Saturday, March 17, 2018

#WakandaIsntReal: Two White University Professors Argue the Success of 'Black Panther' is a Repudiation of President Trump

There can be no doubt about it anymore: black people view Black Panther with a religious affinity. [In Age of Trump, we all needed 'Black Panther' to save the day,, 3-16-18]:

Since opening last month, Black Panther has grossed almost a billion dollars worldwide. The film seems poised to break into the top 10 most successful superhero movies in U.S. history. And critics are in love. 
So what explains the film's runaway success? (Warning: spoilers ahead.) 
#WakandaIsntReal, but Donald J. Trump is very real. More to the point, the sound and fury electing him in 2016 is real too...
One obvious reason is that it's fresh and familiar at the same time. Black Panther is a superhero movie in which the hero, and his extraordinary supporting cast, are African. On the one hand, the audience expects and receives some of the usual hero fare: an origins backstory, and a narrative arc that includes a super-powered villain, as well as the inevitable rise, fall, and return of the film's protagonist, T'Challa. 
On the other hand, this is a hero, and a world, that Hollywood has never showcased before. While Marvel and DC have increasingly produced films and comics featuring heroes of color, women, and gay and transgendered characters, the core of the hero universe is still mostly white, male, and straight. 
Black superheroes, in particular, are usually afterthoughts and sidekicks, like Falcon (Avengers) and "Rhodey" (Iron Man). 
But Black Panther mercilessly upends the comic book status quo. T'Challa is the heart of the film, and while he has superhuman strength and other enhanced senses, he is also a diplomat, a king, and a man unafraid to rely upon the wisdom and power of others, especially black women. T'Challa represents bravery and leadership, but his half-sister Shuri is the film's inventor and genius, and the warrior-bodyguard Okoye embodies military prowess, honor, and fierceness. 
To put all this differently, Black Panther's appeal to an especially large and diverse audience can be partly explained by the movie's reliance on a collection of heroes and themes that are both transgressive and safe. Generation after generation of audiences have come to equate heroes as a group of white, mostly male saviors. But Black Panther gives us characters who look and speak differently. All of the Wakandans have African-inflected accents, and costumes and garb that celebrate a homegrown and distinctive culture. 
Indeed, the entire world of Black Panther is colorful, kinetic, and technologically and organizationally superior to our own. Wakanda, the fictional city in the film, features hologram communications, a magnetic levitation rail system, and advanced medical techniques that enable Shuri to save the life of Everett Ross, the movie's white sidekick. Black Panther offers us the alternate world Africans might have experienced in the absence of colonization, war, slavery and Western culture. 
Even the film's charismatic and sympathetic villain, Erik Killmonger, is transgressive. His dangerous difference would pass as conventional in other creative works. Killmonger is the only black character in the film who is also American. And his excellence in combat and lethal nature comes from what would normally be a traditional hero's biography: he's a decorated and talented U.S. Special Forces soldier, who fought campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. 
But Black Panther tempers these genre-disrupting ideas. After all, Killmonger, who aims to achieve racial justice by arming black citizens and fomenting revolution, is defeated. And while T'Challa and Okoye can not be mistaken for, say, Batman and Robin, their ultimate promise to end Wakanda's isolation and aid the poor and needy across the globe is a pretty standard superhero aspiration. 
Black Panther appears at a curious time in the United States. Having recently experienced eight years of the nation's first black president, the United States is sometimes described as entering a post-racial period, where multiculturalism and difference are uncontroversially embraced. 
At the same time, the rise of Donald Trump has ushered in a resurgence in white nationalism and outright white supremacy. And, of course, our stubborn racial disparities in economic opportunity, political representation, and incarceration predate Trump's populist nativism. 

Black Panther enters this uncertain and fractured era with a utopian promise that is both disruptive and restorative. 
The superheroes will save us and bring us together, on terms that are largely familiar. As T'Challa puts it, "more connects us than separates us" and we must "look after one another, as if we were one single tribe." 
But this unification and renewal occurs through an iconoclastic and genuinely original set of heroes, who beat back both their enemies and the hollow stereotypes of shiftless, alienated, and lawless people of color.
#WakandaIsntReal, but blacks will still allow the movie to inflate their already toxic levels of self-esteem to an unimaginable degree. With this op-ed, we learn Black Panther and Wakanda - a character and a fictional African nation invented by two Jewish writers in the 1960s - represent some great repudiation of Donald J. Trump.

Trump Tower is real.

Trump occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. is real.

Wakanda isn't real.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Metaphor for Our Dispossession: Harriet Tubman Monument Officially Replaces Confederate Statue in 70% Black Baltimore

Previously on SBPDL: Metaphor for White Dispossession: Perch in 70% Black Baltimore Once Holding Aloft a Monument to Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee Soon to Host Statue of Harriet Tubman

Baltimore was founded as a white city, built by white people to shelter generations of white Baltimoreans to come. It was abandoned by white people when black crime became a constant threat, and is now a 70 percent black city lorded over by black elected officials utilizing the specter of black crime to keep gentrification at bay.
Nothing is over. Nothing. 

Our monuments, built to celebrate our history, stand as powerful rebukes to the egalitarianism dominating 21st century American life, which is why they must be defaced, vandalized, demonized, and ultimately destroyed.

In 2017, under the cloak of darkness, the new black mayor of Baltimore removed three Confederate statues.[Baltimore Mayor Had Statues Removed in ‘Best Interest of My City’, New York Times, 8-16-17]

This, of course, is a city seriously contemplating putting a statue up to Divine, the transvestite who literally ate dog crap in Pink Flamingo

Confederate statues are now all gone, but a true hero for our egalitarian, anti-white zeitgeist is prepared to go up where once men honored by a long dead Baltimore stood remembered by a white majority unashamed of their southern (white) ancestry. [Baltimore rededicates former Confederate site to Harriet Tubman, Fox Baltimore, 3-11-18]:

Hundreds of people gathered at Wyman Park Dell Saturday for a special ceremony in honor of civil rights activist and abolitionist, Harriet Tubman.
A grove site was dedicated to the Maryland native in the same area where a Confederate statue was recently removed.
The ceremony featured remarks by Mayor Catherine Pugh, city council members, and other community leaders. 
Organizers say trees will be planted by the Friends of Wyman Park Dell at a later time. 
Saturday marked the 105th anniversary of Harriet Tubman's death. The space was renamed Harriet Tubman Grove.
How much longer until Australia offers whites remaining in Baltimore or Maryland the opportunity to immigrate their, as they just did white South Africans facing genocide via Africans?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"It's not about the money. It's about sending a message. Everything burns": Disney's Diverse $250 Million 'A Wrinkle in Time' Bombs, but Movie Critics Celebrate the Victory Over Whiteness it Represents

There can be no doubt Disney's $250 million (Production & Advertising budget) A Wrinkle in Time is a monumental bomb. The media spin on this box office disaster has been hilarious, with one Hollywood Reporter writer letting slip why we must celebrate the multicultural abomination of a beautiful work representing the richness of a white culture being supplanted by the current year diversity mandate... 
 Ava DuVernay's film was destined to disappoint, given the outrageously high bar set for female and minority directors. Disney marketed A Wrinkle in Time to theatergoers like no other film in recent memory. 
A monumental bomb, but the money was well spent. It's about sending a message to whitey. Your culture and history belongs to us now...
I went to the movies about once a week in the past month (I'm talking civilian screenings, not ad-free press previews), and each time, I saw a Wrinkle trailer with director Ava DuVernay in close-up, telling the audience what making her fantasy children's adaptation meant to her. DuVernay, whose last two films (the MLK bio Selma and the mass-incarceration doc 13th) racked up three Oscar nods in as many years, thus became the face of Wrinkle, despite more recognizable castmembers like Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling and Chris Pine. (In contrast, you won't see Steven Spielberg's mug in the Ready Player One trailers.) DuVernay's central role in selling Wrinkle is a testament to her popularity as a spokesperson for inclusion in Hollywood. 
As the first live-action $100 million project helmed by a woman of color, A Wrinkle in Time had to tell two feel-good stories: that of a biracial teen (played by Storm Reid) learning to love and trust herself, and that of female artists and artists of color triumphing in an industry that has traditionally disregarded their perspectives and contributions. 
But Wrinkle didn't deliver on either count. Mixed to negative reviews led to a disappointing $33 million opening weekend at the box office. With a 42 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating and a middling B CinemaScore, the film underwhelmed critics and adult audiences (kids gave it an A–), weighed down as it was by a messy script with too many affirmational platitudes and not enough character development. I'll happily defend the (wildly ambitious, immensely personal) movie on its own merits. But first, it's important to note the ludicrously unfair burden that Wrinkle was saddled with as soon as DuVernay signed on and turned protagonist Meg into a biracial girl: It had to be both artistically dazzling and a commercial hit in order for it to be considered any kind of success. 
Grossly put, the "system" was rigged against it. DuVernay certainly proves herself as such with Wrinkle. As a critic, I probably wouldn't indiscriminately recommend the film, but I appreciated that it was a planet-hopping movie with a girl of color at the center. I also admired the injection of the floridly supernatural into West Adams, a historically black neighborhood in Los Angeles (not far from where DuVernay grew up), and, of course, the beauty of the various extraterrestrial terrains, some of which brought me to tears. DuVernay certainly proved wrong naysayers who have dismissed her filmmaking talent in the past and attributed her meteoric rise to saying the right thing. 
A Wrinkle in Time is, arguably above all, a visual feast. So DuVernay didn't make a "good" movie. What she has made is an endlessly watchable one, and I hope critics, at least, will soon embrace those other elements in addition to the film's social milestones — just like they'd do with any other notable movie. "Isn't it nice to hear filmmakers of color talk about craft?" 
DuVernay asked Korean-American filmmaker Justin Chon during a Q&A for his film Gook. There's nothing to be gained from shortchanging DuVernay's racial and feminist accomplishments with Wrinkle. But I hope one day we can appreciate the film beyond them, too.
The racial reimagining of A Wrinkle in Time, though it is critically viewed as a poor movie and commercially a money loser for Disney, must be appreciated because it's a racial and feminist accomplishment. 

And only bigots would dare disagree, with poor audience reviews on Rotten Tomatoes a reminder white people should no longer be allowed a public opinion when it comes to important works of art that must be must be appreciated because it's a racial and feminist accomplishment...
More than a month before Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time” arrived in theaters, an “audience review” appeared on Rotten Tomatoes that offered an isolated comment from user “Jonathan G”: “Piece of shit remake of a wonderful book.” The “review” posted on February 5, weeks before DuVernay’s big-scale Disney adaptation of the beloved Madeleine D’Engle book was set to hit theaters.It wasn’t even the earliest “review” to appear on the aggregation site. That one hit the web January 7, when user “CGF M” wrote in a half-star review: “This film is going to fumble and should not deserve any recognition. The original novel is better than what is already being presented. It’s one big cliche, the acting seems dry, the only performance I can possibly say that will be GOOD is Chris Pine’s, that’s it. Casting just for the sake of diversity or being politically correct does not make a film, Disney. The effects also, they do not look good.” 
More than a month before Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time” arrived in theaters, an “audience review” appeared on Rotten Tomatoes that offered an isolated comment from user “Jonathan G”: “Piece of shit remake of a wonderful book.” The “review” posted on February 5, weeks before DuVernay’s big-scale Disney adaptation of the beloved Madeleine D’Engle book was set to hit theaters.It wasn’t even the earliest “review” to appear on the aggregation site. That one hit the web January 7, when user “CGF M” wrote in a half-star review: “This film is going to fumble and should not deserve any recognition. The original novel is better than what is already being presented. It’s one big cliche, the acting seems dry, the only performance I can possibly say that will be GOOD is Chris Pine’s, that’s it. Casting just for the sake of diversity or being politically correct does not make a film, Disney. The effects also, they do not look good.” 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Wakanda is a social construct: National Geographic 'apologizes' for honest depictions of non-white civilizations

Shot. [OPINION: Wakanda Forever, Jackson Free Press, February 28, 2018]:

While Wakanda is a fictional land, it portrays images of success and wealth that could have been if Africa had not been colonized. It is so vastly opposing to the images we're fed of what Africa looks like. It pushes us to the edge of our imagination and makes fantasy dance with reality in a beautiful way. The intentional effort to study African tribes and tradition gives a magnetic overview of all that is African. 
"Black Panther" is a depiction of the Africa that our ancestors knew could exist. Its portrayal of royalty and tradition is what we come from. It's in our DNA. It's a bright, new morning light that awakens pride that Hollywood has controlled for generations. Up to this point, we've been served a fraction of what most of society envisions when they think about black people—you know: angry, ratchet, pimps, whores, just folk whose value is lost on them. I suppose Hollywood under-estimated our desire to see us complete an entire cast, in starring roles, in positions of power, in beauty and intelligence. 
Wakanda is a fictional place and exists only in the minds of the comic-book writers, but it represents something very real: a break in mental slavery that has kept us bound for so long that we couldn't see a world that belonged to us. It represents an idea that offers real hope, opportunity and determination. Wakanda is everywhere. But the place that is most important, where its reign is undeniable, is in our hearts. Once we open them to this fictional place, it is now reality—a reality that we all embrace in unity. 
Listening to the stories my father shared with me as a young girl gave me a true connection to my African ancestry. I didn't know that seeing a movie would serve as such a determined reality. There's nothing fictional about the potential, the history, the traditions, the intelligence, the ancient tribal cultures and excellence Wakanda introduced to some and reintroduced to others. It's in us—always has been; always will be. 
Wakanda Forever! Africa Forever!
It seems that the Black Panther movie has done such a good job of immersing audiences in its world that many people think it's real. 
Two hotel booking sites have revealed that site searches for the word 'Wakanda' – the name of the fictional African country the movie is set in – have risen dramatically. reported that the number of people landing on its Wisconsin Wakanda Water Park page is up by 620 per cent and reported that searches for neighbouring Wakanda Park are up by 55 per cent year on year. 
A spokesperson for commented: 'The fact we've seen such an increase in the number of site visits to the Wakanda Water Park destination page on our website since the launch of Black Panther suggests that, until people visit our website searching for trips, they're not aware it's a fictional destination. 
'Either that, or people are more interested than ever in attending the Water Park, but we think that the movie has something to do with it!', meanwhile, said it had spotted spikes in searches to other Wakanda namesakes around the world. 
It said searches for Wauconda, Illinois (pronounced identically to Wakanda), are up more than 25 per cent and Makanda, also in Illinois, are up over 40 per cent year on year.

And finally, the chaser. [For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It, National Geographic, March 2018]:
Race is not a biological construct, as writer Elizabeth Kolbert explains in this issue, but a social one that can have devastating effects. “So many of the horrors of the past few centuries can be traced to the idea that one race is inferior to another,” she writes. “Racial distinctions continue to shape our politics, our neighborhoods, and our sense of self.” 
How we present race matters. I hear from readers that National Geographic provided their first look at the world. Our explorers, scientists, photographers, and writers have taken people to places they’d never even imagined; it’s a tradition that still drives our coverage and of which we’re rightly proud. And it means we have a duty, in every story, to present accurate and authentic depictions—a duty heightened when we cover fraught issues such as race.