This new film is rightly called a fantasy, and not just because Wakanda doesn't exist. If Black moviegoers are not aware of the dangerous politics it espouses, they will find themselves believing in things far worse than non-existent kingdoms.
This White, Western, pan-European fantasy film where all of its colonial subjects fight each other to see who will be safe from them is a political mess. The limitation of all existing curse words and my “appropriate” vocabulary inhibit my ability to convey my disdain for the politics of this movie, but what follows is my best effort. But just to be clear, I hate Wakanda Forever.
In the first film we are introduced to Wakanda, a magical isolated nation in Africa protected by a meteor-infused plant power providing them untold technological and spiritual power none of which is used to positively impact world history as we know it. Radical internationalist politics are demonized in the antagonist Killmonger who is dispatched by “our hero” who proceeds by film’s end to further please his Western allies by promising to share those resources. In Wakanda Forever the politics are worsened by expansion to incorporate Indigenous and Latin American communities who are found to also have also been so “blessed” by the special plant power and who used it to escape the plague that was the arrival of Spain. But once technology is developed that will help the West find that powerful resource Talokan is threatened causing its leader Namor to seek an alliance with Wakanda.
However, true to the form of the first film, Wakanda is not interested in radical internationalist solidarity. Despite invitation and warning from Namor that refusal to unite would result in conflict Wakanda chooses the CIA, the West, and to war with their fellow colonized and hidden people. No message could be clearer than that developed over these two Black Panther films: the answer for those colonized by European imperialism is to cut the first deal and be saved by an alliance with the West. Redistribution, reparation, revolution are all off the table. Wakanda Forever is a disastrous bit of psychological warfare during a time when diasporas are being pulled apart, solidarity weakened, with ever more invitations to varying forms of neocolonial existence being offered and defined as advancement.
When an effort arose in 2015 encapsulated by the hashtag #RhodesMustFall its goal was to remove the symbolism of a settler colonial past wreaking havoc today on the processes of intellectual and radical political development among the people of Azania with those throughout the diaspora saying also that “Rhodes [must also] fall everywhere." But if statues of Cecil Rhodes are the relics of the colonialism of the 19th and 20th centuries then surely the latest monstrosity imposed by Disney must be turned into a neocolonial relic of the 21st. While so many among the world’s majority floated somewhere between no attention or care at all to outright joy at the recent death of a real queen we are meant to mourn the righteous death of a cinematic one without realizing how much an offshoot of the original this fake and Black one actually is. If one author could more famously say of the first Black Panther film from Marvel that it is “not the movie we deserve,” then of this one we can be no less clear than to declare that #WakandaMustFall.
I won’t (could not) pretend with this audience that I have taken the requisite time to craft a better essay or that I am strong in this medium, YouTube rants are admittedly much easier. But I, again, do want to italicize my hatred of this movie, the process it masks, the clear political intent it demonstrates, or worse my fears at its likely success rate. All I will credit Wakanda Forever with is the gift of my new favorite twist on Spanish and a perfect descriptor for my views of the politics of the film and the world those politics have created; sin amor, no amor, Namor: “No love.” It could only have been improved by giving this character a sidekick named Siodio, sí odio, “Yes I Hate.”
Wakanda Forever is a multi-billion dollar project of the “woke imperium,” where the state dresses up its internal struggles and projects them back to the world as having been solved. Immigration issues? Those damn Mexicans are treacherous and violent and are coming for what’s yours! Black people struggling? Wakanda has magically solved any issues it might have with labor or an economy, everyone is well-dressed and services just happen! Indigenous people? In image we wrap you up with the Mexicans, and have you blame Black folks, even depict you fighting them on cave art! Meanwhile, White folks, empire, run around in nice outfits, complimenting each other and cracking jokes. And why wouldn’t they? In their fantasy world Black Panthers only attack other colonized people and have promised to further suppress them. Best of all, no one is as angry at the continued imprisonment of Mumia, Leonard, or the near death releases of Sundiata, Russell, and Mutulu as they were at the death of the militarily illiterate, selfish, megalomaniac queen. It’s Angela Bassett though! Who cares about Assata when we have the literal logo of Cecil Rhodes’ De Beers diamond, Lupita Nyong’o, playing the heroic mother of the future revolutionary and king, Toussaint?
