside world as a hellhole, from which they constantly have to turn away refugee columns. And, occasionally, guys like Klaue.

However, as to why Wakanda doesn't get many visitors? Well, remember, their cover story is basically "we're Burundi, only without the civil war and overpopulation." As a landlocked African nation with no major resources that anyone knows of, and which has no obvious major human rights or foreign aid needs, Wakanda would be pretty 'safe' from most people who want to visit them. Sure, they'll get occasional tourists or anthropologists or whatever, but not a lot of interest from the kind of large organization that starts to make it awkward to keep refusing them.
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-04-10 11:26am

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-04-10 10:39am
However, as to why Wakanda doesn't get many visitors? Well, remember, their cover story is basically "we're Burundi, only without the civil war and overpopulation." As a landlocked African nation with no major resources that anyone knows of, and which has no obvious major human rights or foreign aid needs, Wakanda would be pretty 'safe' from most people who want to visit them. Sure, they'll get occasional tourists or anthropologists or whatever, but not a lot of interest from the kind of large organization that starts to make it awkward to keep refusing them.
That works, I suppose.

I still find it highly specious that nobody has actually gone poking around more. They *have* to allow SOME people into the country, if for no other purpose than to go 'see, here, we are just a lot of peaceful farmers and cattle herders, our king lives in this mud hut, truly he is a man of the people' to the National Geographic or whatever.

Consider: Wouldn't there have been the occasional flight over Wakanda, if nothing else from commercial aircraft, starting in the ~30s ish (very sporadically at that point I'll certainly grant) and increasing after the war? Did they have the cloaking field over their capital THAT early on? If not, how did nobody notice 'gee this valley that was right here just got replaced by a very solid looking mountain'? At least before the 'modern age' I'm assuming landmarks were fairly vital for navigating overland, and something like that would have been noticed. Of course, Wakanda might simply be fortuitiously located in such an area that the most common air routes rarely pass over it, and Africa is proverbially large. Nevertheless, it seems a bit of a perplexing omission.

Air travel makes me think of something though. Wouldn't it seem quite unusual for a nation to *deliberately* shun modernity in this day and age? I suppose religion might be an excuse-- 'the Panther Goddess doesn't like cell phones' or whatever, even if that's blatantly hypocritical (but the outsiders don't know that).

Overall though the technology issue doesn't bother me nearly as much as the IRL design choices made for the movie. I can suspend disbelief to a certain degree on the tech, but the haphazard reassignment of costuming and cultural paraphernalia bugs me regardless, largely I suspect because I've been personally invested in African culture for part of my life and the lack of authenticity is more apparent to me.
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-04-10 11:43am

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-04-10 11:26am
Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-04-10 10:39am
However, as to why Wakanda doesn't get many visitors? Well, remember, their cover story is basically "we're Burundi, only without the civil war and overpopulation." As a landlocked African nation with no major resources that anyone knows of, and which has no obvious major human rights or foreign aid needs, Wakanda would be pretty 'safe' from most people who want to visit them. Sure, they'll get occasional tourists or anthropologists or whatever, but not a lot of interest from the kind of large organization that starts to make it awkward to keep refusing them.
That works, I suppose.

I still find it highly specious that nobody has actually gone poking around more. They *have* to allow SOME people into the country, if for no other purpose than to go 'see, here, we are just a lot of peaceful farmers and cattle herders, our king lives in this mud hut, truly he is a man of the people' to the National Geographic or whatever.
Well yes, but since they seem to actually be sustaining this masquerade life fairly gracefully, I suspect they've been deliberately crafting their society to seem unremarkably quaint to outsiders for a long time. This no doubt causes some friction, but then, nothing we see really suggests Wakandan society is truly friction-free.
Consider: Wouldn't there have been the occasional flight over Wakanda, if nothing else from commercial aircraft, starting in the ~30s ish (very sporadically at that point I'll certainly grant) and increasing after the war? Did they have the cloaking field over their capital THAT early on?
Probably they set it up as soon as they foresaw the need; it's obvious Wakandan tech is decoupled enough from the global mainstream for them to do so.
If not, how did nobody notice 'gee this valley that was right here just got replaced by a very solid looking mountain'? At least before the 'modern age' I'm assuming landmarks were fairly vital for navigating overland, and something like that would have been noticed. Of course, Wakanda might simply be fortuitiously located in such an area that the most common air routes rarely pass over it, and Africa is proverbially large. Nevertheless, it seems a bit of a perplexing omission.
Wakanda is presumably large enough that its capital isn't directly visible from the border, so the only people who noticed it happening were other Wakandans who knew why it was happening.
Air travel makes me think of something though. Wouldn't it seem quite unusual for a nation to *deliberately* shun modernity in this day and age? I suppose religion might be an excuse-- 'the Panther Goddess doesn't like cell phones' or whatever, even if that's blatantly hypocritical (but the outsiders don't know that).
For all I know, there ARE villages in the Wakandan hinterland where the locals use conventional cell phones. We can't really rule that out from what we see.
Overall though the technology issue doesn't bother me nearly as much as the IRL design choices made for the movie. I can suspend disbelief to a certain degree on the tech, but the haphazard reassignment of costuming and cultural paraphernalia bugs me regardless, largely I suspect because I've been personally invested in African culture for part of my life and the lack of authenticity is more apparent to me.
That's fair. It's pretty clear that they were drawing on a grab bag of stuff from all over the continent for inspiration, to the point where it doesn't authentically reflect any one place or region.
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by madd0ct0r » 2018-04-10 06:25pm

Ill note that in london you could have ravers, kilt wearing scots, canary wharf merchants in suits, soldiers, football fans and someone dressed for the opera sharing a tube carriage.

