UCSB Professor and Cultural Consultant of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” sheds light on the film’s overarching themes
SANTA BARBARA, Calif.—“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” broke box office records and also stole the Academy’s heart, receiving 5 Academy Award nominations.
We spoke with one UCSB professor, who lent his expertise as a cultural consultant for the film.
He says the film sheds light on important issues including the concept of communities of color being pitted against each other and what it means to be an outsider.
“Black Panther, it's an opportunity for us to all step back and think about our relationships to ethnicity and culture in the united states and globally,” said Aldana.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is the follow-up to the 2018 blockbuster “Black Panther.” The film follows Queen Ramonda and her fellow Wakandans as they fight to protect their nation from other world powers after the death of King T’challa-- played by the late actor, Chadwick Boseman.
The sequel introduces a new group of underwater beings called the Talokanil, led by a mutant that Meso-American folklore calls K’uk'ulkan.
“K’uk'ulkan isn’t a specific identity. it is a concept. it’s an entity that can move between all 3 cosmological realms. and that’s exactly what Namor is in the film,” said Aldana.
Both the Wakandans and the Talokanil have a precious resource called Vibranium.
The rest of the world will do anything to find it-- putting both groups at risk.
Fears of a future invasion and colonization pits the Talokanil against the Wakandans.
"It’s not that they’re antagonistic towards one another until there’s this search for Vibranium which they both have, and that’s the same thing that we see in Africa and Latin America today” said Aldana.
Aldana says watching the conflict is jarring, but necessary.
“It is challenging as a person of color to sit in the movie and to see black on brown violence. Why am i experiencing this because I know this is a part of my every day world,” said Aldana.
He adds that both these groups of people are seen as outsiders by their common enemy— other world powers that want their resources.
“When the Talakonil come out of the water that’s when they’re blue. but when they go back under water they’re brown skinned, which is their natural skin. so they say in many ways that’s what it feels to be an indigenous person outside of their home… of their home community… People aren’t seeing you the way you see yourself. They’re seeing you with blue skin,” said Aldana.
But Aldana says you can argue that being an outsider is a superpower. Leaders like K’uk'ulkan can live underwater and fly, having a bird’s eye view on how the world operates.
“It can move into the underworld because it’s got serpent like qualities, it can live in this realm with us on the surface, but it can also fly because it’s a feathered serpent,” said Aldana.
Just like K’uk'ulkan transcends the underwater, earthly, and celestial realms, “black panther: wakanda forever” is transcending what an oscar worthy movie looks like.
“It’s more than just a comic book movie,” said Aldana.
Fans and critics alike praise this sequel. Many say they finally feel seen.
“Black people in the United States… members of the African diaspora are recognizing parts of themselves when they see Wakanda represented. and Latino people and indigenous people are seeing parts that they can relate to when they see the Talokanil. And so that level of bringing truth into representation and in art is what makes this film so much more powerful than what you might think it is when you say oh it’s a Marvel film,” said Aldana.
And just like that “Wakanda Forever” is living up to its name making a lasting impact on viewers and the landscape of cinema.