Afro-Latinos (read Black Latinos) don’t have many heroes in superhero movie mediums. We have seen a lot of cis-hetero white dudes carry the superhero mantle, be redeemed for their mistakes, and lead teams with reckless abandon. Those same dudes review-bombed two really good women-led superhero films, which really highlights how they believe the superhero space just belongs to them. A lot of those same dudes reviewed T’Challa’s first appearance (“what is with the horns whenever he’s on screen”, they said, like a superhero theme playing when a hero was onscreen was somehow an anomaly) and 2018’s Black Panther with a serious lack of cultural-competency. We heard that it wasn’t very good, wasn’t Marvel’s best, and how they didn’t really understand Killmonger’s beef with America.
It was strange, word to Stephen, but expected.
In a post-Black Panther world, we saw Marvel position T’Challa as the man who would lead and influence the next iterations of the Avengers. It was not a mistake for the final stand versus Thanos to take place in Wakanda, or for the first person to walk through the portal to be her King. Whereas the first version of the flagship group included absolutely zero diversity, this next generation would be made up of not just the Black Panther, but a new Captain America, two LGBTQ+ heroes, a Muslim mutant, a Jewish protector (unfortunately played by a Guatemalan actor, but progress brings missteps sometimes) with mental health issues, and two Black, armored Avengers. With diverse heroes, we were bound to get diverse villains, too: Black Panther gave us our first non-white villain and Marvel then cast an absolute legend in Tony Leung in a movie with a primarily Asian cast. Progress was slow but steady, and people were not happy. Still, for us Black folks, T’Challa represented so much more than just a seat at the table: he was the guy the table was built for.
When he died, there was this absurd movement to recast T’Challa led by A LOT of neckbearded cis-hetero white dudes. This seemed to coincide with the rise of scoopers who would throw so much at the wall with the hope that clout would follow if even 20% was right. They could then say that Marvel changed what they got wrong, which means they were never wrong, and rinse and repeat for the next movie. The sequel to Black Panther brought even more of that: we heard of an imaginary scene with a Fantastic Four villain making their debut, how it would end with the Thunderbolts descending on Wakanda, and how Lake Bell was playing a bigger character than what she really ended up playing. It was frustrating but expected. I treat “leaks” like fan fiction anyway and love coming back to them to see what they got wrong and whether there is ever any accountability. You guessed it: there isn’t any.
However, there should be, and it was during the lead-up to Wakanda Forever ‘s release date that I first thought “this is some bullshit.” If you’ve seen Wakanda Forever, you know that there is only one tag after the movie concludes, and it is a pretty important deal. I will not spoil it here, but needless to say it is one of the more impactful scenes Marvel has ever added both in terms of what it means for the future of the MCU and how it ties into the theme of Phase 4: grief and legacy are always intertwined, and as we try to grapple with those who aren’t here we have to come to grips with how we will remember them. Wakanda Forever, in that regard, almost gives us a front-row seat to the homegoing of T’Challa and lets us remember him for what he is and what he could’ve been. The tag at the end of the movie, then, acts as a way for us to see a future where the grief has settled. To have that moment ruined a full year before the movie came out would’ve been bad enough on its own. To have the choice to ruin it be justified as something fans needed to know made it substantially worse. That scene was so beautifully executed, but to have experienced that scene with no prior knowledge would’ve hit substantially differently. Nobody would’ve had less clout had it not been shared prematurely, and as a man of color and father, it hit a little differently than your normal Marvel stinger. Because of those two things, Wakanda Forever hit differently than your normal Marvel movie. Chadwick deserved for us to experience it the right way.
Scoopers will go back to ruining movies: they can’t help themselves, after all. It is telling that a Native American site owner is letting me write and publish this, and I’m eternally grateful to Charles for giving me this platform. It’s also telling that, even with us knowing things, we’ve never ruined a movie for anyone. The goal for us is to write about the stuff we’ve loved since we were kids. I thought that was the reason we all started doing this, anyway. Cheers to Black Panther, and to the Scoopers Who Almost Ruined it: I hope you chew gravel.