The Black Panther movie is good, but not great.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Wednesday, my Husband asked me if I wanted to go see Black Panther and with hopes of retaining my "black card" that apparently got revoked by my lack of desire to see this film, I thought why not?

Set in Wakanda, a fictional African country, Black Panther transports audiences to a world where black people are at the center of their own narrative and aren’t serving as a lesson in service of a white protagonist’s character development.

Even though there are various accents that make you unsure of which part of Africa they are trying to magnify the most, the film is not only groundbreaking in how it portrays Africa, but it’s pioneering in its casting of mostly dark-skinned female actors. Black Panther also features actors of African descent.

I can be hard to easily impress, especially when it comes to things involved within promotion of the Black person and/or community. I know that sounds weird, but there are so many powerful movements that are tremendously stomped over by whatever fake online advocates deem most popular at the moment. This is one of the many reasons why I wanted to wait until I saw this film, before getting any type of excitement, pride, or satisfaction. 

Once I left the theater, I felt as I imagined to which was the same way I felt going in: nonchalant. I sat down not expecting much, and the film had it's moments of interest and messages that were spot on but it wasn't as "amazing" as so many fellow movie goers made it to be. So I have made my review of this movie into a list of the 'good' and the 'bad'.

*Be prepared for spoilers!*

The Good:

1. I admire how Black Panther uses the relationship between Killmonger and T’Challa as a display for various things, such as:

A. The brokenness between Blacks and Africans.

I grew up in a home with two beautiful woven Black parents, that are still married to this day, and instilled in me an awareness of my blackness, something to never be ashamed of and take as a gift. But I was never allowed to call myself African American around them. Their mentality was, "if you were not born there, you are not from there" and I grew up thinking that Blacks and Africans were two different ethnicities all together. I never understood this analogy and unfortunately never had to challenge it. Growing up in a predominantly white area, in school, I was often the only Black student in the class, and I was never taught about the history of my people in explicit fashion. As far as my parents were concerned, “Black” (African) people sold out other “Black people” to the whites, and that’s how slavery began so why should we want to call ourselves African anything?
It wasn’t until someone called me an “African Nigger” in 6th grade when I came to class rocking a freshly braided hairdo, that I became curious to know the truth. By 12 years old, I had skewed, unintentionally distant hatred for my own ancestors, and brothers and sisters from a country that I knew nothing about. I even had a moment of feeling "privileged" (how naive I was) as I was told that being “lightskinned”(which really meant lighter than most blacks) meant I would be seen as prettier, and I could claim less and less of a percentage of my blackness the straighter I wore my hair.

In the film, T'Challa, (black panther) is made known of a new enemy, Killmonger, who happens to be his Father's brother's son, from Oakland. Killmonger's father was a spy sent to America and in the midst of his mission, becomes a traitor to Wakanda. T'Challa's father kills him, hence sparking Killmonger's hatred towards his African family. Through their rivalry, you see how oblivious T'Challa is to the life that his cousin has had to live, growing up in a world who heavily oppresses the black male and on top of that, without a father. The disconnected relationship between many Blacks and Africans is strongly pointed towards, suggesting that a majority of Africans are actually unaware of the struggles of the American Black. Many Africans have grown up not being taught the history of life after Africans were brought to America, thinking that we were living the same, upper to middle class lives with a maid and tons of money as many of them were. 

What I loved most was what Coogler did with Killmonger's character, in the sense that the viewer gets to see it was more about how far he took things that made him a villain more than it was his perspective. It's also shown how important it is not to fight one another when trying to get to a greater purpose and and get your own message across. 

My most favorite line in the movie, was when Kilmonger has met His demise, and his last bone chilling words are, "Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, cause they knew death was better than bondage."

I related to this angle strongly because in many ways, I have been ignorant in realizing what my ancestors sacrificed and what many of my fellow Black men and women go through daily just here in my own city.

B.  Martin Luther King Jr., versus Malcolm X angle

T'Challa's character often mimics that of the late Martin Luther King Jr., which comes off as soft spoken, noble, and kind hearted. He admires and strives for peace, as confrontation is something He does masked. Even in one of the post credit scenes, T'Challa shows his MLK ways again when speaking to the desire of being apart of a global partnership in means of sharing resources and adjustments. 

On the other hand, Erik Killmonger is a revolutionary in Black Panther, and while his tactics are excessively violent (like the late Malcolm X's initial beliefs), his goals are ultimately fighter drawn: He sees suffering in the world, and he aims to end it. In his characterization he carries with him centuries of oppression, and it is his aim to break the chains of his people around the world with Wakanda's incredible resources. 

C. Lion King

You can't help but experience the back to back Lion King references that are shown from sunset views that are displayed during the times T'Challa visits his father in his dreams to the fight scenes between T'Challa and Killmonger that familiarize itself similarities of Scar and Simba. 

2. The depiction of Female Characters 

All of the main female characters were intelligent, beautiful, strong and black! Okoye was truly badass! On a good day, black women can be framed as happy, nurturing or strong. On a bad day, they’ll be “angry” or an object of sexual conquest. The women in Black Panther are so refreshing compared to these clichés.  One of the greatest insights I took away was the normalization of black agency and black women. And it’s strange to say, because up until now, I can’t recall any other film managing to do the same.

