A 5th PERSPECTIVE - ASHLEY PAULS SHARES HER THOUGHTS ON BLACK PANTHER FROM CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR...
Ashley Pauls has officially joined The Story Geeks as a blogger! She'll be giving another perspective on all The Story Geeks content, just in written form!
Question #1: Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War... But, before we go there, have any of you been long-time Black Panther fans? How do you feel about Black Panther’s origins and his story as told in the comics?
I’m actually a new Black Panther fan, and I first met his character in Captain America: Civil War. Although there are a number of strong characters in that film, he immediately stood out to me due to A) his super cool costume, and B) more importantly, his commanding screen presence and regal air. He immediately felt like a fresh, new type of character that we hadn’t seen before in the MCU, and he more than holds his own with the rest of the Avengers. He comes from royalty and appreciates the power that position brings, but he isn’t arrogant or entitled in the same way that Thor initially was in his first solo film. Black Panther feels a great sense of responsibility to protect and lead his people. He takes his role very seriously, and you can tell he feels the weight of the responsibility he’s been given. He doesn’t take his position, or his resources (like the Black Panther suit) lightly.
Question #2: Let’s dig into Captain America: Civil War, now. The catalyst for bringing Wakanda — and subsequently, Black Panther — into the film is that 11 innocent Wakandans are killed by the Avengers in Lagos, Nigeria. Which prompts T’Chaka, the king of Wakanda, to condemn the Avengers for their inability to protect innocent lives. Do you think it’s fair to condemn the Avengers for their actions? How responsible are they here?
“With great power comes great responsibility” — that famous line from Spider-Man has become almost a cliché now, but I still really like it, because I think it captures the struggle all superheroes naturally face. If you’ve been given superpowers (or have the equivalent of superpowers thanks to technology, like Iron Man), you have a moral responsibility to use those powers for good and not evil. You also have to respect the fact that these powers could create (unintentional) collateral damage, and you are responsible for that too. The Avengers were trying to do the right thing on their mission to Nigeria (and earlier, in Sokovia, in “Age of Ultron”), but their mistakes did result in the loss of innocent lives, and that’s something they should have to address. They shouldn’t be afraid to use their powers to do good in the world and try to save lives, but at the same time they should also be cognizant of the fact they are more powerful than the average human and that their mistakes could also have a greater impact than the average human’s.
Question #3: One of the first things we hear from T’Challa, directly, is that he doesn’t like the U.N. He says, “Two people in a room can get more done than 100.” What do you think about his viewpoint and how is that viewpoint important for his character in this film? Is his viewpoint anti-democracy?
I don’t see that viewpoint as inherently “anti-democracy”; I think more what he means is, anytime you have a large group of people (and, thereby, a large number of opinions) it can be tough to get everyone to agree what the best decision is. It’s more challenging to reach a consensus when you have 100 voices speaking up than if you have two people; most times, it’s easier for the smaller group to reach a compromise. T’Challa strikes me as a decisive ruler who likes to take action and address an issue as soon as it becomes a problem. He is comfortable taking matters into his own hands and acting on his own. While he joins “Team Iron Man” in Civil War, we get the sense that he is still somewhat apart from the group, following his own code. One could make the philosophical argument that a good, moral king like T’Challa could probably accomplish more good more quickly in the world than, say, the U.S. style of government, where a large number of representatives have to agree in order to get things done. However, the problem with that theory in the real world is that you don’t always have a guarantee you’ll get a leader with a strong moral center, like T’Challa. Even though large groups of decision-makers can be less efficient, it’s always good to support a diverse mix of voices, who can keep each other accountable and bring their own viewpoints to an issue, to make sure all sides and consequences are being addressed.
Question #4: T’Challa references an after-life and speaks to two Egyptian deities, Bast and Sekhmet. What are your thoughts on Black Panther and Wakanda’s people revering these two Egyptian gods?
To me this communicates that the people of Wakanda have a respect for history and tradition, and they also respect that there is a higher power beyond themselves. Believing in the after-life and a higher power helps keep T’Challa accountable and reminds him that even though he is the king of Wakanda, he still has someone to answer to. He realizes his actions can have significant (and eternal) ramifications. Him referencing Bast and Sekhmet makes a lot of sense, since the former is an Egyptian goddess who was depicted as a cat and Sekhmet was depicted as a lioness. Cats are clever, fierce, solitary hunters — traits that describe Black Panther quite well.
Question #5: After his father’s death, T’Challa dons the Black Panther suit and makes it his mission to kill Bucky Barnes, who he believes to be responsible for his father’s murder. What do you think of T’Challa’s response to his father’s death? Is his response justified?
T’Challa’s response to his father’s death is certainly an understandable one, and it is in line with what we know from his character. I believe his mission is born more out of a desire for justice than pure revenge; he sees Bucky as a threat and wants him to answer for his crimes and also prevent him from hurting others. In T’Challa’s mind, this is the wisest and most prudent course of action. However — and herein lies the frequent problem with vigilante justice — this means that T’Challa is playing judge, jury, and executioner...and he’s acting based on incomplete information. The death of T’Challa’s father is only part of a puzzle that’s far more complex than he realizes, and stretches beyond Bucky Barnes. If T’Challa had actually killed Bucky, he’d have punished the wrong man; even though Bucky is not completely innocent, he’s not responsible for T’Chaka’s death.
Question #6: What do you think of T’Challa’s character development in this film? What’s different about his character at the end of the film?
In the beginning of “Civil War,” we can already see that T’Challa is a responsible person with a strong code of ethics and respect for justice. Although the sudden death of his father, King T’Chaka, devastates him, we can tell that T’Challa is already prepared to inherit that leadership role. He’s not unworthy of the throne, in the way that Thor was at the beginning of his first solo film (I promise, I really don’t mean to keep picking on Thor here!). He has some obvious maturity, and in no way does he come across as spoiled or entitled. However, even though T’Challa has good leadership skills, there is still room for growth within the character. He starts “Civil War” as a man apart; I get the sense that he joins Team Iron Man not because he actually wants to be a member of the team, but because this group’s goals most line up with his own (as opposed to Team Cap, which is illegally sheltering Bucky Barnes). Good or bad, T’Challa has his own agenda. He later breaks off from the group and secretly follows Steve Rogers, Bucky, and Tony Stark after they form a truce. Interestingly, though, when T’Challa has an opportunity to get revenge for his father’s death — by killing terrorist Helmut Zemo, the man who actually orchested everything — he chooses to stop Zemo from attempting suicide. It’s a surprising response from a man who previously vowed to kill the person responsible for his father’s death. During the course of the film, I think T’Challa came to appreciate that circumstances were more complicated than he first realized, and he no longer felt comfortable carrying out his planned act of vigilante justice. Instead, he chooses a more balanced, compassionate path, and this type of approach will serve him well as king of Wakanda, especially as we also see him granting asylum to his former enemy, Bucky, and trying to help him recover from his extensive brainwashing. I’m super excited to see what T’Challa’s upcoming solo film will do with some of these themes of power, justice, and responsibility — and especially to see how T’Challa continues to interact with the Avengers team during the upcoming “Infinity War.”
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