TV / Film

My ThoughtsTV / Film

Black Panther: Who is the Real Hero?

Black Panther Movie

It’s been days since seeing Black Panther in theaters and I am still obsessed. There were so many great lines, great humor, terrific action and special effects, and best of all it had a captivating story filled with memorable characters. Since seeing the movie, I’ve seen plenty of debates popping up online that challenge the idea of T’Challa (the main character/Black Panther) being the hero. This is rebutted with the assertion that Killmonger (the movie’s villain) is the true hero. My initial reaction to this was confusion. While I completely understood Killmonger’s motives, I believed his execution and his plan were completely flawed. So, who is the real hero? Let’s explore some of the characters in this film and get to an answer.


The Villain Everybody Loves

Let’s start with everybody’s new favorite villain, Erik Killmonger. First of all, the fact that we’re having all of this discussion about Killmonger versus T’Challa proves the point that Killmonger is one of (if not, the) best villains adapted for the big screen from a comic book so far. We usually don’t get this discussion with the villains. He was undoubtedly the bad guy in the film, but his views struck a chord with Black Americans. He understood all that we went through, our current struggles, and had a well thought out plan about how to tackle the problem. He was a truly complex character that added immeasurable depth to what many at first glance would just call another comic book movie. But is he a hero? After poisoning a woman’s drink, killing his girlfriend, being completely disrespectful to leaders and elders in Wakanda, and attempting to start a war by distributing weapons to people, I’d say not. Not to mention all of the scarring he had on his body which was a count of all of the people he had already killed. While his background of having his father killed by T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka (the previous Black Panther), and his knowledge of the oppression of Black people make him sympathetic, that does not mean he’s a hero. I feel as though many (myself included) finally feel their pain was properly articulated by Killmonger and heard by the masses, but that does not mean that you then adopt all of his ways as just.

Regardless, I’m just happy that his character sparked such a conversation. Everywhere I look, there’s some deep discussion going on exploring the nuances of Killmonger’s character and his juxtaposition to Wakanda and its citizens.  I really just see as a way of us exploring our own views of our identity.

I think any writer of fiction wants a villain to come off as well as Killmonger did; to be so extremely sympathetic that it’s hard to still see them as the bad guy. I certainly wanted to strike a chord with people when I wrote Queen Aeothesca in my novel. I think I did a good job of making her human, but I know I have some work to do in future works if I want to get anywhere close to sparking this kind of awe for a character.

Is Black Panther the True hero?

Now let’s talk about the main character, T’Challa. As the lead, he’s definitely going to have most of the heroic qualities. He’s strong, a great fighter, revered by his family and peers, and fights for justice. What we saw in the movie was that he was stuck between his father’s legacy/Wakanda’s history of protecting their own and knowing that the world could use help only they could provide. The thing that makes T’Challa so compelling is that while he was pulled in opposite directions from his country’s history and Killmonger’s ideals, he used information from all sides to forge his own righteous path. The key word for him is “learning”. He learned a lesson in Captain America: Civil War in order to grow, and he learned a lesson in Black Panther in order to progress further. His growth in each film has made him a lovable character to follow. So, is he a hero? Yes, but is he the hero? I believe this last character actually fits that role best.

The Woman Under The Radar

Let’s talk about Nakia. From the beginning we understand that Nakia already knows that there are people who would benefit from Wakanda’s help. She urges T’Challa to see things her way, but at first he is resistant. When Killmonger comes into the picture, despite their similar views on the plight of their people, she recognizes his major flaws and doesn’t fall in line. She continues to fight for her views, but in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone. She saves one last herb from the garden, uses it to save T’Challa’s life, which leads to a restoration of peace in Wakanda and a change in the way they approach the world. I hadn’t thought of this until a series of tweets I read by a very astute viewer. I haven’t received permission to share her thoughts here just yet, but she outlines all of Nakia’s heroic qualities perfectly. And it’s for all of these reasons that I see Nakia as the true hero of Black Panther.

A New Door Has Been Opened

The reason I’m writing about this and the reason I felt moved to write about Black Panther probably won’t surprise you. I am an author of fantasy and science fiction (and perhaps more in the future) with Black characters as the lead roles. So, this feels like a natural subject to talk about. When I left the theater, this film just stuck with me in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. Maybe it was the energy in the theater – so upbeat that clapping started as the movie began, not just as it ended. Maybe it was the fact that I watched it with my best friend (who is African) and just felt the immense joy and emotion from him seeing his people and culture respectfully handled on screen in a big-budget blockbuster. I have a feeling it was both of those things, plus the movie was just damn good. My feeling is that Black Panther has opened the door for more stories like this to be told at the same level of other Hollywood blockbusters. My hope is that I can be a part of this next movement even in just some small way.

