"Black Panther" Analysis of blockbuster Marvel Comics/Disney movie by Lil Joe 4/14/2018
"Black Panther", the blockbuster Marvel Comics/Disney movie culminates an entire series of fantasies where human social and political relations and activities in those relations take place in worlds separate and apart from the actual empirical universe where the laws of physics do not apply __ at any rate they are set aside or transcended by the Superhero the story presents in movie form using advances in technology enabling "special effects" of visual art and political messaging.
"The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it." Marx/Engels
The earliest form of communication by drawing or painting originated in cave drawings. These pictorials were forms of artistic communication. Aesthetics has always been a form of communication. Although the cave paintings are claimed to have been religious in nature there is no evidence this was the artist's motivation. Such bare assertion is a non sequitur because its not self-evident. It does not follow that the drawings and paintings had a religious significance. Nomadic hunters-gatherers were constantly moving, following prey from one location to the next or from one generation to the next. The cave drawings contained practical information left by previous hunters/gatherers that had inhabited the cave.
Language by spoken words or written symbols is an ordered system of symbolic meanings and understandings representing people, places, things and ideas. The cave dwellings were an enclave of safety and hearth. The cave painting might have been drawn or/painted as messages to clans of nomadic hunters to leave instructions communicating practical information. Cave art conveyed information. Judge for yourselves, whether or not you see anything metaphysical or religious in the Google link to Paleolithic and Mesolithic drawings and wall painting (murals) of divergent species of animals: Google Images
Aesthetics is practical. Religion is an ideological tool and political weapon used to reinforce ecclesiastical authority. Art, including musical as well as visual forms, can be awe-inspiring. Consider for instance megastructures housing religious institutions, temples. Astronomy is a practical science in societies based on agricultural production. Intellectual labor produced knowledge of the movements of the sun and planets in connection with changing seasons. Ancient science, based on empirical observation and education, was restricted to priestly castes from one generation to the next. Although the knowledge of the empirical universe was scientific, this knowledge of Nature was mystified in rituals of priests to make themselves appear necessary to manipulate the heavens and communicate with gods and ancestors.
By inventing pseudo-astronomy, astrology, and presenting medical and pharmaceutical sciences of chemistry, accompanied with fire and dancing, music and the voicing of spells and counterspells, as magic and witchcraft, the priests came to constitute a parasitic caste based upon secret knowledge as sacred. This made priests-kings necessary as mediators between the heavens and the Earth, the living community and dead ancestors, gods and men. For the ritual inauguration into sacred kingship T'Challa and Eric Killmonger, respectively, visited the realm of the dead ancestors where each of them converse with his father. The fathers were brothers. T'Challa and Killmonger as brothers were equal in royal ancestry. Both were living descendants of the same living dead ancestors, literally, the same ancestors, men. Thus, both T'Challa and Eric Killmonger, having the same grandfather and grandmother, had the right of inheritance of royal wealth and of political power, kingship.
Ancient and medieval god dwelling temples - Luxor, Karnak, the Pantheon, Sistine Chapel, the Chennakeshava temples, Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu Temple of Sun, the Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali, have been augmented by Great Libraries and Institutions of Learning and schools of Philosophy stacked with books -- places of learning -- the Platonist Academy, the Peripatetic school at the Lyceum, the Garden of Epicurus, the Great Library at Alexandria. Paper was invented in Egypt and used by the priesthood to contain economic, religious and political information. As the printing press was invented in China and subsequently tweaked in Germany, literature became available on a mass scale. Although the world's exploited classes and peasant masses were kept illiterate the rising bourgeoisie gained access both to literacy and formal education.
Politicized aesthetics: Ancient theatres and the Colosseum in Rome were platforms used to promote the ideas and interests of ruling classes personified by costumed characters in dramatic performances, bread and circus. From cave drawings and paintings to the early Hieroglyphics to Cuneiform to Sanskrit and East Asian character symbols, language is and has been a means of distribution of ideas representing material interests by visual communication of information. Written language and theatrical performances: Greek playwrights brought Homeric gods and heroes to the stages of theatres. The Tragedy genre of classical Greek drama is explicitly political as it is polemical -this is specifically explicit in the works of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides and in the Comedy genre Aristophanes, corresponded to the political critiques of war in Thucydides Peloponnesian War. Today, the political content in aesthetics is presented through high technology and special effects in movie form.
