The main spoilers of Black Panther.
Cultural critics have had a lot to say about how Erik Killmonger, of Black Panther, is a sympathetic villain, and how black viewers can identify with his point of view. He is a casual killer with a long list of murders literally carved into his own body, but Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) not only fights for personal reasons. He is avenging his father and his lost childhood, but identifies with other blacks who have grown up in poverty, and wants to use the advanced technology of Wakanda to free people of color who have been oppressed by Western imperialism. Their goals have a real political weight, and are more interesting than those of many superhero movie villains, who are often more motivated by that general and vague feeling of expectation: "I am evil and I want to destroy the world".
There have been media conversations about how Black Panther's protagonist, Challa, sends a bleak message to black viewers by killing his rival. The message, some critics say, is that black liberation is only a dream, and that only obedient and peaceful people can expect tolerance and survival. In this reading of the film, that makes T & # 39; Challa an enemy. And Chadwick Boseman, the actor who plays T & # 39; Challa, agrees.
"In fact, I'm the enemy," he says during a conversation with fellow supporter Lupita Nyong and comics writer and journalist Marvel Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Apollo Theater in Harlem on Tuesday. (The comments were transcribed and reported by The Atlantic and Rolling Stone.) "He is the enemy I have always known, his power, it is privilege." He characterizes T & # 39; Challa as "born with a spoon of vibranium in his mouth".
This reading of T & # 39; Challa as born in a superior caste, while Killmonger and her father are considered outsiders, is significant. Killmonger and his father N & # 39; Jobu (played with a dazzling performance by Sterling K. Brown), are essentially excluded from the Afrofuturist utopia of Wakanda because they want to share it and extend their freedoms to other people of color around the world, instead to hide the prosperity of the country of the world.
Boseman, a native of South Carolina and a graduate of Howard University, says that, like Killmonger, he felt the same sense of not connecting fully with African culture and history. He had to look for his own heritage as Killmonger did, and traveling to Africa for the film had been an opportunity to "reconnect with what I lost."
Boseman also says that Killmonger has elements drawn from the personality of Ryan Coogler. The writer and director investigated the film, in part, traveling to London to visit exhibitions of African museums, just as Killmonger does in his first scene in the film.
In the scene, Killmonger enters an exhibition of an African museum, poisons a museum guide and retrieves a treasure from Wakandan, declaring: "Do not trip." I'll take it out of your hands. "When the guide says sternly:" These items are not for sale, "he responds, to the applause of the audience during the initial premiere in France," How do you think your ancestors got this? ? Do you think they paid a fair price for that? Or did they take them as if they had taken away everything else?
The scene is more like a heroic robbery than a robbery, and it would have been if the movie was not based on such a good and badly focused comic book world. For many commentators, the sides in Black Panther are not so clear. Both Killmonger and T & # 39; Challa are simultaneously heroes and villains. But Boseman's recognition that he sympathizes more with his character's adversary remains a surprising admission for a superhero movie star.
"I do not know if we, as African-Americans, would accept T & # 39; Challa as our hero if he did not pass through Killmonger," he says at the event. "Because Killmonger has gone through our fight and [T’Challa hasn’t]."
Nyong & # 39; and Coates also talk about the representation and the complicated politics that Black Panther tackles, according to Rolling Stone. Nyong says that the main characters of the film paint an image of Africans and African Americans together as a family, in a way that feels "curative".
Nyong, who identifies himself as Kenyan-Mexican, grew up listening to The Sound of Music and watching Elizabeth Taylor on the screen. "We have also been plagued by these unfortunate images that diminish us and paint us as only needy," he says, describing the experience of Africans with their representation.
Coates, who has written Black Panther comics and his own spin-offs, agrees and says: "I did not realize how much the film needed, a hunger for a myth that [addressed] feeling detached and feeling reconnected" to the African continent.