Character and Monomyth Black Panther Research

Black Panther: Character and Monomyth

The great success of the 2018 superhero film Black Panther was noteworthy from a cultural perspective because it was a blockbuster superhero film to gain wide acclaim with an African-American cast and proudly Afro-centric themes. The film is testimony to the success of the demand that historically marginalized groups see themselves represented in major cinematic productions. However, despite the fact that the hero TChalla is noteworthy due to his ethnicity and race, his story in many ways embodies the traditional, critical aspects of the monomyth of the heros journey, in which a hero is called to embark upon a needed journey (usually reluctantly), is initiated into a new way of life, followed by a return.

In Black Panther, TChalla must return to his native Wakanda to assume the throne after the death of his father TChaka. To do so, he must face a test in the form of defeating M Baku. Other elements of the quest narrative manifest in Black Panther are the wise figure who counsels the hero, in the form of tribal elders. TChalla is able to realize his objectives through the form of supernatural aid, such as the magical, heart-shaped herb which is the original source of all of the tribes power and heroic strength in the first place. Rather than the traditional temptress figure of the heroic journey, however, women feature in very positive roles throughout Black Panther, including Nakia, who, after TChalla has apparently been thrown to his death, heals him through the use of herbal medicine. This is also a feature of the return narrative, in which the hero faces death and sometimes dies and is brought back to life with a new sense of purpose and perspective.

The strong, feminist heroines of Black Panther are yet another example of how the film is very much a product of its time. The heroic journey has often been criticized for placing an excessive emphasis on masculine forms of psychological development, effectively writing women out of the core, mythic structure that is supposed to define all mythologies. Black Panther depicts women as involved participants in the future of Wakanda and they possess heroic attributes that are strong and physical in nature, not simply spiritual. Still, it cannot be denied that the battles of Wakanda are still fundamentally male in nature, and physical strength aided by supernatural prowess is an important component of the myth.

A final way in which the film resonates with the issues of today is the ways in which the inhabitants of Wakanda confront racism. Some, like TChalla, uphold their heritage, while others conspire with outsiders who would threaten the power of the mythical African-inhabited kingdom. Wakanda wishes to share its power with other African peoples to enable them to better fight against the forces of European racism and colonialism. Although Wakanda has been given special status that enables it to better protect itself from the negative onslaught of racist forces, this does not mean that other African peoples are inferior, and the ultimate hope of Black Panther is that all will benefit from Wakandas cultural pride and strength.

The use of contemporary scenes and real life threats to Black empowerment effectively blend fantasy film elements and reality to give added drama and weight to the events of the film. The film depicts TChalla going back and forth between a modern, contemporary existence that more accurately mirrors that of the audiences reality and the fantastic world of Wakanda. Even though the elements of Wakanda may use typical superhero motifs, the implication is that the dignity embodied in characters like TChalla is not. The film ends with TChalla, now the undisputed leader of Wakanda after overcoming all of his adversaries, giving an address to the United Nations. This conclusion further underscores the contemporary relevance of the film, and the fact that its director and writer aspired for it to have a status that transcended that of a mere action film.

Works Cited

Black Panther. Directed by Ryan Coogler. Walt Disney Studios, 2018.

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1st ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton

University Press, 2008.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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