13. Professors launch attack on Black Panther movie

Author: Christina Smith
Newspaper: Caribbean News
Date: 28 November 2018

The Hollywood blockbuster, black panther was subjected to a scathing academic attack by university professors who bashed the movie for failing to challenge the way in which Africans and people of the diaspora are represented.

It was a robust and thought-provoking discussion at the Errol barrow center for creative imagination (EBBCI) on Monday evening, when four professors convened a panel discussion on the topic: black panther & global Africa identities in the 21st century.

The panelists were vice chancellor of the Uwi Cave Hill Campus, sir Hilary Beckles, pro vice chancellor and principal, professor Eudine Barriteau. From the university of Johannesburg was director of pan African thought & conversation, professor Adekeye Adebajo and vice chancellor, professor Tshilidzi Marwala.

Professor Adebajo went so far as to dub the movie a form of “racial therapy” and a distraction from the sad reality of the struggles black people are presently navigating.

“Despite the importance of black panther as a spectacular visual, one must ask if the movie is just escapism for Africans, Caribbean and their descendants, in an era where [president] Donald Trump has infamously declared us as s***holes.”

The professor also took issue with the secrecy surrounding the fictional nation of Wakanda and how it is contrasted with the rest of Africa.

“Black Panther first problem is that a successful, industrialized African country… Has to be hidden from the world. So even in this fantasy movie, a future industrialized African country must be mythical while everything outside of it in the rest of the continent is chaos and anarchy.”

He also charged that the film could have been built on more authentic African traditions and stepped away from the stereotypes of Africans which are rampant in Hollywood movies, such as the barbaric portrayal of the Jabari tribe and King T’challa’s poor accent.

“Despite its flaws, black panther is more positive than negative. It entertains but it is unclear how much it educates as it reproduces some of the very stereotypes about Africa that it seeks to destroy. If Hollywood could figure out how to make movies about real African characters as Nollywood has learned to do, this would go a long way to changing negative perspectives about Africa in the west.”

Professor Barriteau also raised some interesting gender issues, saying she was disappointed with the way in which women in the film were cast to the periphery and given only supporting roles while “men were at the center of the universe”.

“This was very much a story about a powerful struggle between men in which women were cast in supporting roles- highly visible but very supportive. In a future fantasy world, it would be very interesting to see a woman make her bid for queen and have the men of Wakanda support her.”

Barriteau said despite the fact that the movie had an entire tribe of female warriors and a female character who was a genius scientist, the directors “missed the opportunity” to reverse the traditional gender stereotypes and cast women in unconventional roles.

Christina Smith is a Lifestyle and Entertainment journalist for Loop News Barbados.