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My ThoughtsTV / Film

Why Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ Is So Important

Black Panther

Last night, Twitter went crazy. It could only mean one thing. The release of the first trailer for Marvel’s Black Panther.

Managing My Hype

I have been eagerly awaiting some clips from this movie for a while now. Ever since announcements for the director and various actors began rolling out, the hype grew to enormous levels. It scared me, actually. My thinking was, How could anything live up to this amount of hype? I’ve seen this before with videogames. People get hyped about a new entry in a game series that was highly popular long ago, but when it finally comes, it’s less than perfect and people are let down (just look at Doom). It even happens with brand new IPs that seem promising. That’s the lens through which I saw the excitement for this movie. And it was hard to jump on the bandwagon. After last night, however, it looks as though it may just be what everyone is looking for.

What Does Black Panther Represent?

In only two minutes I could see that the visuals were great, it had exciting scenes, and most importantly, a primarily Black cast. This is what I believe so many people find most exciting about this movie. It’s a chance to see themselves as heroes and compelling villains with the magic and money of Hollywood behind it. It’s part of what made people so excited to see Wonder Woman. It’s sad to say, but it’s 2017, and works like this with the quality, care, and attention to characters who are not white males is rare. But they are also welcome. If you are a white male reading this, please don’t misunderstand; we watch and enjoy movies and books centering characters like you all the time. But the fact that Black people and women get to be the central focus for a change gives us hope. Movies like this represent a hope that we’re turning the page on old ways and actually making progress towards accurate, inclusive stories with the appropriate writers and directors behind the scenes. There are no delusions that this will change overnight, but it’s definitely a start.

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My ThoughtsTV / Film

Why I Loved The New Power Rangers Movie

Power Rangers Review

Last weekend I finally saw the Power Rangers remake, and boy, did it exceed my expectations.

But first, a story…

I remember play fighting with my younger brother (we were around 6 and 7 years old) at a local high school where my older brother attended. We were under the care of his teenage friend and pretending we were the Power Rangers. I was always the Blue Ranger because blue is my favorite color. Anyway, I playfully threw my little brother head-first into a table. It was made of wood, but the corner of it had been broken leaving behind a jagged spike that pointed sideways. He wasn’t seriously injured, but the middle of his forehead did meet the spike right above his brow. It left behind a small scar that’s visible to this day. than a small scar. We slowed down our play fighting for a while, but with each episode of our favorite show that passed, we got right back into the swing of things.

If you’re a millennial in your late 20 / early 30s, it’s likely that you know all about how karate was one of our daily obsessions. How couldn’t it be with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Karate Kid, and more? The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers just took it to a whole new level. It was great because it was diverse, had great bad guys, and a story that kept our young minds engaged. However, it wasn’t without its problems.

The Glaring Problems of Old

To its credit, this series was always very diverse. However, the problem laid in its placement of certain diverse characters. The first season featured a black ranger who was Black, and a yellow ranger who was Asian. Even at my young age, I could see the issue there. Yet, it was something nobody talked about because they enjoyed the show so much. Nor did we have Twitter, where I’m pretty sure it would have been blasted.

Aside from that was the very weak story. Keep in mind that I loved this show as a kid, and I had no expectations of Emmy-worthy material, but a look on the wiki page shows just how juvenile and simple the original story was.

Lastly, the characters weren’t entirely deep to begin with. Once the popularity of the show grew, there were some deeper storylines, but nothing like what I saw with the latest movie.

Power Rangers Takes A Turn for the Better

**Spoilers Ahead**

In nearly all aspects, 2017’s Power Rangers takes it up a few notches. There was a shuffling of characters that got rid of the whole racial / color thing, but there was even more. We got a Black, highly intelligent kid on the Autism spectrum (a rarity), an Asian ranger with a big personality, and a LGBT / Latina ranger. Two thumbs up on the inclusion front! A new crop of kids are watching this and any who identify with these characters will get the message that they matter.