In Holy Writ (writings or sayings of unchallenged authority) and classical theatre, political memes are represented by performers in movie theaters, at home on television, and on the internet. Yet, there is more reality in fantasies canonized and declared Holy Writ than in propaganda stories in Marvel/Comic Superhero and Heroine "blockbusters". Holy Writ and the Marvel Comics and movies present conflicts of material interests as battles of Good against Evils. Good guys vs villains. Viewing the Black Panther movie I saw elements appropriated into it from the Wizard of Oz ( Wakanda = Emerald City) (the Wicked Witch of the East vs the Good Witch of the West) Star Wars (the Jedi fight scene (Bright Side of the Force vs Dark Side of the Force) Harry Potter( Potter vs. Voldemort) The Matrix ( Neo vs Agent Smith) Lord of the Rings (Gandalf vs. Saruman) Book of Revelation (Jesus vs. Satan) and other Manichean pseudo-profound bullshit. These movies are directed at children and teenagers conveying subliminal political messages of "Good" patriots versus an "Evil" enemy.
In Black Panther, the political objective is to justify in popular language and imagery an American mass murdering soldier's invasion of Wakanda as an "African-American". Presented as an "African" is to provide genotypic characteristics as giving this American soldier the "right of return" (Black zionism) to overthrow an African government. The message is regime change - kill the monarch and take his place. The racialisation of politics manipulate audiences concern for authority to violate national sovereignty. The movie presents a black American of the so-called "African diaspora" of royal heritage, thus giving him the political right to invade an African kingdom. Killmonger is a "Black Brother ("African-American") going "back" to Africa. The concept of an "African diaspora" is ideologically modeled on the Zionist concept that European "Jews" constitute an exilic "Diaspora" on the basis of a Biblical asserted racial metaphysico-historical connection of exilic "Jews" to Judea, i.e. Palestine, and Blacks to Africa. European Zionists claim to have the "right of return" to Palestine and to drive the indigenous Palestinian people from the Zionist "ancestral homeland". Ideologically and politically, Eric Killmonger as a character in Marvel Comics/Disney fantasy world is what Menachem Begin was in historical reality. Yet, there is another, more subtle message in the Marvel Comics/Disney fantasy which corresponds to present-day reality.
Subjects of the Wakanda kingdom didn't know of Eric. He was born of an American woman and raised by this American mother as an American citizen. Raised in America, Eric internalized American national culture, including its culture of identity and violence corresponding to US foreign policy of violence and imperialism. Eric as such was a natural born killer who joined the US Army and killed so many people as a soldier he came to be called Killmonger. Both T'Challa and Killmonger inherited the right to be king but both couldn't at the same time be king. This issue, if changed, by one versus the other, had to be decided by ritual combat, to the death, Klingon style. This ritual is officiated by the chief shaman, Zuri.
Ancient and medieval kingdoms and empires were based on agricultural modes of production and corresponding relations of production -- chattel slavery and fiefdoms ideologically reinforced by thousands of years of custom and ecclesiastical authority. What the mode of production upon which the economy of the kingdom of Wakanda is based is is not shown or even discussed in the Black Panther movie. It is a given that the economy is somehow based on the metal, or rather "anti-metal" that's given the name "Vibranium". Vibranium is not native to the planet Earth. It is a material that was pulled to Earth as a meteorite and therefore is of limited quantity. It obviously can be transformed by labor into shapes useful. How this is done and by what labor process/force is not given or discussed in this movie.
The kingdom of Wakanda has advanced, futurist technology but no means of production are indicated. There are no factories in Wakanda, no labor force, no relations of production. Yet, politically, it is presented as a medieval kingdom dominated by centuries of tradition and custom passed from parents to offspring generation after generation. Pure fantasy. This fantasy however is a reflection of reality. Although it is not shown or anywhere in the movie discussed, vibranium has been made into "weapons of mass destruction".
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Using the the civil rights movement of the 1950s -60s as an historical backdrop and superimposing the issue of violence vs nonviolence as determinant, several movie "critics" have compared fictional Eric Killmonger to the historical Malcolm X and the fictional character T'Challa to Martin Luther King Jr. This 'comparison' is at best an oversimplification and an obfuscation of the real ideological and political differences between Malcolm and MLK. Malcolm was an American "Black nationalist" who advocated for "Black" capitalism. Malcolm was an advocate for racial segregation and black Zionism. However, what is of significance, in connection with the Marvel Comics superhero vs villain is that the violence associated with Malcolm X speeches was limited to individual self-defense. But, on the basis of authority of inheritance of kingship Killmonger used violence as an American soldier in imperialist invasions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Syria. Malcolm X was the opposite. Malcolm would have sided with Muslim nation's use of violence in response to US and NATO aggressions.
Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr both sided with the Vietnamese heroic war of resistance and for Vietnam's territorial integrity, sovereignty, national unification and political independence. MLK had more in common with the real, historical Black Panther Party, than the fictional T'Challa. King fought for civil rights, unions and cosmopolitan socialist objectives. The real Black Panthers was an organisation of working class Black socialists that fought to improve living conditions right here in the United States together with the Brown Berets, the Young Lords Party, the American Indian Movement, the Asian American Political alliance, the Red Guards, the Peace and Freedom Party and yes, the Communist Party, and others in a United Front Against Fascism.
Fred Hampton said of the socialist perspective of class struggle and revolution: "You don't fight fire with fire. You fight fire with water. We're gonna fight racism with solidarity. We're not gonna fight capitalism with Black capitalism. We're gonna fight capitalism with socialism. Socialism is the people. If you're afraid of socialism, you're afraid of yourself."
Chairman Fred Hampton, a working-class socialist, in the U.S., had more in common with Chairman Mao tse-Tung and Ho chi-Minh's socialist objective of displacing capitalist relations of production by the Chinese and Vietnamese workers and peasants fighting for economic and political power. The Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army led by the Chinese Communist Party had to fight not only Japanese and then US imperialism but the Chinese bourgeois nationalist Kuomintang of Chiang kai-shek. The Vietminh and subsequent National Liberation Front had to fight Japanese imperialism, French imperialism, U.S. imperialism and the reactionary nationalist regimes of Ngo Dinh Diem and then Duong Van Minh in U.S. occupied southern Vietnam. Although he recognised that Mao tse-Tung, Ho chi-Minh and Fidel Castro were revolutionaries who led struggles which "overturned" (i.e. overthrew) governments, he didn't recognise that the economic achievements in these workers and peasants revolutions in China, Vietnam and Cuba constituted the expropriation of the expropriators. Malcolm X wrongly advocated "Black nationalism" as somehow: "revolutionary" i.e. "if you love revolution, you will love black nationalism" [ostensibly] "because Black Nationalism is revolution". In reality nationalism (including racial identity politics) is reactionary. In advocating racial nationalism Malcolm X places himself in the political camp along with Chiang kai-shek, Ngo Dinh Diem, Duong Van Minh and Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar.
Malcolm X claim that "revolution is based on land" is not the case. Of course everything human takes place on Earth, including "revolution". But a revolution is an historical category. A revolution is an economic change by political activity by which one class overthrows another. Class struggle is political and political struggle is ideological struggle. "A revolution is an act of violence, by which one class overthrows another" (Mao). Actually, this class struggle is the political process of economic transition from one mode of production to another one - the expropriation of the productive forces by the producing classes from the appropriating classes and thereby ending exploitative relations of production. Although Martin Luther King opposed the use of violence in an armed insurrection by means of which to overthrow existing (capitalist) relations of production he nevertheless was in agreement with this objective. On the other hand, Malcolm talked about the right of use of violence - but this restricted to armed self-defense used by individuals against an attacker or group of attackers (e.g. the use of violence by the Deacons of Defense against violence by the Ku Klux Klan). Not only that: along with denouncing King's strategy of nonviolent confrontation with the capitalist State Malcolm denounced the March on Washington because of its united front with the United Auto Workers and other working class Unions.
I have already discussed the cultural political theme of Good vs Evil. "Killmonger" is presented in the movie as an epitome of evil personified and has at his disposal weapons of mass destruction which he declares to use to conquer the world: a "use them or lose them" scenario is stated. Recall Trump's statement on the campaign trail, "why have nuclear weapons and not use them"? This is therefore much more than an action flick for kids entertainment! Just as Bush-Powell-Blaire declared a so-called "preventive" war on Iraq, ostensibly because "Saddam Hussein is an evil man with weapons of mass destruction at his disposal", so also are Donald Trump and the U.S. media propagandists talking up preventive war on North Korea and Iran from developing nuclear weapons (of mass destruction) being at the disposal of evil tyrants. This is not fantasy. This is reality. In the movie, the "good guy" (an American CIA Agent) destroys Wakanda's weapons of mass destruction before the weapons of mass destruction (already launched) could reach the intended targets (Europe and North America).
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