What I also loved was the part where during the battle in the end with the oversized gargantuan rhinoceros battle, that a man submits to a woman for her principles, her values, and her ideologies. Often times we don't show the "black woman" being respected but hardly ever do you see her respected by her OWN kind. There's also another memorable scene where the same character tires to fit into the Casino scene wearing a wig and trying to be "girly" for acceptable societal purposes, which she disgustingly throws aside to be true to herself.

The Bad:

1. Wakanda felt artificial.

It's hard to reconcile an advanced culture that is a religious monarchy. It's a bit creepy to have this all powerful God king ruling over you, and it is hard to believe that for hundreds of years, every single Black Panther was a good and worthy ruler.  Wakanda didn't feel like a living, breathing culture, with a history. Asgard felt like a magical Norse world. It didn't seem like a real world and I may be taking it a stretch too far, but I didn't get the sense people were living real lives there. I wanted more of Wakanda.

2. Shuri's character overpowered.

I LOVED her, but what in the hell did Wakanda do before she was alive? She designed the trains, healing machines, and all of the tech gadgets but Wakanda was already supposed to be an advanced culture so I got lost. 

3. Black Panther not dying  was just a whole lie

Like how in the hell did he survive that fall? REALLY MY DUDE?

4. It got boring.

The movie itself isn't boring, but there's a definite lag in the middle that lost me, and I found myself thinking about what to grab for breakfast in the morning. 

Overall, Black Panther is an important work of art.

There's no denying how necessary Black Panther is for representation. In a world where diversity is so often treated as an act of charity instead of a reality, this film challenges the pervasive idea that our heroes can only be white and male. It provides generations of dark-skinned girls and women with heroes who share the same features which society ridicules them for. 

The film represents an important moment in pop culture history, and I’m happy I got to witness it. But the hype raises political expectations too high. Our culture refuses to allow black art to exist as entertainment, and it’s tempting to imagine that Black Panther will not only improve black representation in media, but radically change the state of our politics too.

I also have to say,  that in my own personal opinion, seeing many beautiful black faces dressed up in makeup and clothing as a tribute to Africa isn't what caused my hesitation for the entire "lets go see black panther" movement. It was the vicious words others said to those who voiced that they weren't interested in seeing the film, as if they were a trump supporter in the flesh that sparked it. 

Even in the hilarity of telling someone you're revoking their black card, a black person diminishing another black person's level of cultural achievement is disgusting. Sometimes we make supporting a black anything out to be the greatest accomplishment on earth when half of the time we (BLACKS) spend a majority of our time against eachother, judging eachother or isolating one another, ignoring the pain and oppression of our brothers and sisters daily. We're too busy bleaching our skin or purposely downing the beauty of a black women or the capability of a black man, and trying to make ourselves seem more important on instagram but the moment someone hollers loud enough, we'll jump on the bandwagon if it's popular and makes us look good, and then we'll pretend like we're warm and fuzzy and always open to sing kumbaya with our fellow black acquaintances.

If we behave as though purchasing a ticket to see a film produced by Disney is a form of resistance, we fail to distinguish between black art that touches on revolutionary themes, and the actual work required for revolution itself. Just keep in mind, as people descend upon their local cinemas to see what’s been touted as an excellent film, remember watching a film is not a brave act of resistance. There’s plenty more work for us to do.


Our Trip to Costa Rica

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I'm back! Have I been away long enough? I'm not sure if you caught my last post but my Husband and I traveled across the waters to the lovely Country of Costa Rica. When I say it was beautiful there, that's greatly an understatement. It was simply, beyond my expectations and more.

Of course I didn't feel so giddy getting there. We caught a redeye flight at midnight from LAX to Orlando, where we were met with a slight layover for a couple of hours. We then were informed that our flight to the San Jose airport (in Costa Rica) was delayed and pushed our arrival time back 2 hours, meaning we’d miss our 3rd flight from the Sansa airport to the island where we would be staying. It seemed like no issue, being that we could simply book another flight but we came to realize that the last flight for Sansa was full and unless a couple of people didn’t show up, we would have to drive 4 hours to the island. Now to keep it all the way real, I was officially done. My body was trying to stay afloat after going from 60 degree weather to 90 something degree heat in long pants, in the smallest open airport room possible, going off of 9 plus hours of airplane food and a very upset stomach. Thankfully enough, we were able to get in the last flight and the hotel sent a cab for us to get to the resort. 

Here is our trip in a nutshell. (*caution* tons of pics ahead!)

We stayed at a lovely, adults-only, beachfront resort on the Province of Puntarenas, in the city of Tambor, which was indeed a nature lover’s paradise. The hotel sits at the end of a short, coconut filled palm trees, lined road adjacent to the beach on Costa Rica’s tranquil Tambor Bay. Surrounded by vast wilderness, the resort nurtures local birds and wildlife offering guests a unique experience reinforcing the connection to nature.

