Tokyo Damage Report

Not The Black Panther Review You Were Expecting

One of the themes of the movie is, obviously, role reversal: What if America and Africa’s position in the world order was reversed? So we see King T’Challa opening an ‘educational center’ in a third-world-looking part of Oakland. We see Buggin’ Out, I mean Killmonger, when HE was king, unilaterally attempting to liberate America.

Let’s expand on this, not because you didn’t get it, but because it’s fun:

T’Challa is American Exceptionalism the way we are taught it is:  “We’re helping liberate the oppressed and spread freedom and democracy! We’re going into Afghanistan to rebuild their culture so they love gays and are tolerant of different points of view, and let girls go to school! We’re building roads and hospitals. They’ll embrace us because we’re so obviously more technological and morally advanced!”

Killmonger (and can we take a second to laugh at how the movie-going public is debating the nuance and moral complexity of a guy who sounds like he was named by an 11-year-old?) represents American Exceptionalism the way it actually is: “We’re the world police and we’re going to bomb you motherfuckers until you stop fighting each other. We’re going to rain death from above until you assholes love freedom and democracy. We’re going to bomb some democracy up your ass so we can enrich our arms industry. America, bitch!”

But my take is, the whole role-reversal is based on a false premise. American Exceptionalism never worked in the first place. Like, either way! So the question, “What if Africa saved the world instead of America?” doesn’t make sense, because America didn’t save the world. Even at its most benign, American Exceptionalism is, like, funneling billions of dollars to some crackpot dictator who maybe, after he buys weapons from us and steals most of the $$$ to give to his extended family, might build a school or two.

Black Panther is a superhero movie, so I can buy aliens, and ray guns, and people miraculously coming back from mortal wounds. . . but I can’t buy the idea that any country with the best economy, the best technology, and the best weapons is gonna not be corrupt as fuck and boss everyone else around.

Some people are saying the movie is a “sellout” because, hey, why did they make the angry militant character also be a genocidal lunatic? But I don’t think Killmonger was a black militant to begin with – he’s an AMERICAN militant. He wants to bomb everyone into equality. For very positive reasons, of course.

If I were more paranoid, I’d suggest that it IS a sellout movie – but for the opposite reason: because it takes anti-establishment pro-Black sentiment, and transforms it into the usual, government-approved sentiment of, “Let’s unilaterally try to make all the inferior countries more like us. Non-violently. At first.” We’re supposed to be happy that T’Challa winds up embracing the philosophy of, “Any country which minds its own fuckin’ business is basically cool with slavery and genocide.”

That’s exactly the reasoning the MSM is using to try to persuade us to go to war with Russia, in Syria.  But fuck it, I enjoyed the film!


My favorite moment was when King Buggin’ Out – same hairstyle, same overly-woke belligerence, re-watch Do The Right Thing if you don’t believe me – enters the throne room. The camera looks past the back of his head at the horrified Wakandan politicians, who are all asking themselves, “How did this maniac get the throne? He came out of nowhere and he’s obviously undeserving!” And the camera’s upside-down, to emphasize their sense of disorientation and shock, like the whole natural order of things is out of whack.

And the General is like, “Well yeah he’s a creep but he won fair and square, so we have to King him. We’re the victims of our own traditions and sense of fair play!”  . .. it was a pretty good cinematic reaction to Trump.

And the Trump angle was definitely intentional, right down to the emphasis on the illegitimate new leader’s hairstyle being the biggest thing in the frame. The shock isn’t just that Killmonger is a bad person, with bad policies, but that specifically he’s flouting the Wakandan decorum, and he’s insulting the dignity of the office with his brash ways.

And this is how a rich Hollywood person probably does see Trump: they think he came out of nowhere, because trump voters (including the Rust Belt voters who, let’s not forget, voted for Obama but then switched to Trump rather than vote for Clinton) don’t exist in Hollywood. And because Hollywood doesn’t have a problem with awful pro-rich-people policies and endless war . . .they have a problem with the vulgarity of the President. Pro-rich-people policies and endless war was cool when Obama was doing it.

But who cares? The idea of combining Trump and Buggin’ Out into one single character is . . . *kisses fingertips*. It’s FUCKING GENIUS AND HILARIOUS. If only all movies were that creative!  It hits my sweet spot of, ‘random as fuck but backed up with carefully constructed, internally-consistent analogies’.

I mean, how did anyone even get the idea to connect those two dots? Let alone persuade Hollywood to make a movie about it? I was so flabbergasted that I couldn’t concentrate that much on the second half.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

Stan Lee’s cameo where he is stealing money is 100% his most accurate cameo so far. Salute.

Vibranium is also a very American wish-fulfillment fantasy: a technology which provides power in harmony with the earth, with no pollution, radiation, or global warming.

I appreciate how the movie asks moral questions rather than saying, “I have all the answers and I’m going to scold the audience!” Back in the 70s, even very anti-establishment, dystopian paranoid films knew how to use ambiguity and ask questions rather than lecture, which is something that contemporary Hollywood seems to have forgotten in all the virtue-signalling.

One criticism: I get that the movie is going deep on inventing a whole civilization and culture, and trying to be respectful of the traditions of a made-up country, but the sheer length of all the call-back scenes really slows down the film. They’re doing the same ritual to the one guy that they did to the other guy, I get it. If it was me, I would have “Requiem For A Dream”-ed all the call-back scenes.

I also get how the ‘CIA is the good guys’ angle is not super cool, but I could just ignore it so I’m not going to complain about it. Probably because the CIA guy looks like a harmless little elf.

Oh SHIT: They should have cast Jeff Sessions. Can you imagine?

Finally, 2 meta-beefs: not with the film, but with the hype about the film.

One, why is Oakland getting no love? Even the positive reviews that are super smart and use words like “Afro-futurism” and “pan-African diaspora” don’t mention that the USA part of the film is set in Oakland BECAUSE THAT’S THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE ACTUAL BLACK PANTHER PARTY. If it was me, I would have gotten rid of Kendrick Lamar and had the soundtrack be actual Oakland music: Too $hort, The Coup, Saafir, and can’t forget Paris, whose AKA was literally, “The Black Panther Of Rap.”

Oh, and here’s another Black Panther Party reference in the film, which the critics missed:   his super-suit gives him strength in proportion to how hard you hit him first.

His whole superpower is a damn reference to Stokley Carmichael’s 1966 explanation of why the B.P.P. chose the Panther as its symbol.

“We chose for the emblem a black panther, a beautiful black animal which symbolizes the strength and dignity of black people, an animal that never strikes back until he’s back so far into the wall, he’s got nothing to do but spring out. Yeah. And when he springs he does not stop.”

Step it up, critics.

Two, woke-clickbait headlines like “Black Panther’s Real Heroes Are Women, So In Your Face, You Stupid Men!!!” are super dumb. Where did Huffington Post type people get this idea that gender equality means men have to lose? That’s exactly why men are so slow to embrace the idea of gender equality in the first place. Jesus. Everybody benefits from gender equality . . . in this case by getting a better, more fun movie. But if guys think that they’re going to be preached at and scolded the whole time, they won’t give the film a chance.

Also, Boots from The Coup should direct the sequel.

In conclusion, Jack Kirby up, Stan Lee down. Kendrick down, Too $hort up.


P.S.: T’Challa is Huey, and Killmonger is Riley.

Oh shit: imagine if Riley wrote all the headlines for Huffington Post.

1 comment

1 Comment so far

  1. anopezfucker March 2nd, 2018 12:16 am

    i didn’t read this post, (maybe later) just wanted to say that pez dictator/anok panda still thinks of you blarg xoxo

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