The Myth of Wakanda: How Hollywood Distorts the Legacy of Colonialism
The film Black Panther is one of the most profitable films in recent years, earning revenue in excess of $1.3 billion at the box office. Further, some expect the sequel to do even better. Throughout the world, audiences were captivated by the glamor of Wakanda, a sophisticated African state untouched by colonialism. Symbolically, Wakanda has immense appeal to black people. To many, Wakanda is an embodiment of black achievement in the absence of Western influence. By demonstrating the success of a black country untainted by Europeans, the film affirms the narrative that Western interference daunted the prospects of Africa. Adam Serwer, writing in the Atlantic illustrates the popularity of this presumption: “Black Panther is a love letter to people of African descent…Its actors, its costume design, its music, and countless other facets of the film are drawn from all over the continent and its diaspora, in a science-fiction celebration of the imaginary country of Wakanda, a high-tech utopia that is a fictive manifestation of African potential unfettered by slavery and colonialism.” On an emotional level, it offers people of African descent an opportunity to reimagine their place in the world. The only problem with this is that Black Panther is a dubious counterfactual.
Movies are rarely historically correct; however, Black Panther was created to challenge inaccuracies about black people. Therefore, this film and subsequent adaptations must aim to present a realistic interpretation of history. If we were still living in an era where movies were just seen as entertainment, then there would be no need to discuss the fallacies of Black Panther. Yet unfortunately, several commentators think that we ought to be learning from films based on unreliable assumptions. According to the storyline of Black Panther, Wakanda is an isolated nation whose wealth is due to an extremely powerful metal known as vibranium. To protect its resources from foreign invasions, Wakanda established a cloaking technology to hide the nation from the outside world. But Wakanda is an anomaly as described by Mariama Soy and Amadou Sy in a recent piece: “Because of its self-isolation, Wakanda appears to have an economic model where it does not trade its natural resource with the rest of the world: It lives in autarky and invests heavily in technology.” In real life, Wakanda would be Liberia, not Singapore, because isolated nations are often poor and backward. As one landmark study notes: “Growth can be achieved by all or virtually all countries that follow a reasonable set of political and economic policies, including civil peace, basic adherence to political and civil rights, and an open economy, through the absence of trade quotas, export monopolies, or incontrovertible currencies. All countries that followed such a pattern achieved per capita growth between 1970 and 1989 of two percent per year of greater.”
Contrary to the message of Black Panther, powerful African emp
Article from Mises Wire