Baldeosingh: Black Panther was fun but the Wakanda backstory misses the mark

“Unlike 99 percent of the people who costumed up to go to the film, I had actually read most of the comic-books the Black Panther originally appeared in. I don’t recall Wakanda being portrayed in the comics the way it was in the movies.

“[…] And this was where my suspension of disbelief started to intrude on my enjoyment of the film.”

The following Letter to the Editor, which attempts a limited review of the new Disney Black Panther hit film, was submitted to Wired868 by Kevin Baldeosingh:

Photo: The Black Panther, the Wakanda-based superhero who gives his name to Marvel Studios’ new blockbuster film.

Although he ranked far below Iron Man, Spider-Man, Batman, Thor, Daredevil and The Incredible Hulk, in my teen years, the Black Panther was among my top ten favourite superheroes. My reasons were entirely simple: the panther was always my favourite wild animal and I liked pretty much any hero with superhuman agility and martial arts prowess (Shang Chi, the Master of Kung Fu was also among my Top Ten).

So, unlike 99 percent of the people who costumed up to go to the film, I had actually read most of the comic-books the Black Panther originally appeared in.

I liked the film. Contrary to the impression created by the hype of racial pride that was really a mask for deep insecurity, the ideology wasn’t overbearing and the writers and directors concentrated, as film-makers are supposed to do, on telling the story and creating a gripping spectacle. That said, my suspension of disbelief was continually challenged by the backstory of the Panther, as embodied in the fictional African country of Wakanda.

I don’t recall Wakanda being portrayed in the comics the way it was in the movies although my memory may be at fault here. T’challa was a king but he had to prove his worth by climbing a mountain to find and eat the plant which gave him superhuman abilities. And vibranium (a metal that absorbs all vibrations and most other types of energy) was Wakanda’s source of wealth but, unlike in the film, not the basis of any advanced technology developed within the country itself. And this was where my suspension of disbelief started to intrude on my enjoyment of the film.

Vibranium is itself an example of the Africa-is-rich fallacy—i.e. the misconception that wealth is inherent in a natural resource, as distinct from what is done with that resource. The voice-over at the start of the movie explains that a vibranium meteor crashed into Africa millions of years ago and became the basis of Wakanda’s development.

Photo: The fictional nation of Wakanda in the film, Black Panther.

But having vibranium and developing the technology to use it are entirely different. After all, Africa has minerals ranging from iron to cobalt to diamonds, but the Industrial Revolution started in Britain, which had only coal.

Sealing my disbelief, Wakanda in the movie is an autarky—a nation which is entirely self-reliant and which does not trade with other countries—yet has technology as advanced as any other country in the Marvel universe. But this would mean that Wakandans would have had to independently discover electromagnetism, relativity and quantum mechanics.

Even in the comics, scientific geniuses like Reed Richards (Mr Fantastic) and Tony Stark (Iron Man) build on a common knowledge of scientific principles to create their inventions. In the film, just one scientist (T’challa’s 20-something-year-old sister) has, like Q from the James Bond films, apparently designed and created all the new technology in Wakanda and the nanite-based devices used by the Black Panther to enhance his superhuman strength and agility.

Now it’s certainly possible for geniuses to be over-represented in one society, as has been the case with England, Scotland and America. But Wakanda is a strict monarchy and genius has historically only flourished in societies where the democratic ethos was developing. Indeed, even though in the film Wakanda is described as wealthy, it is only the nobility who live in tall buildings in the country’s only city—the ordinary people still inhabit mud huts with thatched roofs. I suspect this wasn’t an attempt by the director to highlight the failure of African politics but a romanticisation of poverty.

I realise, of course, that none of this would have interfered with most people’s enjoyment of the film—you have to be fairly familiar with economics and history to let such issues niggle you. And, in truth, I wouldn’t have even considered the unreality of Wakanda worth commenting on, save for the overwrought responses to a pretty good superhero film.