However, Lupita does depict a spy working on behalf of a neocolonial narrow nationalist monarchy whose power has been made available to no African liberation struggle, whose queen is quietly working with the CIA, and whose actions betray another colony provoking conflict with them in an attempt to preserve themselves from a colonizer. So perhaps I am being unfair. And we should weep for this queen who tricks Namor, lies to him, ignores his warning, and is willing to give up his people to save her daughter, a scientist whose work threatens them all, and to help the U.S.? Oh, right, they are Black women. Lupita stepped away from The Woman King likely in protest of its positive portrayal of women she did not want associated with the women she portrays in Wakanda who are doing precisely the same thing to other Africans and Indigenous people. I am not sure even Ryan Coogler could write that.
Wakanda Forever is a direct assault on the histories of Bandung and the Non-Aligned Movement, of the original Fred Hampton Rainbow Coalition, or today’s radical solidarity occurring throughout the world in response to conditions which can only be considered improvements held up against the nightmares which comprise the foundation of so much of these efforts. Killmonger is killed physically in the first film as the embodiment of the Black [American] Liberation Movement and its radical pan-Africanism so he can be brought back as marketing once again for the irresponsible politics against which Suri can overcome to take her rightful position in service of empire. Namor is The Young Lords and American Indian Movement being depicted as an invading threat from “down there.” The two who should naturally be linked and seen as heroic are kept apart by assassination and betrayal and used as symbols to falsely give legitimacy to neocolonial power. How eerily real is that!?! Suri doesn’t have to be seen training, or defending a challenge, she ascends simply by bloodline and a willingness to combat those similarly oppressed while never turning her anger or power toward the West. All Whites get are silly jokes and friendly name calling, “colonizer in handcuffs…” which you intend only to remove.
Wakanda Forever has earned the hatred of anyone at all politically engaged, desirous of genuine material change, or at all aware of the intended impact of these media products. Danny Glover has tried for many years now to make a film of the Haitian revolution and we are supposed to swoon over this little boy being nicknamed “Toussaint?” We are supposed to be excited over a fake Iron Man suit being developed to attack Indigenous people? Killmonger needs to be again turned into a villain so that Suri can keep herself from killing a man who had been protecting his people from genocide for more than 1000 years? All to protect an African kingdom proven powerless or useless to the world’s majority but who will not use its capabilities against even one they happily call all film “colonizer?” Or is that alone supposed to appease? You slap the French on the hand when they invade to attempt to steal your resources but when Namor shows up, not to steal, but to help protect, you are ready to war? Or you thought we would be happy if the queen is Black? Our queer community should be good now with that one kiss in service of empire? Please. #ClayDavis.
The Guardian “did us a favor” by self-reporting on the UK’s imperial hatred of pan-africanism and socialism when recently discussing their surveillance of Kwame Ture. Well, here is empire’s response to that on-going concern, Africans who only reach out to the diaspora when one proves to be a rarest of scientific talent, and who war against Indigenous people, while protecting the West. As we left the theater I knew my words for my children would be insufficient, as they still are here, though I am confident that Black Agenda Report readers will understand the point well. I told my daughters that to truly appreciate what this film is doing and to evolve the appropriate hostility requires close study of and involvement in the histories and movements Dhoruba bin-Wahad has said to have been made “stealth” in part by films like these. If any value is to be made from the intensity and distribution of this anti-Black, anti-revolutionary product it is in recognizing the efforts being taken to assure we always remain only a potential threat.
Wakanda Forever is its own hopeful title. Forever are we to see our ambitions for a better world in a Wakandan fantasy, one, as Lawrence Grandpre suggests, is based not on culture, or I would add political organization, but on the random divine act of a meteor delivering a plant, and one based on quiet isolation, and ultimate service of empire. Forever are we to have our political aspirations defined, and diverted by Marvel, Disney, and characters created by now dead White men. Namor. No more. No love. Siodio. Yes hate. I hate all of that. Passionately.
From England to Wakanda and everywhere else and in between, all queens (and kings) must go and #WakandaMustFall.
Jared A. Ball is a Professor of Communication and Africana Studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. and author of The Myth and Propaganda of Black Buying Power (Palgrave, 2020). Ball is also host of the podcast “iMiXWHATiLiKE!”, co-founder of Black Power Media which can be found at BlackPowerMedia.org, and his decades of journalism, media, writing, and political work can be found at imixwhatilike.org.