White people huddled in the fetal position. White people frozen in defense poses looking up at something with foreboding. White people in tears, folded over and rocking themselves back and forth. They’re scared, paralyzed with fear. Something terrible is coming. Something that has been coming for decades. A major catastrophe, a plague made in a lab, a caged beast, a Jurassic creature resurrected for entertainment has revolted, the heart of darkness manifested in King Kong, in demons, in monsters, in aliens, in mutations intended for progress gone horribly wrong, immense power fallen into the wrong hands.
In a world…
Are we not done?
How many times are we going to watch this movie? And look, I was born in the 70s. I once idolized the premises and characters in Superman, Star Wars, Back to The Future, Diehard, and any other great block busting White people movie you can name.
I have had grown ass men rattle on to me for hours about the positions of imaginary stars and solar systems in Star Wars and how the film prequel adaptations didn’t live up to the book and I, who am no stranger to the desire for escape through fantasy, have wondered….
What in all the heck does this have to do with real life?
I love Lord of Rings! (Just the first one)
But the first time I saw “Black Panther” I couldn’t speak afterward for a good ten minutes. Never had I imagined that a superhero genre film could so effectively bring the conversation of race, nationalism, Pan Africanism and technological optimism to the mainstream or at least mainstream social media conversation. Race? In a Superhero movie?
I can’t go back now. I can’t go back to deceptively benign “In a world…” trailer tropes where Whiteness stands in for the “every man” and Blackness is the tokenized exception, Like I was texting with a friend of mine today after he saw my reaction to “Infinity Wars” (I didn’t care for it) “Black Panther” set the bar too high for me to take 50 steps back into a “world” where Wakanda is just a tiny piece of an epic fantasy based on the usual White fears.
Stones, rocks, crystals, natural elements, super powers, talking apes….
White people just keep using cinema to reimagine their greatest fears over and over and over again and to position themselves in the collective imagination as the soul saviors from that fear so that Black people are indoctrinated to internalize the lie that we are the great monsters. Like James Baldwin said in “I am not your Negro,” we have never known what the hell they are so terrified of. We just want them out of our way because their fears have made them a real flesh and blood threat to us for decades.
To indigenous people, the monsters, demons, evil spirits, dark and unknown foreboding, pestilence and plague have always been White people. It’s never been a mystery to us, never some great case to be solved, some edge of your seat thriller or white knuckle ride. That’s why “Get Out” is so fucking phenomenal, because we don’t need to use our imaginations to engage with horror. We face it or attempt to avoid facing it every single day. The great crafters of horror and chaos are behind every major studio in Hollywood, behind every cop car wheel, sitting in the halls of “justice,” the oval office, the teacher’s desk, the housing board and wherever access to equity, opportunity, fairness and wealth building have traditionally been monopolized by them.
But first, they were behind every Bible.