The tribes colours are clearly modelled on different, familiar cultures, but im not going to hold that against the film any more the lotr films echoing euroasian styles.

---

As for the tech. I kind of agree that it is unlikely a city state could progress one step ahead of the rest of the world in complete isolation, thematically i think it is important wakanda is because of wakanda, not aliens or stolen western plans. Did we have many threads on the implausiblity of tony stark industries?
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by madd0ct0r » 2018-04-10 06:44pm

Something that did interest me was that the mountain tribe had their details changed from the comic.

Thankgoodness "man-ape" became M'baku.hence the white fur details. It is meant to reference silverback gorillas from the original. Fur makes some sense in snowy mountains. I also fpubd it funny that they were "traditionalists" who only had modern tech levels

The god was changed to the indian monkey god Hamunaan. I remember he is said to have leaped to sri lanka and back from the Himalayas, but im coming up short on an indian-African link otherwise. I wonder what drove that decision?
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-04-11 08:22am

I'm guessing someone in the production process decided/noticed that there is a big racism-related sore spot around this topic among African-Americans. It's due to a history of blacks being identified with apes as a way of denigrating them. So any ape references in the original source material got the hell diluted out of them, in order to avoid poking that sore spot.
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Shroom Man 777 » 2018-04-11 01:01pm

The mixture we see in demographics might be due to those refugee rescue programs their agents did. There MIGHT have been periods in the past where they were more pro-active in accepting the needy.

The ultratech might not be due to scientists communing with ancestors, but who knows, what if in some iterations the special herb DID grant trippy polymath abilities to some of their Black Panthers? Not just warrior philosopher superhuman kings, but MAD SCIENTIST kings?
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by madd0ct0r » 2018-04-11 01:10pm

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-04-11 08:22am
I'm guessing someone in the production process decided/noticed that there is a big racism-related sore spot around this topic among African-Americans. It's due to a history of blacks being identified with apes as a way of denigrating them. So any ape references in the original source material got the hell diluted out of them, in order to avoid poking that sore spot.
Um, they did have m'baka literally hooting at people and arrive wearing a ritual monkey headThere was something about his mannerisms when he was in "show off" mode that really did make me think of silverbacks, perhaps exaggerated, very slow facial expessions? He didnt sit on the throne, he sprawled.
I dunno, its not noticeable in scenes where the character is being friendly or relaxed. Sharp acting.

Bast is Egyptian isnt he/she? So i guess theres an element of cultural magpism that is unavoidable. But for a central africa location the different distinct tribes and the upper Egypt still are less weird then a Hindi/asian god. I guess indian traders did get everywhere!



Regarding tech interaction with outer world, a LOT of people i shared boarding school with were children of kings, warlords, obligarchs, dons ect

I can totally see them bringing back trace knowledge but also the knowledge of knowledge. Simply knowing something is possible can be enough to allow a Shuri (or her great grandmother) down an interesting speculative project. This was how a native American tribe gained a written alphabet.
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-04-11 05:02pm

Shroom Man 777 wrote:
2018-04-11 01:01pm
The mixture we see in demographics might be due to those refugee rescue programs their agents did. There MIGHT have been periods in the past where they were more pro-active in accepting the needy.
Maybe, but we were explicitly told in Wakanda's origin story at the start of the movie that there were "five tribes," and that number, five tribes, corresponds to the five major ethnic groupings we see within present-day Waknda: the ornery mountain tribe, the fighty rhino tribe, the weird lip thing tribe, the forgettable tribe, and the other forgettable tribe.

So either two of the original tribes merged into one and a tribe of refugees came in from outside, or they're the same five.
The ultratech might not be due to scientists communing with ancestors, but who knows, what if in some iterations the special herb DID grant trippy polymath abilities to some of their Black Panthers? Not just warrior philosopher superhuman kings, but MAD SCIENTIST kings?
I LIKE it! :D

Or the Wakandans might have some other weird intelligence-enhancing drug. It would certainly explain how T'Challa's little sister, who seems like she's an adolescent or barely out of adolescence, is a goddamn technical genius who's running Wakanda's version of Q branch.