Photo: Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) in the hit film, Black Panther.
(Copyright Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios 2018)

But, precisely because Black Panther is being promulgated as an ideal to aspire to, it’s necessary to point out that the final message of the film, the moral necessity for Wakanda to establish links with the rest of the world, contradicts the premise that opposed values—cultural insularity, authoritarian politics and protectionist economics—could or would lead to development in any sense of that term.

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350 comments


  1. Warning: Undefined variable $userid in /www/wired868_759/public/wp-content/plugins/user-photo/user-photo.php on line 114
  2. Hahahaha Kelvin get more people reading his stuff because of Lasana’s post than any given day lol

  3. That was your take?? Wow. You’re probably the only person in the world with that interpretation.

  4. What! The! Hell! I finally saw The Movie. The hero is the single “good” white man.

  5. Baldeosingh, doing what he does best. Being a humourless, buzzkill contrarian.

  6. So I wonder what he’ll have to say about the Kingdom of Altantis when the Aquaman movie eventually comes out. Monarchy, autarchy, independent discovery of EM, QM etc…or maybe nothing, silence. I wonder why that might be? Nobility living in better accommodations than other parts of the city.

    • The difference between Aquaman and Black Panther is that Aquaman is marketed as a movie and will be viewed by the public as just a movie. Black Panther on the other hand seems to represent something more than just a movie to some.

  7. Nothing says secure in oneself than being offended about being called insecure.

  8. Justin and Rhoda, allyuh see how warm and fuzzy this thread turned out? Lol.

  9. Oh… And that bit when the lady war general stepped in front of a charging rhino and made a man give up his murderous intentions out of love…
    Allyuh can’t tell me that wasn’t powerful!
    The artistically inclined people in the group will have to tell me all the possible meanings of that one.
    But I know it stands for plenty good stuff!

  10. What the hell, it is fiction dude. All that economics and geo-politics, seriously!

  11. By the way, why are people so upset that Black Panther had a “token white boy” who was allowed to do the sum total of one useful thing in the whole movie?
    For decades, mainly white movies tried to include the token minority. We are going to begrudge the man a slice of the action, a pay cheque and the odd boast of having been a star in Black Panther? Lol.
    Also I thought the show stressed that he was saved as a good individual and not because he was CIA. And he never really represented CIA in Wakanda and they expected him not to report back to his employers.
    Whether that is naive or not is another question but the point is to say T’Challa believed the CIA was a helpful organisation just because he saved one of their employees is a stretch in my opinion.

  12. Okay, I watched the movie yesterday. And loved it!
    Great action, funny, gripping and very interesting. It wasn’t the best movie I ever watched but it was very, very enjoyable.
    I can’t comment on the supposedly inaccurate portrayal of Wakanda because I’m not a comic book buff.
    What I would say is in terms of implausibility, the plot seemed far more realistic than virtually every single James Bond movie I ever watched! And I remain a fan of the 007 franchise. Lol.
    On a superficial level, if Africa gave us the pyramids so many centuries ago then I don’t see how the technology here is such a big stretch if the premise is that one fictional African nation was allowed to grow unimpeded.
    Have to go read some of the critical pieces now about Black Panther not being a real revolutionary movie.
    It is true that it is a Disney movie and you have to bear that in mind when you consider how far the whole “black power” ideology would be allowed to go. But I didn’t feel there was a strong colonial thread in there personally. But will have a read and try to understand the case being put forward.

  13. Dear Author, “Suspension of disbelief” – I do not think it means what you think it means

  14. Just cannot do with out the British can you Baldeosingh? Do not let this “niggle” you but it is a “comic book?” No?

  15. It’s a movie. Get over yourself Kevin.

  16. Quick send this article to the Daily Stormer ormake him an understudy to Dinesh d’Sousa.

  17. Which book has ANYONE read or movie portrayal seen that accurately depicted the reality?! .. there’s a reason it’s called fiction.
    I remember reading the book The Thornbirds… then watching the 5-part t.v. miniseries. Even in that there were stark disparities but did I get my britches twisted in a bundle? No…. it was all fiction… I chucked it off as poetic license…in this case, kb’ s poetic licence to his usual pseudo-intellectual baldeodash…as coined in a previous comment.

