Black Panther is our Lord of the Rings (SPOILERS AHOY)

Right. Right. I saw Black Panther on Friday, and I’ve been pretty much tongue-tied over it because OMIGOSH IT WAS AWESOME. Now that I I’ve had some time to process it, I want to talk about it. So SPOILERS!!!

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

So there was a scene where the Jabari tribe joins Black Panther as he fights to get his throne back from Killmonger. This is after M’Baku, the leader, tells T’Challa that he’s on his own and that the Jabari will not ally themselves with him. Yeah, I knew immediately that he would be joining anway, because climatic action, yada yada yada…still awesome though.

Anyhoo, in that fight, we see W’kabi leap onto a war rhinoceros and charge towards Shuri…or T’Challa…I can’t really remember. Someone was in danger..and W’kabi’s lover, Okoye, sees this, leaps to put herself right in the rhino’s charging path…

…and the rhino not only grinds to a halt, but then gives Okoye a loving lick. Because no way is it not going to gore its favorite human…

And at that moment, I thought…

This is our Lord of the Rings.

***

Remember when the Lord of the Rings came out? Specifically, the Return of the King? Remember the Haradrim? They were the robed figures done up in a Arabic style riding humongous war elephants…or oiliphants, as Samwise Gangee calls them. In the books, they’re described as ‘swarthy’ and brown-skinned’. In the books as well as the movie, they are a threat, and a fighting force wielding spears and scimitars. They fight, they get their butts kicked, and that’s about it. Unless you read the Simillarion, you don’t know much about them, and even what’s in that is pretty limited. 

I never really saw the Haradrim as African–more Arabic–but still, the Haradrim was the closest to brown people with my description in fantasy literature. Add that up with portrayals of blacks by Lovecraft (blatantly racist), or C.S. Lewis (non-existent), and it felt that blacks can only be portrayed in fantasy as either savages, or an lone exceptional example, or simply non-existent. Implied. Invisible. 

Until Black Panther.

This is what we’ve been waiting for. Yes, I know it’s a superhero movie, but there is so much fantasy in this movie. From the herb where Black Panther gets his power, to the Ancestral Plain, to the fight scenes (omigosh did you see when Okoye threw her wig in a guy’s face as a diversion tactic? DID YOU SEE THAT?! AND HER FIGHTING IN THAT RED DRESS OOOOOHHHHH) to M’baku’s kingdom in the snowy mountains…M’Baku, who was called Man-Ape in the comics, but in this movie was turned from a caricature into a living, breathing leader with the freedom to make his own choices.

And that was the whole. dang. movie.

We weren’t given cookie cutter enemies. These enemies could think and feel and love and cry. Tolkien had characters that could only be seen in black and white, good and evil. Probably the only sympathetic baddie was Gollum. But you’d never see an orc struggle with doing the right thing, because it had been raised to be nothing but evil. And that became prescribed for whoever helped Sauron out.

Black Panther, however, showed people, actual *black* people with different wants and needs on different sides, each doing things they thought were best. Even Killmonger to some extent. He did horrible things. He killed many people. He was awful, awful, AWFUL to women. (Where was his mother, anyway? What happened to her?). And yet, that scene when he goes to his own ancestral place, and confronts his father…dang….that was a *powerful* scene.

But this is getting away from me. All these brown skinned people, in a story of an own, but not as fodder, but as *real people*. That scene when the Jabari came to help Black Panther get his throne back, that was some Lord of the Rings shit right there. And it allowed all the warriors to fight for what they believe in, and in some cases, even choose not to fight. Because they had that right. Even the war rhino, instead of being some mindless creature, made the conscious choice not to kill, but to give its target a loving lick on the cheek. It was a beautiful, badass moment, and it made me tear up in happiness.

This is what I had wanted Lord of the Rings to be for those nameless Haradrim.

In my Uncanny Magazine essay, “Learning to Turn Your Lips Sideways“, I wrote, “Black authors are learning how to turn their lips sideways. We are coming out of the woodwork and getting black blackity black all up in our stories and our fairy tales and our science fiction and our fantasy. We’re writing works that tell stories that have always been told, to show that Black Lives truly do Matter, that we are more than one-notes with just a single story. That we are deep and complex and diverse.”

Black Panther is the epitome of that. And the best thing about it is that it appeals to SO MANY PEOPLE, not just black folk. Look at those box office records being smashed. This is unprecedented, and pretty much what we’ve been saying what would happen. Give people a great story, and they will watch it.

So yeah. This is a game changer. It’s unprecedented. And yeah, I know. At some point I’ll start criticizing it proper (did I mention how Killmonger really was awful to women?) but still YOOOO THIS IS OUR LORD OF THE RINGS WAKANDA FOREVAHHHHHH

(And I’m not just saying that because the only two white guys in it were also in Lord of the Rings. They were the Tolkein white guys. Get it? Get it? Aughhhh memes ruin everything….)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: