Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2018 11:20 pm 
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A favorable review of Black Panther in the right wing Breitbart links the super hero with Trump and the villain with Black Lives Matter

Black Panther image used by Nolte in followup "Hollywood elite" column

Breitbart - the far-right publication and former home base of former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon - has a review of Black Panther by John Nolte that is very favorable about it for the cast and other feature; he just doesn't find that enough happens. Further along, Nolte argues - not totally unconvincingly - that T'challa/Black Panther is like Trump and the villain Killmonger is like Black Lives Matter.

"There is a whole lot to like about Marvel’s $200 million Black Panther, and almost as much not to like, Nolte opens. "For starters, director and co-writer Ryan Coogler does an A+ job of world building (more on this later). In addition, the soundtrack and score also deserve an A+. Then there are the actors, the best cast yet assembled in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (by far)."

The writer finds that T'Challa/Black Panther is like Donald Trump, while his enemy Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is Black Lives Matter. "Wakanda is ruled by King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Nolte says "who is also known as the Black Panther. T’Challa is big on border security, believes Wakanda and Wakandans should come first, and fiercely protects his country’s culture from outsiders, including refugees. If this is all starting to sound familiar, it should," he boasts. "Also like President Donald Trump, T’Challa’s beliefs are not based on race. This is not a 'black thing.' This is a culture/survival thing."

("Culture survival" is generally code for "white supremacy." Nolte is seeing it here as code, I guess, for "black separatism." Really, no one is claiming Black Panther isn't about blackness. And Trump's favoritism toward white supremacists is obvious. There is an inevitable parallel.)

"The progressive Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o)" wants to export vibranium "to help mankind," Nolte points out, but that "is put on hold" when Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) arrives. "The arrival of Erik 'Killmonger' Stevens (an underused Michael B. Jordan) puts all of these arguments on hold. Killmonger (such a great name) is a man with mad killing skills and a burning grudge against Wakanda. T’Challa might be the Black Panther, but Killmonger is a Black Panther in the Huey Newton-Bobby Seale 1960 black nationalist sense. Like the Black Panther Party, Killmonger was born in Oakland, California, and to him everything is a "black thing." He wants the vibranium exported in the form of weapons to overthrow white people.

"Still," Nolte goes on, "Black Panther is not a movie about race, it is a movie about ideas and ideals, about our shared humanity. Our hero is not in favor of protecting ethno-nationalism, but rather a healthy form of nationalism."

Then his conclusion: "If T’Challa is Trump, Killmonger is Black Lives Matter."

"Did I just write that?" Nolte asks. "Yes, I did," he answers.

This is amusing in light of the articles by black writers arguing that Black Panther is the empowerment movie black people have been waiting for. Later, after approving the movie's "wonderful sense of humor" (as I have), Nolte gets to the right wing politics, though not in the way you might expect. He says there should have been more black actors in Hollywood movies. They would blow away the "metrosexual pretty boys and shapeless forever-girls we’re being force fed."

Then a real Breitbart message: "Multiculturalism is a cancer. Diversity is code for 'hire more leftists!' I hate all that stuff," he says. "What I love are movies and movie stars — masculine men, womanly women — and Black Panther is buried in movie stars — real movie stars. The women are sexy, the men are men, the talent and charisma overwhelming."

But the action scenes are a cheat, he thinks (not without reason), "and the fuss over protecting Wakanga too, because it proves never to have been in any danger."

"The actors, however, are worth the price of admission. And not just the film’s stars. The ageless Angela Bassett as the queen mother, the fierce and funny Danai Gurira as the king’s chief bodyguard, the endlessly charming Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s sister (and 'Q'), Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke… Even the white guys are great. Andy Serkis kills as a South African gangster and Martin Freeman’s reaction-acting is still the best around."

"Black Panther is filled [with] smart politics, imagination, and movie star charisma — all that is missing is a satisfying payoff."

Later, Nolte finds his review has "triggered" the "Hollywood elite"

On his Facebook page, John Nolte chortles at how his provocative interpretation of Black Panther has "triggered" the "Hollywood elite" and he has a Breitbart piece on that desired reaction.

Nolte's detailed supposed links between T'Challa's views and program and Trump are pretty fanciful, but let's note that T'Challa is a king (as evidence suggests Trump might like to be). I find it hard to explain how a supposedly white racist publication publishes praise of black actors and calling for more of them in Hollywood movies, but the general slant of this review just goes to show that you can read pretty much anything you want to into Black Panther, because it does not really present any consistent point of view, and certainly not a coherent progressive one.

Seeing Black Panther as the movie young African Americans have been needing for so long may be an example of desperation (or faute de mieux anyway, as I argued at the outset), but the movie does have positive images of black "leaders" and powerful black women. This is how Black Lives Cofounder Patrisse Cullors sees the movie in a new article in Glamour.

But this is seeing the movie through rose-colored glasses. Armond White's damning criticism of the film in his review (in the - right wing - National Review) for failing to provide those young people with their real history remains totally valid. My point also remains valid that the movie gives them, in however warped or confused a form, the black super heroes they want.

Need one point out that super heroes - like kings - are not ideal vehicles for the expression of liberal or progressive politics?

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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