Notes (March #6)

BP #44: We want to see authorial intent in each frame. We imagine Coogler struggling to realise his artistic vision, at every turn battling studio executives and accountants, suits blind to art’s higher purpose, functionaries only interested in the bottom line.

BP #47: All Africas are imagined: yours, mine, Coogler’s.1

Jelani Cobb: “Africa—or, rather, ‘Africa’—is a creation of a white world and the literary, academic, cinematic, and political mechanisms that it used to give mythology the credibility of truth. No such nation as Wakanda exists on the map of the continent, but that is entirely beside the point. Wakanda is no more or less imaginary than the Africa conjured by [David] Hume or [Hugh] Trevor-Roper, or the one canonized in such Hollywood offerings as ‘Tarzan.'”

BP #48: Because Africa did not exist, it was necessary to invent her.

BP #55: How often in the Marvel Universe is a problem solved only by someone’s death or by the destruction of a physical object?2

“A nation is forged by a people with a common purpose and a bad memory.” Ernest Renan?

Antonio Damasio: “When one explains what a thing is, it helps to be clear about what a thing is not.”

Ernest Renan: “The fact of race, a fact of the greatest moment at the outset, has always been diminishing in importance. Race is not everything as it is amongst rodents and felines and no one has the right to go about the world examining men’s heads and then grabbing them by the throat, saying ‘you are of our blood; you belong to us!'”



1. Not all that is imagined is imaginary. All Africas are imagined; some Africas are real. Some real Africas were created; others were discovered. Imagining precedes deliberate creation, but it may also be a means of apprehension, a method of understanding reality.

2. As Ororo Monroe says in X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), “You can’t save the world just going around killing people.”


Notes (March #3)

Zora Neale Hurston: “The realization that Negroes are no better nor no worse, and at times just as boring as everybody else, will hardly kill off the population of the nation.”

Black Panther #35: Wakandans in BP, like the Amazons in Wonder Woman, are exceptions. African nations, at least as they are usually presented to us, are poor and corrupt. Women are weak and defenceless. In both cases, evolutionary ascent requires external intervention. To achieve collective greatness, some merely have to be born white and male. Black people need vibranium. Women need special dispensations from Zeus. Both films complicate fictional representations of blackness and womanhood while reinforcing existing stereotypes. (Africans are inherently tribal; African Americans, even when they have been educated at MIT, are violent thugs; women are irrational, etc.)

BP #37: Unfair parallel. In Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) a savage group ascends to a higher cultural plane after the introduction of a chemical agent.

BP #38: Physical imperfection as a marker for evil. In both BP and WW, secondary villains are either disabled or disfigured. The ancient view of disability as divine punishment. The mark of Cain.

Notes (March #2)

Black Panther #12: How does one criticise BP without coming across as an enemy of joy?

BP #17: This fantasy is not set in an alternative universe. Wakanda lies hidden on the same continent on which famines and wars kill multitudes, on the same timeline as the Rwandan genocide, Liberian civil war and Lord’s Resistance Army. Her elders agonise over the fate of African Americans in 21st century America. Did they, from the 50s through to the 90s, have similar concerns about blacks in South Africa?

BP # 19: By the standards of most Africans, black Americans are not oppressed, they are privileged. Given a choice, most would rather be black in Oakland than black in Lagos. And in the absence of a motherland teeming with hoverbikes and magnetic trains, most African Americans would almost certainly, if faced with the choice, elect to stay where they are. Racist America is a frying pan. Africa is a fire.

BP #25: TechGirl calls Ross “coloniser” and it is part put-down and part affectionate humour. Whatever else Wakandans may be they are not an acquisitive people, they have no designs on the resources of the nations around them. But her casual condescension should be tinged with guilt. Where was Wakanda when other African nations were being colonised?

BP #26: As an epithet, “coloniser” is imprecise. The American state has interfered in the internal affairs of many countries. It has bombed cities and assassinated heads of state. But its forays into colonialism (in the Philippines, Puerto Rico and a dozen other pacific islands) barely register when considered alongside the kleptomania of some European nations. Ross may be an agent of an imperialist government, but the charge of colonialism sticks only if we regard his race as reason enough to hold him responsible for historical crimes of whiteness.

BP #27: Perhaps short for “neo-coloniser”?

BP #31: Who are the oppressed? Who are their oppressors? Who gets the first cache of Vibranium weapons? Louis Farrakhan? Al Sharpton? Black Lives Matter? And who do they turn these weapons against?

Still on yesterday’s theme of death and interesting departures, there’s this from Melinda Zook’s Challenging Orthodoxies: The Social and Cultural Worlds of Early Modern Women (2014):

Lice as the divine weapon against political and religious oppression remained a trope until early modern times. Rulers, including Herod Agrippa, Antiochus Epiphanes, and the Roman dictator Sulla, shared the same fate. They were thought to be victims of “phthiriasis,” the lousy disease, purportedly causing the host body to be consumed from the inside out by its own vermin. A 1571 text claimed, “Plutarch recordeth, that Sulla was filthely devoured of Lyse … And Pline farther saithe, that he died in sutche sorte tormented, that with extreame and miserable anguishe, he gnewe, teare, and with his teeth horribly dismembered his own loathsome body and deformed carrion.” Thus, Mouffet called lice “the scourge of God” and the theologian Henry Ainsworth explained “even the smallest and vilest creatures, as frogs, flies and the like, are ministers of wrath and vengeance upon the disobedient.”