  18. So Baldeosingh is an African people whisperer now?

  19. You analysis is not about reality or adhering to the correct portrayal of the comics as you claimed. Why does it bother you so much that blacks are being represented in such a positive way in this film?

    People watching the movie knows that Wakanda is not a real place. So stop hiding your negativity behind intellectualism. Allow people to imagine and to be inspired.

  20. it is very common that movies adaptation of comic book heroes are slightly different. Not the same. For Example, Spiderman: Peter’s first girlfriend was actually Betty Brant, not Mary Jane ( Spiderman 2002) or Gwen Stacy ( Spiderman 2012), In fact Mary Jane never went to school with Peter and Peter only met Harry and Gwen in COLLEGE not HIGH SCHOOL. So it is normal for the movie to stray just a little bit from the original comics. Stop over thinking.

  21. Alyuh really taking on a man who trying to bring his legend in his own mind to comics ,to a fictional story???it just reveals his character which is a pseudo intellectual posing as someone with sense ,come on give de man the toilet flush

  22. #Update #OJOTTRN #EXCLUSIVE
    Actress Teneisha Campbell is delivering on her promise to give back to her East Port of Spain community by launching a gofundme campaign sponsor at least 400 school children to see the Black Panther movie.

    Campbell, who acts as a Border tribeswoman in the film, launched the campaign on Sunday.

    Two days into her fund raising effort, Campbell has raised USD$400 of the USD$8,000 needed to provide tickets, transport and snacks for the children of schools around Harp Place, where she grew up.

    The former Bp Renegades player is hoping to raise the money before April 6th to take the children to MovieTowne in Port-of-Spain.

    “Our youths need as much support and guidance they can get, and this is just one simple way that you can help.”

    “The Black Panther movie has elicited a sense of pride particularly for marginalized individuals from all walks of life, but especially for Black people.”

    “The sense of pride due to the powerful and strong characters portrayed in the movie can truly inspire our youth to dream BIG and know that they are capable of achieving their goals and dreams despite the color of their skin or their socioeconomic backgrounds,” Campbell said in her appeal on gofundme.

    Here is the link where you can donate to the cause: https://www.gofundme.com/helptrinidadandtobagokidsseeblackpanther

    ( Dillon De Shong)

  23. I not reading Baldeosingh! Thank you Lasana Liburd, but I get more pleasure reading your articles.

  24. that all I can say about this attempt

  25. Won’t Wired868 get boring if we only had pieces that everyone could get behind? Eh?

  26. Geeze. I force myself to read Baldeosingh crap because the article provoked so many comments. So for my wasted 3 minutes I concluded that as usual Kelvin trying to toot his own horn. If the rest of us were as smart as him and versed in the studies of economics and history, we would all see that Wakanda is portrayed all wrong! And we would be incensed enough so that it would take away from our enjoyment of the movie. Gosh Kelvin…just eat your popcorn and enjoy the movie nah. It’s a fictitious movie about a fictitious place. Oh and it’s about black people….ok I see his issue

  27. u forget to mention Lasana Liburd kenwyne jones who we challenge religiously

  28. This is part of a broader problem in my view- both news and opinion in Trinidad and Tobago may now be so compromised that we are in a sea of “crafty serpents” as the Pope said, (referring to “fake news”)

    • There is a difference between being contrary and contrarian…with apologies for my spelling.

    • But this is not a space where opinions go by unchallenged Justin. Be they from Prime Minister, Police Commissioner or Chief Justice all the way down to journalist, blogger, letter writer…
      If there is one thing I can be sure of is that there is enough self-confidence and perceptive minds here to raise the right questions.
      Sometimes we are roused by what we perceive to be a positive offering, sometimes negative… But I think we are doing okay for ourselves.

