*Black Panther* (evaluations, only minor spoilers)

As a besotted worshiper of Sun Ra, Octavia Butler, and Afro-Futurism more generally, I have been anticipating this one for many months.  Since I wish that one-fifth of all movies had an Afro-Futurist background, and so few do, I suppose I shouldn’t complain.  Still, I was disappointed by just about everything except some of the visuals.

The male characters were weak and most of the scenes dull, and worst of all most of the humor is mediocre.  Furthermore, I found the movie uncomfortably prejudiced.  There is such a thing as racism directed mainly at Africans (as opposed to blacks), and it seems to me this was it.

So many spears and wild animals?  How about holding a referendum every now and then?  And there were so many “Africanist” tropes.  De facto, I thought the actual message was strongly pro-segregation, although wimpiness on that finally kicks in.  The visual references to Narnia and to various Star Wars installments were fine, but was it necessary to cite the colonialist Zulu?  The contrast with the resource-poor city of Busan, South Korea was almost Straussian in intent.  Is wealth based on human capital so impossible in Africa?

I would say the more you know about actual African cinema, the less you will appreciate this one.

Christopher Lebron in Boston Review has written the best review (via Hollis Robbins).


Afrofuturism doesn't occur in real sci fi because it is a self contradiction: in the future, which means a bright and technologically advanced society, stupid social constructs like race will disappear.

What about things like ancestry, which aren't social constructs?

And continents.

It's no coincidence that the seasteaders promote policies that will increase global warming.

It is absurd to claim that race is a social construct. There are real measurable differences between the races. Whatever Lewontin says.

I would think that Western (that is, White) SF took a seriously wrong turn when it became apparent that the bright future would not have that many White people in it. White readers are not too keen on that. SF writers have got around this in various ways - like wiping out most non-White people in the first few pages or constructing some sort of politically correct form of apartheid (I am thinking of Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars for instance). But the problem is still there.

Anyway what is odd about this is the sanctification of a Cargo Cult. Do Africans do anything to earn their amazing powers? No, they have some magic rocks. It is like Saudi Arabia finding oil. I have not seen the film, but I am not concerned about the depiction of the rest of Africa - it is worse than anything they are likely to show. I am concerned with the idea that "Black Empowerment" or whatever other political message this film has does not support the idea of speaking properly, pulling your pants up and doing your homework. Well, at least doing your homework. Magic rocks. Sometimes I think that the media aimed at Black people is secretly run by neo-Nazis aiming to keep Blacks down. Is it possible to give a worse message?

People at large, at least in the younger generation, in the West mostly are ignorant of economic history, and tend to believe in a form of primitive accumulation of one form or another (slavery, mining, etc.). That is first you get the resources, and only then if you can trade them for a high market price can you invest in technology, education, etc (if they are even aware that developed economies are rich because they are developed). Hence this film's presentation. They truly mostly do believe (and probably particularly self styled "woke" young Black folk in the West) that Africa's low level of development is because its resources were "extracted" without sufficient payment.

Of course commentators here know enough to know this isn't the case and that typically the sums of money needed to begin development have been low and could've come from anywhere, and that generally ideas, experience of technology, institutions, human capital are what matter (and hence the various Asian "miracle" economies).

This is generally kind of a problem of digging up these '60s-'70s genre fossils that flirted with countercultural messaging. Another parallel would be some of the work of Mike Moorcock in the fantasy genre. Often the aesthetics are something that can be sold to today's media (and sometimes to its market), particularly since the '60s-'70s counterculture is now actually our *dominant* culture among our elite, but where they've tried to include economic and development concerns in their work they have embarrassingly poor levels of understanding that perpetuate long debunked tropes (e.g. the counterculture was wrong and still is).

Tyler:The contrast with the resource-poor city of Busan, South Korea was almost Straussian in intent. Is wealth based on human capital so impossible in Africa?

A Straussian comment on a Straussian message. How Meta-Straussian.

I doubt anyone cares whether you're concerned with the empowerment message of this film. Speaking properly and pulling your pants up. You should join forces with the Pants on the Ground guy and save "the blacks."