I mean, who says they only have one performance-boosting herbal substance?
madd0ct0r wrote:
2018-04-11 01:10pm
Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-04-11 08:22am
I'm guessing someone in the production process decided/noticed that there is a big racism-related sore spot around this topic among African-Americans. It's due to a history of blacks being identified with apes as a way of denigrating them. So any ape references in the original source material got the hell diluted out of them, in order to avoid poking that sore spot.
Um, they did have m'baka literally hooting at people and arrive wearing a ritual monkey headThere was something about his mannerisms when he was in "show off" mode that really did make me think of silverbacks, perhaps exaggerated, very slow facial expessions? He didnt sit on the throne, he sprawled.
I'm talking explicit ape references. It's like, they can have a tribe that uses ape-themed totems, to go with the rhinos and panthers and other animals. But they can't just have literal apes, or people who are literal ape-people.
I guess indian traders did get everywhere!
Or, hell, it's Marvel Comics. For all we know, Hanuman was a real (superpowered alien) person who was worshipped as a god by both the Indians and the Wakandans because of shit he actually did.

It's only surprising in real life to find gods in multiple unrelated cultures because we take for granted that the gods in question don't exist. It's like, if we found out that the Japanese worshipped the same pantheon as the Norse in the MCU it would be weird but not, in retrospect, surprising. Because the Norse gods are real, it would just mean they sometimes visited Japan and made an impression while visiting.
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-04-11 08:14pm

Ape mask aside, it appears that the production decided to go with mannerisms rather than explicit simian looks for the Jabari tribe. A reasonable choice, it's not unusual for African tribes to emulate animal qualities in various traditional worship or ceremonial contexts. It's much better (for an American audience) than having them dress up as literal apes. We only see the Jabari a few times, and one of those is a highly ceremonial setting. Note that outside of these settings (including his throne-room, where the gorilla-grunting may be a semi-formal way of expressing disapproval in their society), he acts pretty normally.
Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-04-11 05:02pm
Shroom Man 777 wrote:
2018-04-11 01:01pm
The mixture we see in demographics might be due to those refugee rescue programs their agents did. There MIGHT have been periods in the past where they were more pro-active in accepting the needy.
Maybe, but we were explicitly told in Wakanda's origin story at the start of the movie that there were "five tribes," and that number, five tribes, corresponds to the five major ethnic groupings we see within present-day Waknda: the ornery mountain tribe, the fighty rhino tribe, the weird lip thing tribe, the forgettable tribe, and the other forgettable tribe.

So either two of the original tribes merged into one and a tribe of refugees came in from outside, or they're the same five.
Yeah. The whole taking in refugees thing seems to be a very new notion for the Wakandans. If it had happened within recent memory, it wouldn't be meeting with nearly as much resistance. The only exception might be if it DID happen, and went badly, but there's no suggestion of it happening before as far as I can recall.

The other two tribes are the Mining Tribe (the Maasai/Himba looking people) and the Merchant Tribe (West African/Tuareg), btw.

Also: if Wakanda is so geographically isolated in addition to being very defensive of its border integrity, it wouldn't be a very likely place for refugees to go anyway unless there were troubles in a neighboring country. And to be quite honest I wouldn't put it past Wakandans to quietly suppress said troubles in order to prevent exactly that, for their own security. They're clearly more than willing to run a global spy network just because they can; it's almost certainly within their means to, at the very least, funnel information to where it might be used and to keep an eye on popular movements. For example if they were IRL next door to Rwanda, they might have prevented the Hutu/Tutsi genocide in order to make sure the genocided tribe didn't attempt fleeing en masse across their own borders and cause awkward questions like "why are your border people using magic cloth that projects forcefields"...

Though it's a bit hard to reconcile that with their policy of not interfering in the outside world, but they might consider it a part of their border security... I don't know. Killmonger certainly thought it would be possible for him to ignite revolts across the world via the Wakandan spy network, so I suspect it's something they've looked at in the past, if never actually done.
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Rogue 9 » 2018-04-11 11:33pm

streetad wrote:
2018-04-06 09:53pm
The whole thing is Africa as seen through the distorted lens of US race relations. From the pan-African culture you mentioned to the notion that the Wakandans would somehow feel responsible for/connected to all black people everywhere in the world.

I guess it's just the nature of the source material; it absolutely doesn't ring true as an authentic African nation however...
To be fair, the Wakandans didn't feel responsible for or connected to all black people everywhere in the world. In fact, they explicitly weren't. That was all N'Jobu going native and then Killmonger projecting that onto Wakanda through his American upbringing.
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Re: Black Panther: Critical Thoughts

Post by Q99 » 2018-04-12 04:34am

Rogue 9 wrote:
2018-04-11 11:33pm
streetad wrote:
2018-04-06 09:53pm
The whole thing is Africa as seen through the distorted lens of US race relations. From the pan-African culture you mentioned to the notion that the Wakandans would somehow feel responsible for/connected to all black people everywhere in the world.

I guess it's just the nature of the source material; it absolutely doesn't ring true as an authentic African nation however...
To be fair, the Wakandans didn't feel responsible for or connected to all black people everywhere in the world. In fact, they explicitly weren't. That was all N'Jobu going native and then Killmonger projecting that onto Wakanda through his American upbringing.
And W'Kabi preferring a more outward, militaristic stance.

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