    • An example would be Akilah Holder’s piece on the bible and the LGBTQI movement, which sparked a really fascinating response by Jessica Joseph on the translation of the Bible.
      Some Baldeosingh pieces were well received, some sparked discussion and others still sparked really interesting rebuttals. And we can learn something from all those responses.

    • Meanwhile, yuh shares in popcorn palancing all de way to the bank, ent Lasana Liburd? (Sips more Aloes water )

    • The rebuttal has to be systematic, not ad hoc- I have asked (because I do not know) whether that isn’t part of the editorial function- to ensure that ‘opinion’ is at least objective and independent and of a minimum standard in whatever field is relevant. This is a country in which one independent political scientist who is a columnist has never formed an independent objective opinion which favored a particular party. Another “intellectual” can be counted on every February to tell us why carnival is not culture. This article has a sentence in it that plainly conveys that an entire race is insecure. I’m wondering g if that line would get past an editorial board in London or New York. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know.

    • Colin, nah. Sport and satire are easily Wired868’s trademarks. The opinion section is growing but it is far from the leader in hits or anything else. We just put them up to give readers a chance to be a part of the site and also–generally–to share thought provoking stuff.

    • Justin I don’t think an opinion is ever objective. News should be as near to objective as possible and news features too. But opinions tell us as much about the people who share them as they do the topic in question.
      As far as those editorial boards in London or New York go, I have written professionally in both countries eh. First, I won’t say that we should fall in line with either just because they are London and New York and we are less glamorous.
      Also they might make more decisions based on commercial objectives than nation building. The bigger your board, the more pressure is on you to self-censor.
      As I’ve said before, there is only downside to pieces like this. There is no upside–or precious little. It provokes, turns some readers off and definitely won’t appeal to sponsors.
      Take the line you mentioned about an insecure race, for instance. Suppose I deleted that and then published this piece? It would have been more palatable. But it would not have been honest and it would not have given us the insight into the author.
      So, this way we start with a better idea of the subjective nature of the writer and we can judge accordingly.
      Sometimes when someone questions our appreciation or pride in something, that only pushes us as to ask ourselves why we have that pride or appreciation. Then we find positivity even in provocation.

    • I definitely don’t want to push readers away, especially people who are articulate and have ideas to share. My hope is always that they would weigh in and keep us an even keel rather than abandon ship.
      We know T&T society is pretty fragile and fractious. That’s the reality. We won’t fix that without lots of awkward conversations and arguments.
      We actually do reject some offerings eh Justin. So you can imagine how bad those are! Lol.
      Bear with us. The provocative pieces are the minority. But nice to be on our toes ever so often or to set Rhoda’s pulse racing at least once every week or two.

    • I defer to your better knowledge on this- bottom line is my laypersons view about publishing and editing is wrong. I would like to see the rejected work though-that has to be classic stuff.

    • Justin I can’t say yuh wrong nah. That would mean I’m right and I don’t know that for sure at all. I just know what I’m trying to do. I’m open to criticism. Maybe it is an experiment that isn’t worth the hassle in the long run. But I think it does spark some very progressive chats sometimes.

    • I missed it, but I see Fergus already see balderdash in Baldeosingh.

    • My take it is so important to know what we face…sorry who we face….because one day they may end up in positions of decision making over us.

    • Lasana Liburd…this column almost as stupid as Akilah letter. The sentences better constructed. But who decides they want a fictional story to stick to the “facts” and then decides that one ethnic group insecure based on their support for a movie that empowers them?
      Seems either the writer has an agenda or is trolling readers.
      And there are more effective ways to get my heart racing eh….

    • I would not waste much time on this article.

      This line alone is ridiculous “But this would mean that Wakandans would have had to independently discover electromagnetism, relativity and quantum mechanics.”

      The Wakandans engaged with scientists and other persons outside of Wakanda itself. Whether they traded freely or not is another matter. Kim Jong Un went to University in Switzerland after all didn’t he?

