24/02/2018

Black Panther - Collective(s)

Thoughts On: Black Panther (2017)

Prince T'Challa ascends to the throne following his father's death, and ghosts of the past rise with him.


Pandora's Box was opened when the very first person woke up and thought "I...", looked down at their hands and thought "mine..." and then looked at the person next to them and thought "you...". We are all born with the ability to recognise ourselves as a thing, an I, a self, and with the belief that other life forms around us, people, not only have their own self, but an essence that is bound to, and quite like, ours (which makes the idea of us, our and we possibility). Despite the fact that we are born with this ability and belief, the phenomena of being is an incredibly complicated one that we will all struggle with on a personal level for our whole lives and also on a societal level for as long as civilisation stands.

What do you want to do with your life? A question that we must all confront. Or, maybe, a question that confronts us all. To rise up to this question, you must build a new you: a persona. This persona, this thing that you start to walk and talk about as, is tied to your ego - your personal idea of who you want to be and who you think you are. As you grow up - or rather, if you grow up correctly - the persona will legitimise itself and you will become a 'real person'. Becoming a real person involves being seen as a real person by your peers. And so, this 'real person' isn't really you, it isn't really yours. Rather it is an entity which you have shaped with the aid of, in relative to, and for, other people. To what degree this is true will always vary. Nonetheless, it is because the building of the 'real you' takes a journey through the 'real world' that the question "What do you want to do with your life?" is such a hard one. Not only do we not know what we want, but we don't know what we're supposed to want, what other people want, how to get what we want, where to get what we want, if we'll be allowed to get what we want and how long what we want will even last. Life is scary. Life sucks. Life is a bitch. But, that's life.

Just like you must ask yourself what you want from your life, so must groups of people. We then work together to get places, and all by finding a place on a map and setting off together. This group, whether it be a family, a community, a city, a country or the entirety of human kind, faces questions such as, "what do we want?", "what are we supposed to want?" and "why do we want?" in an incredibly complex way. One of the fundamental elements of this complexity is the fact that 'we' is made up of individual selves. And if we find it hard to answer these questions alone, how will it even be possible to answer them collectively?

Black Panther is a film, like many other films, about exactly this. In brilliantly constructing an archetypal tale about the relationship between ideals, kingdoms, families, fathers and sons, Black Panther asks its characters who they are, who they identify with, and what they're going to do about it. It is the manner in which individuals are characterised and collective ideals are detailed that makes this such a brilliant film. In one sense, Black Panther is then about radicalised pan-Africanism (all Africans, in and out of the continent, politically binding together) confronting cautionary humanism. Looking back into the past to see how this battle came to be, and trying to find a path into the future that settles this conflict, is the journey that T'Challa must take. Seeing him make these strides like no other Marvel superhero yet has is near-awe-inspiring.

Without wanting to be too specific and delve into spoilers, I have to highly recommend that, if you have not seen Black Panther, you go see it. If you have, a re-watch is also a great idea. Though a second viewing revealed some of the more clunky technical elements (snippets of acting in the intro, cinematography that leaves you blind to action and CGI that's a little bit off), I enjoyed this just about as much as the first watch. Still, in my view, one of the very best Marvel movies. But, those are just my thoughts? What do you think of Black Panther?







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