It's fiction!!! The message isn't what it is, what you see. The message is what the authors, producers and actors are trying to tell you what it is. This is insight into what THEY think not what IS in the world.

"It is like Saudi Arabia finding oil."

Couple important differences. For one, Wakandans seem to have broadly benefitted from their discovery of Vibranium instead of wealth being concentrated in the royal family. Wakandans took the vibranium and parlayed it into actual technological advancement. As portrayed in the film and comics, they're possibly the most technologically advanced nation on the planet.

Those magic rocks only hold power if scientists, engineers, and the like are able to use them. Cue super intelligent Wakandans who are capable of using them and create amazing technology around their many valuable properties and traditional medicine men and healers who utilize it in its most basic form.

Oil is only black goo without the proper machines to modify it. Diamonds are just shiny rocks until someone figures out how to combine them into silicon carbide or lasers.

If Wakandans did not build on decade after decade of mathematical and scientific research and development then those rocks would adorn necks and ears but not live up to a fraction of their potential.

I loved the fiction of Octavia Butler. I was astonished to learn she was rather old black woman. When I read her books almost 40 years ago, I supposed she might be a person of color but not that dark a color, and that she would be about my age which she certainly was not. It is a testament to her skill that she could so engage with me without tipping her hand.

40 years ago Octavia Butler was 30 years old. Is that really so old?

I was a teenager. I didn't know anything about her except reading her books until I saw her being interviewed on the Charlie Rose show -- sadly, that and other great interviews are likely never to be seen again.

I was under the impression she was about 80 years old at that time, but a Google search shows I was quite wrong. She was 53 at the time of the interview and died at age 59. Much too soon.

The superhero genre is played out.

Poor Dr. Poison with his cleft lip.

All the cracks and the crevices are mine. The pot-holes are my tide-pools and the truck driveers are their sculptors. The grills are my fish and bullfrogs and I eat plenty. The bitumen and asphalt and cement tell your history. The paint is mine. The white fences and the yellow daffodils are mine. The tall and dark wires that hang from pylon and pylon talk through thunderstorms. The hay-colored grass and the tire feathers are mine.

>The superhero genre is played out.

That happened around 2005.

We're not just beating a dead horse these days; we are pounding on a small red stain on the pavement where the horse originally died, and then decomposed more than a decade ago.

Good for Tyler for daring to push slightly against the left-wing tide here. It's very, very rare these days. Is it enough to make up for his praise of Wonder Woman, which was also complete garbage? I dunno, call it a wash.

"Good for Tyler for daring to push slightly against the left-wing tide here."

Yeah but he did it by going even further left.

That's how we got into this mess in the first place.

I cannot even fathom the mind of an erstwhile grown man who looks forward with glee to the next installment of something called the "Marvel cinematic universe." Yet to judge by comments on my Facebook page, I know many guys like this.

It's almost like people have different tastes in things.

I have no opinion to share on "Black Panther" specifically, just about the reviews of it I've been reading, including the Lebron one linked above.

It's pretty funny that when they make a movie with a primarily black cast, i.e. blacks cast as the heroes and the villains, some people expect anyone black in a movie to represent all black people all the time. So they seem really ready to call the movie racist because of the black characters in it. If the exact same movie was made, but all the characters were white, none of them would be calling the movie racist against whites. They might still argue about how it makes a noble the good guy vs. a ganster as the bad guy, but it wouldn't be all about racism.

Is the bottom line that in today's media culture, anything about someone who is black is automatically going to be considered to be about racism and/or racist? Is that what it's all reduced to? Trying to think of exceptions.... maybe the only exception is for someone like Clarence Thomas?

In the age of Trump and the revivification of hegemonic white patriarchal cisgendered power structures that permeate society's cultural narratives, marginalized communities cannot afford to portray such nuances.

Very nice satire Anon7 - thank you. Made my evening!

^This is poetry, folks.

Are you kidding? I thought it was a transcription of a faculty seminar I had to attend last month.

...and this is a good thing - here's why

If they made a movie about a white society that was super technologically advanced BECAUSE they "stayed pure" and didn't interact with the outside world (no immigrants or refugees), well, yes that would be about racism and/or racist.

Reading the newest Russia indictments only further convinces me that the underlying crime is allowing baby boomers to use the internet.

