I am the last person to believe in black sacred cows. You want to go after the Obamas? Go for it. You want to question the quality of Beyoncé’s music? Have at it. You want to say that some of Ava DuVernay’s movies are boring? Be my guest. We’re ’bout that life here at The Root. Never scared. We slaughter sacred cows, grill them and serve them to vegans.
With one caveat. If you’re gonna come for something beloved by black people, have your receipts, freedom papers and evidence on lock. So when somebody with way too much time on his hands wants to complain about Marvel’s Black Panther with some weak sauce, we put on our boots and capes. Literally.
Philip Owira, a South African-based journalist and producer, had this to say on Twitter about the upcoming Black Panther movie:
Apparently Owira, who is probably the kind of person who complained that the hats in Straight Out of Compton weren’t authentic, or begins every conversation about movies with “Ackchyually,” decided to point out that Black Panther was, in fact, NOT filmed in Africa. SO MUCH FOR AFRICAN PRIDE!
Really? Like, this is what you bring your Twitter fingers to complain about? Needless to say, he was justifiably dragged by thousands of comic fans, fanboys, black people, people who like black people and probably Black Panther director Ryan Coogler using KD’s fake Twitter account. However, for thoroughness’ sake, let’s break this down for him and the few other stans who came to his defense.
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Movies are filmed in different locations all the time, because ... make believe. That’s how it works. Do you know how many times Marvel has used Cleveland as a stand-in for New York City for Avengers and Spider-Man movies? A city that couldn’t build a working subway if LeBron’s life depended on it? As many astute film analysts on Twitter pointed out, Lord of the Rings wasn’t filmed on Middle Earth, Star Wars wasn’t filmed in space and I’m pretty sure nobody really has tickets to Jurassic Park.
I’ve been meaning to write a very stern letter to Netflix about them NOT using that time machine in the main office to go back and film The Get Down properly. This kind of nonsense critique goes deeper, though. The notion that Black Panther has an obligation to show “African pride” (whatever that is), and that the only way such pride can be demonstrated is by filming somewhere on the continent, is ridiculous.
Coogler insisted on traveling throughout Africa to study before filming. The costume designer scoured the continent for ideas. Chadwick Boseman studied to find a noncolonized African accent for T’Challa. Wakanda’s entire vibranium economy is based on Congo’s exclusive rights to the rare mineral coltan (which is in basically EVERY cellphone). Finally, they filmed half the movie in Atlanta. I mean, that’s about as black as you can get for America.
I get it; lots of movies have scenes filmed in Africa—Age of Ultron, Judge Dredd, Mad Max: Fury Road, the original Star Wars (yeah, Luke’s home planet of Tatooine was filmed in Tunisia, so basically Africans were the Resistance’s only hope—*mind BLOWN*)—and it would’ve been nice to throw some extra cash into a local economy. The fact that Black Panther wasn’t filmed there, though, doesn’t make it have less “African pride” or make it less legitimate or authentic.
Remember, Wakanda is about as real as Zamunda. If you look it up on Google Maps, Wakanda is an apartment complex in Southern California, so we can only take authenticity so far. If it really matters to anybody out there, I’m fairly confident that there will be scenes filmed in Africa for Black Panther 2, which will be announced sometime after the opening credits of Black Panther next month.
In the grand scheme of things, though, this is what is wrong with some kinds of black folks and the unruly megaphone that Twitter gives you. Nonsense that used to begin with your auntie on the couch and end with a conversation on the back porch suddenly gets amplified by 10. One person gets mad that Michael B. Jordan might have a nonblack girlfriend and suddenly it’s a Twitter “boycott” of Black Panther. Somebody gets mad that Wakanda isn’t filmed in one of 8 zillion locations in Africa, and suddenly Black Panther doesn’t show “African pride.”
This is why we can’t have nice things. Because we get them, them some curmudgeon has to complain about them. Publicly. And ruin everyone else’s fun. I’m going to save my outrage for crazy pizza-store owners, racist clothing lines and Donald Trump’s administration. I’m not about to complain that a movie employing dozens of African-American and African actors, writers and designers—using influences from all over the Diaspora—isn’t “black enough” because the location shoots don’t meet Afro 101 standards of authenticity.