      Also the auther completely misses the point. The ideal to aspire to is the representation, finally, of strong non-white lead characters in Marvel movies. The ideal to aspire to is the sense of accomplishment of these black, non-white characters and the benefit of having this representation at this time, and at this scale, to society. Why the sudden focus on pedantries with this particular fantastical, super-hero movie?

      I think anyone who focuses on whether Wakanda is realistic or not is ignorant or obtuse.

      The fact that there are so many articles that are harshly critical of the black community embracing these characters is evidence of how badly this portrayal was needed.

    • Angel Stewart ‘s last paragraph there is the last word on the issue for me

  29. The irony of course is that the director himself, and the cast, on record discussing the pro-African ideology of the film….so the analysis in the “article” bemuses…

  30. Someone needs to alert our “writers” and “journalists” that being contrary, liking Naipaul and telling Tommy Joseph style jokes using entire columns instead of punchlines is not enough. It would be valuable to read an assessment of the whole body of work of some of them- you may find their “opinions” questionable, their philosophies incoherent and that they are really winging it and being allowed to because the population is intellectually insecure- afraid to expose obvious outrages. Notice I call the population insecure – not an entire race of people. That would be offensive, baseless, wrong and dotish and you would have to delete it because it would be unworthy of being published . Ent?
    “I liked the film. Contrary to the impression created by the hype of racial pride that was really a mask for deep insecurity, the ideology wasn’t overbearing and the writers and directors concentrated, as film-makers are supposed to do, on telling the story and creating a gripping spectacle. That said, my suspension of disbelief was continually challenged by the backstory of the Panther, as embodied in the fictional African country of Wakanda.”

  31. Lasana Liburd. You is a boss. Both articles by baldeosingh and clarke are great reads with different viewpoints, the basis of any discussion. Good job.

  32. Yorley Alejandra Mendez I haven’t seen the movie yet. What you made of this?

  33. I guess is a Black Panther documentary he want… miss me by miles with this shite

  34. Lasana, i’ve read EVERY SINGLE EDITION of the Black Panther and do I mean ALL, and while indeed the movie deviated (a little), so too does ALL the Comic Book Movies. I think Kevin Baldeosingh missed the mark on this on. Why? because of lines like this: “…Contrary to the impression created by the hype of racial pride that was really a mask for deep insecurity,…” and this “because Black Panther is being promulgated as an ideal to aspire to, it’s necessary to point out that the final message of the film, the moral necessity for Wakanda to establish links with the rest of the world, contradicts the premise that opposed values—cultural insularity, authoritarian politics and protectionist economics—could or would lead to development in any sense of that term..”

    Clearly, the writer missed the mark on this Movie. Ryan Coogler, unlike the comic books, actually dug deep and found a way to fuse Africa as we know it (language, culture) into a fictitious film that BLACK PEOPLE could relate too. So yea, i could see why Mr Baldeosingh would see it as “..hype of racial pride that was really a mask for deep insecurity..” i could go on and on smfh ,

    • Well I’m at a disadvantage here as I’m not a comic book buff and I haven’t watched Movie yet.
      Maybe I can contribute after I do later this week.

    • Lasana Liburd u should watch it. I am tired of seeing of heroes being portrayed as ones liberating people from suffering, being enslaved and all. For once and all-black film in every sense that i could enjoy with some subliminal. Like when Shuri called the white CIA agent a “colonizer” -_-

    • Lol. I never read the comics and I haven’t had a chance to see the movie either. But I force myself to read Baldeosingh because i wanted to see the rubbish for myself. So my conclusion is he just wanted to tell people that if they were only as learned as he is about economics and history, we would have found enough wrong with their portrayal of Wakanda that we would not have enjoyed the movie so much. He could rock so with that arrogant analysis

    • It is particularly petty for him to suggest that the intense feelings of pride felt by so many in response to the film was the product of ‘insecurity.’ In fact, I won’t dress it up, he’s talking shit. The emotion has to do with mainstream acceptance yes, and relief and elation attendant to the acknowledgement. To suggest that until this occured black people were sitting around insecure in our history and accomplishments is simply balderdash… or maybe is balderdash. Either way is shit.

