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The Cultural Importance of Marvel’s Black Panther

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My preparation for the release of Black Panther, really the preparation of all of my close friends and family, likely many of yours as well, has less to do with anticipation of what we will see on screen, and nearly everything to do with the very real fact that the film exists.

This preparation in what to wear, who to go with, how many times to see the film, who to commiserate with on social media…all stem from the very important space occupied by a film about a fictional African king and hero, from a fictional African nation, in a fictional grand comic book universe.

Black Panther, above all else, represents an opportunity for a community to experience itself as being fully realized in public. On screen. A self-contained world where the ruler, the hero, the loves, the society, the ways…all look and believe and know like they do. It is rather unique, and thus exciting, to know that Black men, women and children, will be the focus of the tale. Not sidekicks, or adjuncts. Central. Fully meaningful. Opportunities such as these are few for Black people. Anywhere in the diaspora.

Black Panther is important for the meditative space it will provide. There will be a time where many will lapse into feelings of self-love. Feelings that aren’t typically promoted in media. As a Black person, you are allowed to see all of the most flawed versions of your family, but rarely can you see a broad version of your best.

This film, once you begin to peel at its layers, is pressing Afrofuturism. A vision of a future that has a Black face, body and mind, that is felt and known in all three dimensions of much of Black life. The Dora Milaje are nurturers, warriors, partners and friends. That is precisely how much of the Black community experiences our mothers, sisters, lovers and neighbors. It houses a young man learning his way in the world, fighting outside influence…these are all stories out of the journal of Black life, anywhere. Made real. With an adventure as a backdrop.

The importance of Black Panther, its excitement, its allure, is in its most critical meaning. That it can be shared with our neighbors of all backgrounds, but it is ultimately about us. Not just one of us, being a superpowered hero somewhere in Africa, but one of us. A person. Black, and strong. Supported. Experiencing all that every other human person can.

And do understand, that is an important distinction, as our lives are often portrayed in marginalized and limited ways. While an Marvel entity, the social experience around the movement toward this film’s release feels like it is a community property. It is ours.

There will be those who will suggest, from their view, that it is simply a film. They would be having only part of the conversation. There is a history and a psychology to consider. Rarely are there opportunities for the overall Black community to see itself represented fully, unashamedly, in full view of our nation family. This will be a real live party. Two hours worth of enjoying our skin, where we typically have to survive being in it.

This film is a powerful tool as a seed. Seeing the enthusiasm, the wide eyed joy, that many are experiencing as it draws near, suggests that there will be more opportunities on grand stages for art with central Black characters and stories. Like this one, they can be told and crafted by Black creators and crafts people. It represents a simple chance to suggest to the necessary powers and thinkers that our community can be painted across all media with as wide a storytelling arc as possible. On screen, on page, wherever we are, we can be represented in all human pursuits.

Some of my neighbors in other communities will be uncomfortable with this level of celebration and pageantry. They will look to pick the film apart critically. They will opine that all of this noise for a film that won’t change anything “in the grand scheme” is unwarranted. I would respond that none of those concerns is a relevant one. Not in this moment. What matters most now is what is coming. A film about us, that we have made for us, that all of them, all of you, get to share with us. Because, do know that we have made it ours. It is a community feast, and all are invited. It is best to leave any misgivings at home.

The world outside of Wakanda will be in the backdrop, just as we all know that we will return to real life in over two hours after the film starts. Just as we know that all of the racial and supremacist, and oppressive ills of the world will be waiting, so will T’Challa and his people be ready for them. It is not so much fiction, as it is considered a music video for the kind of efforts Black people feel we must often make to face the world each day.

And there is where the connection is. The central human one. Where comics, and heroes represent a projection of us. An idealized version of us. In those pages, and on those screens are moments to escape our doubt and fear, to see someone we attach ourselves to, face the issues and falter, as we do, and name those fears, and strike at them, with it all on the line. For the human psyche, that is a kind of therapy. We all, all of us, everywhere, want for that to be us.

But in this moment, just here, with Black Panther, this is for us. It is the time for a Black man who is now king, and Black women who are powerful, and Black children to have a land of their own to name, to know that this will be us on screen. And that has so much hopeful and personal meaning. A soil we are not often allowed to plant our beliefs in. Here, we can escape to it.

And you all get to venture off with us. You are most welcome. Wipe your feet before entering and having a seat. Appreciate what you are seeing. Let us go.

