How Black Panther Continues To Deconstruct The Superhero Genre


The Trouble With T’Chaka

Following its outline of Wakanda’s history, Black Panther begins with a flashback to T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka, in his prime. The previous king and Black Panther appears and reprimands his younger brother, N’Jobu, for his theft of vibranium, before the film cuts back to the present day.

Bearded and benevolent, T’Chaka was first introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Captain America: Civil War. Prior to his death, he briefly appears as a warm and principled mentor. Thanks to actor John Kani, T’Chaka has a stoic and likable presence. Indeed, even characters who are opposed to him (such as Zemo) admit that he “seemed a good man.”

As a result, there’s a definite sense of loss during the first third of Black Panther, especially when T’Chaka appears in his son’s visions. Yet for the rest of the film, we’re presented with another, darker side to T’Chaka.

Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther

Through two more flashbacks, it’s revealed that T’Chaka’s ardent preservation of Wakanda’s secrecy came with a heavy cost. N’Jobu had become sympathetic to the plight of oppressed black people around the world and sought to end it by supplying them with vibranium weapons. T’Chaka subsequently murdered his brother and abandoned his nephew to maintain the lie.

This act comes back to haunt his country in later years through the machinations of Eric Killmonger, N’Jobu’s son, who seethes over Wakanda’s indifference towards the outside world. Moreover, whilst T’Chaka was a powerful figure in drafting the Sokovia Accords in Civil War, Black Panther similarly forces us to reconsider his seemingly altruistic actions. T’Chaka’s mission to regulate the Avengers may indeed derive from the Lagos incident – and his sense of charity. Yet in light of the Killmonger and N’Jobu case, we can now surmise that T’Chaka was merely trying to muzzle Earth’s Mightiest Heroes from exposing his nation’s secrets.

T’Chaka was clearly a respected leader and loved one to Wakanda and its denizens. But Black Panther takes great pains to point out the flaws and mistakes of his character. In this way, the film asks us to reconsider ideas about the nature of legacy and nostalgia. And Black Panther isn’t the only movie to be doing this.

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