Don't be dissing Zulu.

I am curious to hear how Zulu was colonialist. Maybe I'm thick.

Well, it is all about a bunch of outnumbered British soldiers valiently defending themselves from a Zulu attack.
If you assume that "yay, British soldiers" = "yay, British colonialism", then it's colonialist.

Not to be confused with Shaka Zulu, the miniseries on Fox.

"the colonialist Zulu": I'd have said that the Zulu were imperialists rather than colonialists.

Westerns are colonialist films.

Yeah he was great in Hawaii 5-0.

Kono as Zulu ... or was it the other way around?

"As a besotted worshiper of Sun Ra.."

Oh, yeah?

What's your favourite Ra album?

Mine: https://www.allaboutjazz.com/jazz-in-silhouette-sun-ra-evidence-music-review-by-matthew-wuethrich.php


Christopher Lebron's review is terrible, in that he does not show, in the review, that he understands human beings or art. Not saying he does not get one or two things right, but - he does not show that he understands human beings or art. So the review was terrible. He might try again some day without the chip on his shoulder and the arrogance in his heart.

but does he understands human beings or art

seriously student dude he probably doesn't care if Anna Banner is right or wrong to put up with the antics of Flavour so I am gonna say no

Children do not need a baby mama or a baby daddy they need parents who care and love them

God bless Christopher L - leaving aside whether he should have like given Armond White a call - don't all these guys know each other - before turning in his scrip

Need I say more - come on, we are all human. Geez if you understand art say something to let us know you do, there is not enough kindness of that kind in the world

agree or disagree with Don Colacho he tried. My guess is he either understood people or art, not both. I understand both but I am no Don Colacho so no aphorisms tonight!

for example in the Rudolphiad Yukon Cornelius understood art not people and Snow-Dude Ives understood people not art

it worked out in the end

better days ahead


how gentle is the rain that falls softly in the meadow

how gentle is the rain that fall softly in the meadow

the cinematography almost films itself

Lesotho for the Win!

Vegas chebere Vegas!

(see how easy it is?)

"those that don't get it can't show it those that got it can't hide it"

props to those who came before

disfruta de esta dia

Dios nos ama todos

"The more you know about African cinema" suggests that you know a bit about African cinema. As someone who doesn't know even the first thing about African cinema: can you do a post about This? Your favourite directors /movies / schools? Or a good place to get started?

Start with “The Dictator” ... North Africa is Africa ain’t it?

I would trust the review more if it got the facts of the movie straight. I thought Killmonger grew up in Oakland, not LA. Did he move in his childhood?

So you never read the comic books?

or whistle a gentle tune


corrigendum my young friend

It's very difficult to be fair to something like Black Panther: On one end, it's American's envisioning of a parallel history of an Africa that modernized economically without any real contact with European colonialism. This completely detaches it from Africa today, or anything that comes from there: It's about the grandchildren of slaves trying to connect with a culture that was ripped from them anyway, so, from the perspective of authenticity, it's as much as a grotesque mockery as your typical Tapas bar is of Spanish cuisine. Looked from the darkest lens, something like Black panther is not all that different from Tintin or Asterix's adventures in foreign stereotypes. But if one looks at its intent, it's not really about looking down on African culture: It's just not all that authentic because it's really depicting something else: an african-american idea of what Africa could have looked like.

Therefore, I can't judge it all that harshly myself: It's not about Modern Africa, any more than American movies about ancient Greece are about actual Greece. I much prefer black American superhero comics that are about Americans: More Luke Cage, less Wakanda, but calling it racist is a bit much.

It's not really an African-American idea; it's from a couple of Jewish-American guys born in the 1920s, who were in their forties in the mid-1960s, who did not really envision it being taking any more seriously than Batman or Spiderman, to sell children's comics.

The animals were clearly domesticated except for the cats, which were clearly spirit animals as otherwise they would be too territorial and hard to spot.

They did hold a referendum and they still like spears, just like Koreans like rockets, Europeans like swords, and southerners like guns.

The economic point is that human capital is ineffective without other resources. Either labor goes to capital (or gets enslaved and taken buy it) or capital goes to labor.