Written by: Napoleon Wells

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Caesar’s Reign Comes To The Big Screen With New Trailer For Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes

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Director Wes Ball breathes new life into the global, epic franchise set several generations in the future following Caesar’s reign, in which apes are the dominant species living harmoniously and humans have been reduced to living in the shadows. As a new tyrannical ape leader builds his empire, one young ape undertakes a harrowing journey that will cause him to question all that he has known about the past and to make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike. “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” is directed by Wes Ball (the “Maze Runner” trilogy) and stars Owen Teague (“IT”), Freya Allan (“The Witcher”), Kevin Durand (“Locke & Key”), Peter Macon (“Shameless”), and William H. Macy (“Fargo”). The screenplay is by Josh Friedman (“War of the Worlds”) and Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (“Avatar: The Way of Water”) and Patrick Aison (“Prey”), based on characters created by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver, and the producers are Wes Ball, Joe Hartwick, Jr., p.g.a. (“The Maze Runner”), Rick Jaffa, p.g.a., Amanda Silver, p.g.a., Jason Reed, p.g.a. (“Mulan”), with Peter Chernin (the “Planet of the Apes” trilogy) and Jenno Topping (“Ford v. Ferrari”) serving as executive producers.

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Masterchef Is Back! For Halo Season 2

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A quick recap – Halo is set in a war-torn 26th century, where humanity led by the United Nations Space Command or UNSC and their supersoldiers known as Spartans, fights against the onslaught of the alien conglomerate known as the Covenant. The full dust-up of Halo Season 1, can be found here. Onward into the introduction of Halo Season 2!

It’s been six months since the forced separation of Spartan Masterchief John (Pablo Schreiber) and Cortana (Jen Taylor), and the Silver Team has been sent on a mission to evacuate residents of the planet Sanctuary before the Covenant glasses the whole thing. This comes with its own set of challenges, given the resistance of the planet’s inhabitants, and it doesn’t help that Masterchef starts seeing things right in the middle of trying to save some marines. Or is he? Those energy swords the squad of Elites were carrying looked worryingly real.

Back on Reach, the Silver Team is entirely dismayed to learn they have a brand new Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) representative come in as the new boss, to finally replace the traitorous Halsey, James Ackerson (Joseph Morgan). And of course, Ackerson manages to immediately get under Masterchief’s skin, by not only expressing far too much interest in John’s relationship with Cortana but also apparently disbelieving of John’s report of his encounters on Sanctuary. That just means Masterchief has to go around, if not entirely over, Ackerson’s head.

Elsewhere, Soren (Bokeem Woodbine) is trolling the slave markets in his boredom, only to stumble across a soon-to-be indentured servant who claims he knows the whereabouts of the UNSC’s most hunted human, Catherine Halsey (Natascha McElhone). That should bring a huge bounty, but really, Soren should’ve known better by now.

Halo Season 2 premieres Thursday, February 8th, 2024, and will continue to air every Thursday, only on Paramount+!

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Reborn as a Vending Machine I Now Wander the Dungeon’: I look forward to your next use!  

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If the title of this delightful little isekai anime entry didn’t give it all away, our nameless protagonist is a vending machine fanatic who, after being killed by a vending machine, gets reincarnated in another fantasy-style world as one! 

Japan has a tendency to give birth to all sorts of crazed fads that can last for decades, and no one does better when it comes to the vending machine industry, too. These days there are vending machines that will serve you sushi you can actually eat, hot pizza in the box, wagyu steaks, freshly popped popcorn, and a whole mind-boggling array of tasty treats, and other non-edible but still useful items! Umbrellas! Condoms! Oxygen masks, sterile bandages, shoes, and emergency clothing! Actually, far more things that we use on an everyday basis, could be considered as technically a vending machine, and the anime explores that beautifully. Into the world of vending machine fanaticism, we dive! 

So our poor protagonist never gave a name, and inevitably when he’s discovered by his first official friend the starving hunter Lammis, she dubs him “Boxxo”. Like many isekai that seem to take inspiration from video games and RPGs, Boxxo discovers he ways he can communicate, level up his existence, and even evince magic-like powers and attack and defend against monsters and enemies. Though in the beginning, and as an underlying theme throughout the show, Boxxo is primarily concerned with providing unique never-before-tasted-in-this-world food and drink to the amazed folk, human and otherwise. 

Boxxo’s prices are entirely reasonable and hey, he can even choose to give out his wares for free on occasion, so his popularity immediately skyrockets. Lammis with her awkward charm and prodigious strength blessing, introduces Boxxo to other friends of Clearflow Lake Village and associates along the way – Director Bear, an actual bear-monster who’s the head of the Hunters Association; Lammis’ friend Hulemy, the insane genius magic item engineer; the Bearcats Suco, Pell, Short and Mikenne, cheerful hunters with astronomic appetites; even suspicious Kerioyl, leader of the Menagerie of Fools party. 

The show approaches the practicality and versatility of the true vending machine with amusement, but also with the love true fans display for things they’re passionate about. Certainly, things like a brothel needing a condom vending machine exist in our world, but to toss them into a potentially more innocent other-world isekai is a welcome and often hilarious treat. The show celebrates the cheerful idiocy and devotion of the fans to their chosen fandom, in this case, yes vending machines, but also the spirit of the lonely otaku finally finding their Tribe! 

Pay your coins to watch ‘Reborn as a Vending Machine’ on Crunchyroll now! 

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