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Black Panther: The Theory of the POC Saviour Mentality

Marvel’s Black Panther has arrived and to be really honest I was expecting a messy, chaotic, high octane enjoyable mess. I was dead wrong because Ryan Coogler and co gave a very important film that is filled with black pride, black power and black excellence. The film surely created a ripple effect that will echo throughout pop culture and might be the very reason Hollywood studios do more POC lead blockbusters.
 

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Black Panther has many great moments, but the opening scene really struck a chord with me and inspired me to write this piece. The scene just to sum it all up sees T’Challa aka the Black Panther go into rogue territory to go and save his love interest Nakia from some militants, the scene really hit home when I saw the last few shots of the group of people who were just saved, the look in their eyes set in motion this theory that I am about to share with you. This scene introduced an “idea or theory” that is spectacular and very important, an idea that has been on my mind since the film premiered here in South Africa.


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The theory is “POC Saviour Mentality”, this is basically the idea that people of colour can come to the rescue of people of colour, not just poc but everyone else. Unlike its white counterpart, the poc saviour mentality introduces the notion that people of colour are strong enough to save themselves but we are also strong enough to save the oppressor from themselves. People of colour have always known this but it’s about time that Hollywood finally caught up.

The mentality and its use in film narrative is extremely essential for the people it is representing, and those are the persons of colour. Mainstream cinema has misrepresented the poc since basically the dawn of time and has had white saviours come to our aid for their own self-serving needs. The “POC Saviour Mentality” allows for the gates to open on accurate representation on our heroes and stories in film. It will create this long lasting effect on the general public, an effect that will show us on film being our own messianic figures.


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Let me breakdown why this theory is so important for film narrative by using these aspects in relation to Black Panther;

 

The POC Hero for the People of Colour and the Rest of the World.

Sure we’ve had black superhero films before, there’s been Blade, Spawn, Meteor Man, Storm in X-Men just to name a few (with some other great poc TV superheroes) but none of them really had an impact like the way Black Panther did. These characters were still living in a predominately “white” world, they still relied on white people in some shape or form to come “rescue” them. This is unconsciously still the work of the white saviour mentality, in which the character always has to come “save” the poc. The scene in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in which Clark/Superman leaves Lex’s party to go save people in Mexico and they treat him as some sort of messiah or god, for me is a perfect example of the white saviour mentality, because when you think about it a perfect world Jaime Reyes (Blue Beetle) could have easily saved the day. Black Panther didn’t just save Wakanda but he saved the world (oppressors), from being destroyed in the very way poc have been destroyed.
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“The Not So Magical Caucasian”

Unlike the “magical” Negro stereotype, here the not so magical Caucasian is really just a character that does work, that a poc character would usually do in white lead movies, they ultimately serve no purpose to the grand scheme of things because whatever they’re doing could have easily been done by one of the poc characters available. An example with Black Panther would be Martin Freeman’s character (sure he had an “important” role) but he really was just useful up until the end of act 2. This is good because it allows poc characters to fully thrive and allow themselves to grow without being held back by the oppressive nature of the white character.


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Female Heroes.

Like Wonder Woman before it, Black Panther also showcases the female hero in all her glory and how she can go toe to toe with even the finest of men, but the really interesting part with Black Panther and its female characters is that they break the black female character Hollywood stereotype. They are self-assured, they’re not the typical “strong black female” Hollywood always portrays as fighting a struggle (usually their own personal struggle). The females aren’t your typical emotional female and T’Challa is not your typical masculine male, he is okay with women protecting him, he is okay with listening and taking advice from women and he is okay with expressing his emotions and I would dare say that he is okay with being vulnerable at times, and this is because of all the women around him. The film also opens up room for more growth in film for poc women characters.
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The Dynamics of the POC hero.

Black Panther embodies how for years people of colour have battled their ethnicity being categorized within negative stereotypes and villainous world expectations in cinema (and the real world too). This film boldly announces that the fight will continue until melanin is synonymous with everything that’s powerful, intellectual and moral. The second side of this film’s dual fight for black consciousness is how the characters celebrated themselves. In the scenes where T’Challa is challenged for the throne, wide shots of all the tribes adorning their traditional attire are shown in vibrant display. Every character, word and action in the film is motivated by the mission to remind the world of its origin: Africa, and uses all elements to show that black people’s morale is based on human character, not money or power or anything that could be taken away. This specific point is driven by one scene; the battle between Black Panther and Erik Killmonger - the fight for the human condition overthrows blood. The “colonizer”, being a repellent to the Wakanda people, is saved and welcomed because his intentions had changed despite his people’s history of being, well, colonizers. This clearly stood out as a pure representation of black people’s and other people of colours desire for a world that treats everyone as equal human beings but deals fiercely with those choosing to act less than.


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These aspects are important because they represent the different characteristics of the “POC Saviour Mentality” in the film narrative as a whole. “The POC Hero for the People of Colour and the Rest of the World” represents the physical and how the ordinary poc now sees themselves, they now see being heroes, embodying their cultural pride and leading the world into the light and believing in themselves enough to reach their full potential. The “Female Heroes” aspect represents the emotional landscape of the “POC Saviour Mentality”, this allows the hero to fully understand the struggles of the people and the world around them and them being able to know how to save it, they don’t need to look to another race for guidance because all the resources and knowledge they need is around them. “The Dynamics of the POC hero” is the consciousness aspect of the “POC Saviour Mentality” because it shows that there is more to the poc. It shows that our heroes don’t have to just be strong but they can be anything they want to be and they can be proud being whoever they are, which is a multifaceted character and not one dimensional.


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Film Marvel Superhero movies articles Op-ed Black Panther

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