How long is a generation these days? I must film review essay in Mark Zuckerberg’s generation—there are only nine years between us—but somehow it doesn’t feel that way. At the time, though, I felt distant from Zuckerberg and all the kids at Harvard.
We have different ideas about things. Specifically we have different ideas about what a person is, or should be. I often worry that my idea of personhood is nostalgic, irrational, inaccurate. In The Social Network Generation Facebook gets a movie almost worthy of them, and this fact, being so unexpected, makes the film feel more delightful than it probably, objectively, is. From the opening scene it’s clear that this is a movie about 2.
It’s a talkie, for goodness’ sake, with as many words per minute as His Girl Friday. If you are already a subscriber, please be sure you are logged in to your nybooks. Black Panther, a movie unique for its black star power, depends on a shocking devaluation of black American men. Black Panther, the most recent entry into the Marvel cinematic universe, has been greeted with the breathless anticipation that its arrival will Change Things.
The movie features the leader of a fictional African country who has enough wealth to make Warren Buffet feel like a financial piker and enough technological capacity to rival advanced alien races. Such black empowerment was supposed to change things by effectively challenging racist narratives. To explain my complaint, I need to reveal some key plot turns: spoiler alert. Wakanda is a fictional nation in Africa, a marvel beyond all marvels. Its stupendous wealth and technological advancement reach beyond anything the folks in MIT’s labs could dream of.
The source of all this wonder is vibranium, a substance miraculous in ways that the movie does not bother to explain. But so far as we understand, it is a potent energy source as well as an unmatched raw material. A movie unique for its black star power depends on a shocking devaluation of black American men. We know that his father, T’Chaka, the previous king, died in a bomb attack.
T’Challa worships his father for being wise and good and wants to walk in his footsteps. But a heartbreaking revelation will sorely challenge T’Challa’s idealized image of his father. Killmonger is trying to make his way to Wakanda to make a bid for the throne. He believes he is the rightful king.
Why did T’Chaka kill his brother? N’Jobu was found with stolen vibranium. The motive for the theft is where the tale begins—and where the story of black wonderment starts to degrade. We learn that N’Jobu was sent to the United States as one of Wakanda’s War Dogs, a division of spies that the reclusive nation dispatches to keep tabs on a world it refuses to engage. In the United States, he learns of the racism black Americans face, including mass incarceration and police brutality.