Early Friday afternoon, Breitbart News published my mostly glowing review of Marvel’s Black Panther. By Friday night, some among the Hollywood elite were triggered by the review, including Don Cheadle, another member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Outside of the fact that the review was mostly positive, the trigger seemed to be my noting the obvious connection between the film’s hero, T’Challa aka Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and President Trump. I also noted the obvious comparison between the film’s villain, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), and Black Lives Matter:
Wakanda is ruled by King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), 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. 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.
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, 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.
If T’Challa is Trump, Killmonger is Black Lives Matter.
Within hours, Cheadle and the blue checkmark mafia were so outraged, the far-left Hollywood Reporter published a story that quoted the outrage without offering a link to the actual review so readers could judge for themselves:
breitbart news. trusted source for movie reviews since … yeah … no … https://t.co/Wm8d3GZWka
— Don Cheadle (@DonCheadle) February 16, 2018
Breitbart 'Black Panther' Review Sparks Outrage for Trump Comparison – The Hollywood Reporter….”they are smoking way too much dope over there “ 😀 https://t.co/Bhmt7dmJTO
— Sinbad (@sinbadbad) February 17, 2018
Breitbart one-upping Ben Shapiro at the 11th hour with the trolliest 'Black Panther' take pic.twitter.com/QU46io66OP
— Marlow Stern (@MarlowNYC) February 16, 2018
my favorite line from Breitbart’s truly staggering review of BLACK PANTHER: pic.twitter.com/TYkFgSI1XA
— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) February 16, 2018
There genuinely is a Breitbart article that says that the villain of Black Panther is supposed to be a villain because he's obsessed with race like Black Lives Matter and that T'challa is basically Trump. I read it so you don't have to.
— Tom Coates (@tomcoates) February 17, 2018
What makes this criticism especially reactionary is the fact that Breitbart was far from the first news outlet to document the similarities between the worldviews shared by Black Panther and Trump. You can read some of those comparisons here, here, and here.
In fact, my review picked up on some of the nuances others were not crediting the film with. For starters, just like Trump, T’Challa’s nationalism is not based on race. It is not an ethno-nationalism, it is about survival and protecting his people’s way of life and culture.
Not wanting to give away anything, I did not mention this in my review but will here… By the end of the movie, T’Challa is even more like Trump inasmuch as he sees that his country of Wakanda cannot completely isolate itself from the world because he has a moral responsibility to help others.
In other words, his worldview shifts from a total isolationist to a more reasonable position. “The wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers,” he explains after deciding that Wakanda needs to help others by exporting its most precious resource, vibranium.
In this same way, to help others, Trump is also big on exporting America’s most helpful resources — oil, military might, and missile defense.
If the reactionaries want to argue (and some do) that T’Challa’s criticism of “barriers” is a direct commentary about Trump’s border wall, that simplistic interpretation in no way gels with the movie’s overall nuance and depth. Moreover, there is no closing scene involving T’Challa stupidly opening Wakanda’s borders to floods of refugees, an act of betrayal that would destroy his country’s cherished traditions and way of life.
The movie, however, does close with T’Challa and his sister pledging to help the predominantly black city of Oakland, California, which is also in keeping with Trump’s focus on helping America’s inner-cities. Both political parties tend to write off groups that they have no chance of winning. This has not been the case with Trump and the black community.
If T’Challa were a left-wing Democrat — a Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton — he would oppose bringing people together. Additionally, rather than roll up his own sleeves to do the hard work of trying something different, he would demand that everyone’s taxes be raised to fund the same government programs that have failed Democrat-run neighborhoods for a half-century.
While Black Panther is far from perfect and a tad anti-climactic, the movie deserves credit for its approach to its politics — which is nuanced, intelligent, and inclusive. Because the movie paints with a broad brush using the universal themes of self-sacrifice, selflessness, and focusing on our shared humanity as opposed to identity politics, it is by default conservative.