There is a Restaurant in unison with the resort right on the premises, and every morning started with a complimentary continental breakfast courtesy of the resort. Costa Rica is BIG on "Frutas", particularly their pineapple. It was delicious, often accompanied by watermelon, papaya, freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee, and fresh toast with this amazing Papaya jam.

You could expect to see some other guests, termites, (being that ALL furniture was made entirely out of wood), ants, and this adorable cross-eyed cat, that we named William. He was there early for breakfast and late at night for dinner, always enticing the guests with his sea-blue eyes to get whatever leftovers we had on our plate. Often times he won.

The beach was wondrous. The sand was so warm, as was the water, and felt like a carpet underneath your feet. There was this moss tree island in the middle of the ocean that was called "Alligator Island" thanks to it's shape which is pictured below. If you look closely, you can see it.

After breakfast on our first full day there, my Husband wanted to make a stop to the ATM machine he saw on our taxi ride up to the hotel. Mistakenly, after asking the hotel manager how to get there, we were under the impression, the store where the machine was located was less than a mile to a mile and a half away but in reality, after walking practically 2 miles (seemed like 5) in 90 plus degree heat, my husband called the hotel to find out that in Spanish, some words are translated differently and the manager thought we meant the supermarket that was located around the corner from the hotel when we said "store". He sent us a cab within 5 minutes, who indeed took us to the ATM machine that we ended up not being able to use, since our cards were from America. At least on our lovely walk down the road we were able to take the Costa Rican roads by the balls.

Inspired by our marathon hike, we discovered a short nature trail that was behind our studio at the hotel, and decided to explore.

It was filled with spiders, so my Husband grabbed this ginormous leaf to get all the webs down as we walked. Besides the loud Howler Monkeys and getting bit up pretty bad by the fleas in the dirt, it was beautiful. The super green trees, bamboo sticks, log bridges, and peace and quiet made up for it.

Overall, I think our most favorite part of our trip was zip-lining. We had a tour guide who took us, along with another couple, down to Sun Trails Adventure Park. I was honestly terrified and excited to do this at the same time.

Once we got there, and got suited up to start, after giving instructions on how to brake and keep your legs up while on the lines, one of the instructors asked who wanted to go first, as to which, no one in a group of about 10 people said ANYTHING. So my husband being the brave goat he is, volunteered, as to which I of course had to follow my leader right?

Once I got on, I knew I was meant to experience such a thrill. Going extremely fast, high up in the air, freed me of worry and anxiety. Overlooking the Montezuma Canopy was priceless. The views were worth it, and all of I could think about was it's beauty. This was a check off of the bucket list for sure.

There's no better relief than your feet hitting  a foundation once you're done with your first trip across the line!


We had so many stairs to climb up and down throughout the forest. Halfway through the hike, we walked down to a waterfall area where you could jump 10 feet down into a 25 foot deep pond. My husband and I took the challenge. We weren't as bold to jump over the waterfall that proceeded after it, which was a 40 foot dive! Next time for sure ;) The water felt fresh and I never felt more alive. I'm glad someone was filming it for you to experience my craziness too.

The scenes were more breathtaking than the dives.

Once we were done on our break at the lake, we had to start walking back up to continue to our next zip line area, and that's when my adrenaline died out and my asthma came in full effect. And it was just my luck that we brought my inhaler but no water!!! Thankfully enough, one of the instructors had some in a round green pitcher and everything was well in the world after that!

While in the air we saw so many of Costa Rica's beautiful wildlife, like iguanas, more Howler Monkeys, macaws, and more.

Afterwards we rewarded ourselves with fresh mango and passion fruit smoothies, since we accomplished, staying alive.

Chocolate and Hand-crafted arts are a big thing in Costa Rica. San Jose, which is the capital, is a goldmine when it comes to all things souvenirs. So many men and women work day in and day out, creating and sculpting pieces out of wood and then working in hot, small, shacks selling them to support their families. I felt honored to snag a couple of pieces.

Costa Ricans are true Coffee drinkers and have to be the best Baristas there are! They have a special way of making too. They create these beautiful wooden stands that have a hole space to put a cloth, reusable filter inside. Get some water and bring it to a boil. The water should be fresh tap water and not reheated from water left in the coffeepot. Place two tablespoons of fine ground coffee into the filter, then mount the filter on the wooden stand. Two tablespoons of coffee produce four cups of coffee.

Other Costa Rican epic fashion includes jewelry such as necklaces, bracelets and earrings, clothing such as shirts, dresses, and wraps, and beautiful purses and specialty made coin purses.

Going home was the hard part. I had grown accustomed to a simple, quiet, and television/social media - less world, and felt privileged to get away, grow more inspired within myself and grow closer to my Husband just 3 months into our marriage. I learned more about Him, and our differences, and ways to better communicate and keep our foundation strong. But most importantly, I was thankful for the opportunity and ability to travel, and live in the moment. Costa Ricans are so relaxed and laid back that anxiety isn't an option. Who knows if we'll ever be able to come back and visit, and just having the memory does my heart good.

Pura Vida !


© Karla Lorraine