I also enjoyed the twists in the story from the original. Zordon and Rita Repulsa fighting on Earth millions of years ago, the reason for the form of the Zords, Rita being the original Green Ranger, and her whole revamped mission added some cohesiveness that was missing in the past. She used to want to conquer Earth, but in this movie, she goes after a crystal (one of many that are found on all planets) that will help her take control of the universe. It’s a grander scheme and it works.

The characters’ stories were deepened from the get-go this time around. Jason and Kimberly’s stories were done the best, I believe. However, no one in the cast felt left behind. I imagine this is a hard thing to accomplish for an ensemble within a two-hour space, but everything was explained just enough to feel for the characters.

Make no mistake. This is still not an award contender, but all of this combined with the feeling of nostalgia made this one of the more enjoyable watches of the spring. I highly recommend you take a step into your past and witness the future of a beloved franchise.

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BooksTV / Film

Rounded Characters and Big Questions


I was recently interviewed by Ecelctica Cafe, a podcast hosted by Dustin and Chance, where we discussed topics of diversity in media, some politics, and what you can expect from my upcoming book, Pangaea: Unsettled Land. We continued a discussion started after my writing of the LGBT Fiction article and I’m happy to have been a part! Take a listen below and tell me what you think. And subscribe to Eclectica Cafe’s podcasts here!


Link to the podcast on YouTube:

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BooksTV / Film

Comic Views

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Despite the turbulent news this past week, there were some exciting character announcements that made us all sit up. In comics, the mantle of Iron Man will soon be taken over by Riri Williams, a black teenage girl. In movies, we’ve heard that the popular Star Trek character, Sulu, will now be an openly gay role. If you know me, you know I was excited about both pieces of news. But as I dug further, I had to tamper down my hype. There are some things that could prove problematic if these characters are not handled correctly. Even after being brought down to reality, I still believe that these changes are a step in the right direction.

The Swap

It’s been reported that after the current Civil War 2 series ends, Tony Stark is retiring and giving a young protege the reins. My enthusiasm for a character like Riri was tempered after reading how some people responded. Some issues included the possibility of this fifteen-year-old being seen as an adult (Iron Woman) or misgendered and called a man throughout the series because of the title she’s taking over. There’s also concern about the handling of such a character from writer Brian Michael Bendis, and the issue of no black female writers at Marvel to handle a story like this. All of these issues are summed up quite nicely in a post by Son of Baldwin. However, the one topic that I found most interesting was the changing of a character just to appeal to a diverse audience. This is something that is going on in a certain spacey movie universe as well.

In the latest installment, Star Trek: Beyond, it was announced that character Hikaru Sulu was written to be openly gay. Apparently, this was done as a tribute to George Takei, but surprisingly he wasn’t so open to it. In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, he says, “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.” Simon Pegg, the writer for the new movie, is quoted in a TIME article mentioning the trouble about creating a completely new character. He reshaped the existing role to escape tokenism, believing a entirely new person may end up being “primarily defined by their sexuality.” Again, for diversity’s sake, we have the transformation of an established personality, but this begs the question, which way is right?

Old vs. New

The arguments against this method of character change are many and show up almost every time something like this happens. They’ve been put forward when Miles Morales was introduced as Spider-Man and when Michael B. Jordan played the Human Torch / Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four. Many fans feel like it’s a slap in the face because they’ve grown to love everything about a character and suddenly it all changes. There are also those who say that it seems like the writers are pandering to a community for a quick buck, only for the role to change back later. Lastly, there’s the idea that it doesn’t solve any long-term diversity problem the way the an original character would. There are some points on the opposite end, however.

The flipside is that an original character is hard to get excited about. So, it’s easier to just rewrite an existing person with tons of popularity and fill the diversity gap. It’s instant minority gratification (in theory). Again comes the question, which way is the best?

When I think about how I grew up without seeing or reading of  people like me in extraordinary fictional circumstances, I can’t help but side with the rewriting of a character. It’s a big boon to the children coming up today to see that they can be amazing, too. That sense of possibility that gets instilled outweighs any figurative slaps to the face that fans may feel. However, I do think that if more original diverse characters were created and properly pushed to audiences, we’d have less of a need to do this. While I’m pleased to see more diverse stand-ins / rewrites, I think the most energy should be spent on new ideas that solve the problem. We have yet to see how Riri and Sulu are going to be handled, but for now their presence is a good one in my book.

On which side of this argument do you fall? Write a comment below!

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