The new Marvel film Black Panther is being simultaneously praised for being extremely diverse and not being diverse enough. However, the more interesting meta factor about this movie is that it is an ad for traditionalism. Knowing the culture in Hollywood this was probably an accident. In the pursuit of making a postmodern “diverse” movie, they created the opposite. This film bluntly hints that a traditionalist utopia could work and would be very appealing.
Firstly, Black Panther’s utopian city of Wakanda is only diverse in the minds of ivory tower liberals. The local population is all seemingly from the same ethnicity. Note the term “ethnicity” not race. There could be a lot of people from the same race in a location but Wakanda is filled with people of the same culture. They have a universally excepted set of traditions and certain styles of their dress and beliefs. They are not simply people with an African exterior but with a certain distinct unifying cultural interior. It shows that the strength of their culture is a large part of what makes this city so amazing and desirable.
These people of Black Panther’s Wakanda have a unique “way of being” and all the major characters are of this ethnicity and see value in it. They are strong not because of diversity but because of their cultural homogeny and tradition which does not conflict with science.
Often the counter-argument to tradition is that it is somehow anti-scientific or “holds people back”. The locals in Wakanda seemed to have maintained their culture while being pro-science. The movie shows that you do not have to sacrifice identity and tradition in order to have a tech. Normally Hollywood always shows advanced societies as “diverse” (cultureless) and materialistic (non-spiritual, non-philosophical). Again Black Panther shows a radically different and much more human future. This is a future of tradition, norms culture but also with lots of technology and comfort. There is no need for the Wakanda to murder its culture for iPhones. They are able to have their science cake and eat it too.
In the same way that Atlas Shrugged is fantasy fulfillment porn for libertarians Black Panther could do the same for many (especially African) traditionalists.
-Tim Kirby is a political analyst and award-winning radio talk show host in Moscow, Russia. Tim grew up in Cleveland, Ohio.
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