  35. Such a talented writer too. Wasting it writing shit just to piss people off. That is the very worst use of talent. The “insecurity” bit, thrown in to troll and reel in comments… Kevin himself is the very definition of insecurity, as evidenced by everything he writes about every group (minority or otherwise) he targets. Target the rich and powerful, Kevin. Target bigotry and hate. Do your job man and stop pissing people off for attention with utter nonsense. You’re better than this.

  36. Once I saw who the author was, I changed the channel.

  37. he vex that the film is not historically accurate?
    Is that wah ah read here?
    Remind me to stop reading KB. He starting to sound like ah dumbass hater.
    steups

  38. Insecure me at my desk today. Kevin Baldeosingh! Fight me!

  39. Lasana Liburd yuh does collect a cheque/cash fer a Wired article?

  40. Lol comical …..moving on with my day

  41. Whole writing careers reduced to trolling. Amazing scenes were witnessed, oui.

  42. Bring back Mohan Ramcharan nah – begging

  43. 1. “Unlike 99 percent of the people who costumed up to go to the film, I had actually read most of the comic-books the Black Panther originally appeared in.”
    The first part of the claim is hyperbole and without evidence – may also be class and privilege related. The second part of the statement neglects the multiple re-boots that have taken place in the Marvel Comic Universe over the years with characters and contexts being re-imagined.

    2. “Although he ranked far below Iron Man, Spider-Man, Batman, Thor, Daredevil and The Incredible Hulk, in my teen years, the Black Panther was among my top ten favourite superheroes.” This seems suspicious and mathematically hard to fathom. Six (or seven if Shang Chi is included) heroes are already listed and if BP is among the top ten then he’s either 7,8,9 or 10th which does not seem that far a rank below…the metric is flawed, there are lots of ties or the memory is beginning to fail…it happens at advanced age.

    3. “T’challa was a king but he had to prove his worth by climbing a mountain to find and eat the plant which gave him superhuman abilities”
    The difference between the fact that in the comics T’Challa is a child when he becomes King and that he is a young man in the movies has already been discussed by the Director and others and the implication of this is related to the narrative arc of this character and his counterpart, Killmonger, in the film. Not quite the same arc with a teenage superhero (see Spiderman).

    4. “This would mean that Wakandans would have had to independently discover electromagnetism, relativity and quantum mechanics.” “Even in the comics, scientific geniuses like Reed Richards (Mr Fantastic) and Tony Stark (Iron Man) build on a common knowledge of scientific principles to create their inventions”.
    Or the rest of the world would have had to re-discover it. I suspect there is a scientific culture in Wakanda that shares knowledge and has access to that knowledge base – as mentioned in the film – the rest of the world was quickly catching up with what Wakandan science already knew and what Wakandan technology had created. [Didn’t see any equivalents to Jarvis or Ulton though…so Tony’s still got that!] Also…despite not trading with other countries it is possible to learn from their intellectual products through study and public libraries.

    5. “it is only the nobility who live in tall buildings in the country’s only city—the ordinary people still inhabit mud huts with thatched roofs.”
    True. However there is the possibility that these mud-huts are also made with Vibranium and another interpretation that housing meets the needs of the situation and location rather than the needs of real-estate developers (see the hut by the river in the second post-credit scene).

    6. “The final message of the film, the moral necessity for Wakanda to establish links with the rest of the world, contradicts the premise that opposed values could or would lead to development in any sense of that term.”
    The moral necessity for broader engagement at the end is not about development but survival, and not the usual my survival and way of life only but the broader survival of extinction level threats (Thanos et al). and is framed within an evolving Wakandan world-view that I suspect may be developed further in the coming films.
    #fakeviews

  44. Hmmm, great article and very informative!

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