Yet Thor was one of the best movies in 2017? I haven't seen either, but I can't understand how Thor could have been so great considering all of these Marvel movies (including Black Panther apparently) are full of weak characters, cheesy one liners and just overall corniness.

I have to wonder if TC is just doing his contrarian thing with this review.

Surely the lesson of the real world is exactly the opposite: physical capital is useless without human capital? Unless you have the social / cultural factors in place the value in Land is just appropriated by the Elite and the population enserfed.

That's why Singapore, Korea, Japan work and much of Africa doesn't, Oil works in Norway but not ME or Venezuela, and why the resources of canada sing and the resources of Russia scream.

In fairness, Botswana does work better than the rest of Africa and the UAE does prosper, after a fashion.

But neither will be robust to shocks that reduce the value of their resource, at least not without going further and harder on the "foreigners do all the meaningful work" route to the extent that they become weird post-national things to a much greater degree (certainly than Korea and probably than Singapore) and cease to be nations of the Botswanans, or the Emiratis (even than they are today).

>Botswana does work better than the rest of Africa

They're effectively a DeBeers colony.

Yes, there's a few examples of both-oars-in-the-water states in Africa and ME. The best of them are trying desperately to inure themselves against the inevitable resource shock and become a real economy. Time will tell if they succeed.

Probably because Thor Ragnarok was explicitly a comedy.

I remember watching Blade (wesley snipes) movies. The guy looked cool in the choreographed fights slaying vampires. No one cared about skin colors. Why movies can't be just fun?

It is amazing how quickly the cancer in universities has metastasized into the general culture through the media. I look forward to how humanity fixes it.

I don't know if you've seen Black Panther or not, but there is very little political about this movie. It was obviously made with the intention of just being a fun, popcorn movie first, and any political message was a distant second goal.

Why not just stick to factual stuff, such as the Ancient Egyptians and Ancient Jews being negroes? Surely they were real life superheroes?

> the resource-poor city of Busan, South Korea

Busan has resources: a port city. Also lots of eels and other creepy crawlies freshly killed and cooked up by the ocean.

Not just eels but slime eels:

In most countries hagfish are usually not eaten, but this particular species is valued as food in the Korean Peninsula and among the Koreans in Japan. It is known as bù shì nián máng mán (布氏粘盲鰻, 無目鰻, 蒲氏粘盲鰻, 青眠鰻, 龍筋, 鰻背) in Mandarin,[5] kkomjangeo (꼼장어) or meokjangeo (먹장어) in Korean, and nuta-unagi in Japanese.

My rule of thumb is that anyone who is forced to eat a slime eel lacks a great many resources indeed.

They like them.

Films are today's novels. That has become so trite that a Google search only reveals novels made into movies. Based on the review of this film in Boston Review, my observation is that this file exposes the weakness of film as compared to the book, namely, that films are a visual medium and depend on action and visual effects for appeal. Thus, one of the complaints of the reviewer is that, while the female characters are presented as strong and self-reliant, they have almost nothing to say. Anyone who has not seen the film Zulu, a 1964 film starring a very young Michael Caine about the Anglo-Zulu War, should. The film depicts 150 British soldiers holding off 4,000 Zulu warriors, in a ten-hour battle that left only 15 dead British soldiers but 350 dead black Africans, a stark contrast to the much larger nearby battle in which the same Zulu warriors had defeated a large British force. For many years, Zulu was one of the biggest box-office successes in Britain, and remained in circulation for over ten years after its release. In the film's final scene, the surviving Zulu warriors chant a tribute to the courage of the British soldiers, and retreat, and then Caine's character shamefully observes the "butcher's yard" that the British soldiers had brought about.

Zulu Dawn is about that battle, made 15 years later in 1979, after the British pound collapsed.

Once again the media gets it wrong. 97% from “reviers” on rotten tomatoes, 75% from cinema goers.

Recent Disney entertainment that the media has gotten wrong:
The last Jedi (91% now, 97% at release, 48% from viewers)
Iron fist (19% [!!], vs 79%)
Luke cage (93 vs 78)

Amazingly, it would be impossible to create the movie that started this whole crazy: Ironman in this day and age. The media would attempt to destroy it.

