I am always flummoxed by the way people think about representations and reality; they appear to think that representations create reality, or that a novel or a movie can transform you and the whole world. Nowhere is the absurdity more apparent than on Black Panther, and I've never seen it more clearly expressed or displayed more clearly as implausible than by Anna Deavere Smith in the May 24 New York Review of Books. She portrays BP as being to this era what Malcolm, Martin and the Black Panther party were to the 60s.
'There is a conversation to be had,' she writes, in a core sample of her prose style. 'Filmmaking is collaborative,' she observes. 'The producers are essential.' Perhaps she's trying to lull us toward her vast conclusions/rhetorical questions by saying as little as possible for awhile. 'Killmonger [the super-villain] is competitive,' she claims. Like Donald Trump, 'he behaves with no decorum.' Yeah? Say that to his face, why don't you. Consider by contrast the Dread Dormamu, for instance, who always made etiquette his calling card. 'Women have commented on how thrilling it is to see a powerful black woman,' especially one who is 'fresh-faced in every way.' Cosmetics are going to be key, I feel, to Smith's new transformative Black-Panther oriented social movement.
The character Shuri "represents a new type of young black woman - a science genius who spends her days in the lab making inventions and powering what she invents with vibranium." That *is* a new type. She suggests - I don't think she's trying to be funny - that 'Wakanda Forever!' is to this moment what 'Power to the People' was to the '60s and 'No Justice, No Peace' to the '90s. I want you to picture people chanting that at the demo after the next police shooting.
'A sense of self comes from the mirror in which you see yourself - and it also comes from gathering information on how others see you. . . . What is it about the human condition that causes us to need to see ourselves in art forms? Is it that art forms are meant to be mirrors?' Or in other words, movies make the self. The 'mirror' of Black Panther is undistorted at last. That required a lot of CGI. If you can hold onto your sense of yourself as an invulnerable costumed superhero, I'd be a bit worried what happens after that, but go for it I guess.
She doesn't know whether Black Panther will change the way judges sentence black men; it's quite possible. She doesn't know whether it will transform schools and the children within them, but it just might. She thinks Shuri will lead to black female CEOs in Silicon Valley. If people didn't say things like that regularly, you'd just go 'have you lost your frigging mind?' She appears to believe that a billion-dollar blockbuster can have results comparable to the entire Civil Rights movement. Plus it can sell more cars than Malcolm and Martin put together.