It can be said without exaggeration that Black Panther – which was filmed in 2018 by Ryan Coogler (IMDb) – is one of the most successful Marvel films to date. This action-adventure-Sci-Fi movie follows the early reign of King T’Challa of Wakanda when he was attacked by Eric Killmonger, his rebellious cousin. Killmonger dreams of seizing the throne in order to commit violence, kill T’Challa, and bring Wakanda under his control. The movie’s main purpose seems to be to raise the issue of colonialism and people of color by appealing to practical strategies of logos, pathos, and ethos. This paper aims to discuss the film through the rhetorical perspective and define whether Black Panther is successful and efficient in this regard.
Coogler tends to demonstrate a sufficient degree of logic and evidence when it comes to the core issues of the film, which is an appeal to logos. Moreover, there is a lot of innovation in Black Panther; this is the first film in ten years in which the main superhero is a black man. This is the first film to show African culture so widely. In addition, Black Panther explores the theme of colonialism – how modern society can forever abandon its dark past.
The Western world wants to quickly forget about colonialism, but Black Panther is not afraid to call a spade a spade (Lu). Killmonger mentions the British plundering and desecration of Africa when he looks at artifacts from the British Museum. It seems apparent that the film appeals to the widest audience here as it raises the problem relevant to the entire world, for people of all ages.
Colonialism, or rather its absence, determined the success of Wakanda. This state embodies the idea of a non-colonized Africa. This is the foundation of Afrofuturism – a design ethos that can be seen throughout the film. At the heart of everything is a thought experiment – what would Africa be like if it were not touched by the colonialists? (Crumpton). The idea is that without oppressing and suppressing, any culture or nation will become developed and capable of bringing good to the world.
Ideological choices are embodied by the characters in the film. The former rulers of Wakanda professed a detachment from the rest of the world. Killmonger feels the strength of Wakanda and intends to aggressively take revenge on the colonialists. T’Challa takes a centrist position – he cannot fully accept the opinion of his ancestors, but he also sees flaws in Killmonger’s logic. Ascending the throne after the mock assassination of the Black Panther, Eric dispatches ships from Wakanda to wage war against the Western world. This becomes the main conflict of the Black Panther finale.
Coogler has a specific approach to characters in his movie while delivering the message, which is an appeal to ethos. Despite the fact that T’Challa is the main character, he is not the constant focus of the film. He is already a formed hero of the MCU; his role is to be the king of Wakanda. T’Challa is the driving force behind Wakanda, but around him is Dora Milaye, who takes the lead when T’Challa is presumed dead at the end of Act II.
Hence, T’Challa’s path came out very personal, but it is closely intertwined with the development of the state and attitudes towards colonialism. T’Challa enters a physical confrontation with Killmonger, but the main problem that T’Challa solves is the choice between ideologies. He does not adhere to either the ideals of isolationism or the doctrine of violence. He decides to reveal Wakanda to the world for the common good.
At the end of the film, he ascends the throne as a leader of a new type – one who does not renounce his roots but is not afraid to move forward. Indeed, in the context of mythology, it becomes something more. Since Killmonger destroyed all the Heart-Shaped Herb (T’Challa used the latter), T’Challa is the last of the Panthers; or he must start a new dynasty.
The movie tends to appeal to the beliefs, values, and emotions of the viewer to a significant extent. The primary emphasis here is on the fact that people of color have been oppressed and suppressed throughout the whole history, and by demonstrating several African cultural peculiarities, the director makes the audience recall how these people have been treated. Such an approach results in sympathy not to a particular character but to Wakanda as an Afrofuturistic phenomenon as a whole.
Principles of Black Panther Design
The overall picture of the film is delivered in a professional manner, given that it is a product of Marvel. The movie is considerably balanced – there are many action scenes that entertain the audience, as well as moving, dramatic, and slow ones when there is an appeal to the above-mentioned serious issues. Then, the elaborated plot allows the depiction of the story coherently, which contributes to significant alignment and consistency.
The director groups complimentary items – like the confrontation of Wakanda’s technologies and the outside world’s ones in action scenes – to show the unity of the fiction universe. Finally, by contrasting several aspects – for instance, Wakanda and the untouched African nature of the traits of the protagonist and antagonist – the film makes a clear emphasis on the messages it wants to deliver.
Given such a notable combination of the rhetorical and visual aspects in Black Panther, it might be claimed that the movie is significant from both perspectives. It was found that Black Panther expediently, appropriately, and effectively appeals to logos, pathos, and ethos. The main message of the inappropriacy of colonialism and oppression was delivered. The movie noticeably combinates the basic principles of design, which, again, results in its significance.
Crumpton, Taylor. “Afrofuturism Has Always Looked Forward.” Clever, 2020.
IMDb. “Black Panther.” Imdb.comю
Lu, Joanne. “Why Big Thinkers Can’t Stop Talking About ‘Black Panther’.” NPR, 2020.