Note in most cases where the media was wrong the score has slowly drifted towards that of audiences.

Yes, the growing divorce between Reviewer and Public ratings for films is a clear sign that Disney isn't following its audience, but talking to its liberal friends. Note these gaps are growing over time.

Disney must have a lot of liberal friends then, because these movies make tons of cash, and those amounts are growing (not shrinking) over time.

"Once again the media gets it wrong. 97% from “reviers” on rotten tomatoes, 75% from cinema goers."

Possibly because of an organized effort on 4chan to downvote it for political reasons?

To wit, Black Panther got an A+ at CinemaScore, which bases its grades on "exit interviews" of actual movie goers. To an extent, a film's Cinemascore is a measure of how it lived up to audience's expectations. ("Mother", for instance, was savaged.) Last Jedi got an "A".


'Mother,' objectively speaking, was a fantastic film (although one I'd never see again).

So the ratings are based on the immediate, unreflective comments of hardcore fans and reviewers in the middle of a hype and adrenaline overload?

Right. Gotcha.

I prefer a rating based derived from a larger set of less mood-affiliated people, preferably after a second viewing.

You might but Disney just wants your money. If you need 2 viewings all the better for them.

Cinemascore's ratings are consistently very generous. Look at the most recent scores. On a rating scale of "A" to "F", 10 of the last 22 movies rated were "As" while the rest were "Bs". Every single one of Tyler Perry's 11 "Madea" movies got an "A", as did the three Star Wars prequels.

FTR, I thought Black Panther was a fun, well-made comic book movie, but not as great as hyped, and the politics were pretty tame considering the weight of expectations.

> Possibly because of an organized effort on 4chan to downvote it for political reasons?

Rotten Tomatoes doesn't think so.

You can check out the written reviews on the site. There are literally thousands of pages. I randomly visited a dozen or so of them several hundred pages down. None of the negative reviews seemed written by bots. If anything, the negative reviews are longer and more detailed than the positive. I tallied the first hundred I saw and got a LOWER rotten tomatoes score of 36%. So 48% seems entirely within the bounds of plausibility.

Hollywood is trying to rehabilitate a bunch of racist, hate mongering gangsters.

If you strip away the dross of this review it is just Tyler trolling and displaying his own sad philistine prejudices. After all an economist would be riled at the idea of a wealthy industrialized nation that engages in zero trade. The premise of this world is that comparative advantage is a fiction. But maybe it is?

I don't think TC buys into the free trade mantra 100%; I think he understands the externalities of free trade (factory workers in Detroit made redundant in the name of slightly cheaper junk for the middle classes at Walmart).

Does he? I don't get a sense of that. And a Straussian reading of this review is that he doesn't buy the idea of a wealthy isolationist nation. Which is fine; look at North Korea. But as a superhero movie goes this was certainly better than Thor.

Factory workers in Detroit made cars and car parts not Walmart stuff LOL

I liked it a lot. I thought Michael B Jordan's character was one of the best (superhero) villians in a while: childlish and chock full of ressentiment yet dangerous, intelligent and swaggering. It was cautiously woke in some aspects and I thought it had a pretty conservative message given the movie's namesake.

The resource "blessing" element of Wakanda isn't that weird. Natural resources play a large part in the modern and historical politics of many SSA countries (D.R.C, Nigeria, Botswana to name a few?) so its not weird for a sci-fi country to be able to capitalize off that. Plus, I feel like tons of non-african inspired entities in other franchises rely on magical resources. Also, its not like Wakanda had just lived in an extractive economy, it seems they developed tons of human capital and other sectors.

Why isn't it more stereotypical that Wakanda was ruled by a king? In some ways, the female presidential guard, the council of tribes, and the resource economy make it seem like a functional and humane version of Libya under Gaddafi.

Your whole opinion is unpopular but then again is your opinion the male characters were not weak especially Michael B Jordan's character was probably the best in the whole movie and the scenes were exciting but it's an opinion and everybody has one right? I love the film and going to see it again I don't know why people take it too serious it's just a damn superhero movie

Can you provide a reading list/recommendations for other afro-futurism sci-fi books?

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