The inevitable intersectional pushback for “Black Panther”

When the movie “Black Panther” came out, with an African-American director and an all-black cast, and then it cleaned up at the box office and attracted tons of black children, I was pleased. Yes, I know there have been black superhero movies before, but this one was reputed to be especially good, and what’s wrong with having superhero role models for kids?

Well, I didn’t count on the depredations of intersectionality. Yes, a black director, an all-black cast, and a story of black empowerment, but the Pecksniffs are always snuffling around for something wrong, or for some group that was left out. And now they’ve found it—or rather, easily offended reviewer Jolie Doggett has (click on the screenshot to see her kvetching). Doggett is in pain!

The problem: the movie is set in the fictional African country of Wakanda (“fictional” is the operative word), and Wakanda excludes outsiders. Outsiders means “Americans”, including African-Americans, and that means “Jolie Doggett.” Ergo she can’t connect with the movie because, if she were in the area of the fictional Wakanda, they’d “kick her black ass out.” She would be a—gasp—colonizer! Here’s part of her beef (in toto it’s a very large cow):

But when I woke up, my excitement was extinguished by a sense of dread and disappointment. I know it’s not a real place, but if Wakanda were real, would its people actually let my black ass in? According to every Wakandan in this movie, not likely.

The film constantly drove home the point that Wakanda is for Wakandans only. Anyone trying to get in was a colonizer, seeking only to rob Wakanda of its riches. Or they were an outsider, bringing their own problems into the utopia. And this included people who shared their same skin tone.

That narrative of exclusion was painfully familiar to this black girl. To be a black American is to know that you’re descended from people who were stripped of their culture. To know that you’re forever separated from your origins. People will ask you where you’re from ― no, where are you really from? ― and you aren’t able to answer.

I went into “Black Panther” seeking refuge from that awkwardness and a piece of shared black American and African culture to hold on to. Instead, I found myself having to face the sometimes harsh reality that there is a division within our diaspora that’s not going to easily heal.

Division? It’s a movie! It’s fiction! The “division within the diaspora” exists only in Doggett’s mind, because she has to find something to kvetch about.

This I don’t get. The story of Wakanda is set in a fantasy world, and black people of all stripes have come together liking the film. The exclusionary bit was a plotline, not some nefarious plot to exclude Julie Doggett from Wakanda. That she feels excluded says a lot more about her than about the movie. For one thing, it says that she can’t suspend disbelief: even a comic-book fantasy must in every respect comport with her comfort. And if she’s uncomfortable with the isolationism of a fictional kingdom, that’s her issue, not the movie’s.

She simply puts too much political and emotional weight on the film, and, in the end, she wants Wakanda to open up its borders—but surely only to black people:

That this Marvel movie could evoke these emotions in viewers like me and start an uncomfortable but necessary conversation about black American and African relations actually makes “Black Panther” an amazing and important cinematic journey. And Wakanda becomes less of a fictional place I can never go to, and more like a real Afrofuture we all should strive toward, where everyone in the diaspora has a place to call home.

As one of my friends said after reading this article, “Doggett is confused by the concepts of African, People Of Color, and Superhero Comics; and does not seem to fully appreciate that the three may overlap, especially in fiction, but they are not the same.”


  1. danfromm
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Y’know, if she went to Haiti the locals would address her as blanche. Whitey (feminine). In Kreyol blanc/blanche (whitey either way) means foreigner.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

      ‘Blanche’? That’s French! Cultural appropriation? (Of course that doesn’t matter since the French are considered to be white).

      Which raises the point – I assume all the ‘Wakandans’ speak ‘English**’ – surely this is worng. They should speak an African language, no?

      (**or rather American – I have to specify this since I am English and you lot culturally-appropriated my language)

      (so much offence to be taken, so little time…)

      • Bruce Gorton
        Posted March 1, 2018 at 1:24 am | Permalink

        Xhosa. Badly.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

          I for one am certain that I don’t know how to pronounce “Xhosa!” correctly – I just can’t get the “!” at all, let alone get it right. And I’ve tried, with the assistance of several native-born speakers.
          It would be amusing to see them (USian filum staars) try.

      • danfromm
        Posted March 3, 2018 at 9:13 am | Permalink

        Not French, Kreyol. They’re entirely different. Entirely.

        Not american, unitedstatesian.

        And I’m unitedstatesian, wrote in my native language, which is entirely different from English. Entirely.

        I’m slowly cooking my way through a large — ~ 2,700 recipes — Mexican cookbook. Appropriation? Not at all. I’m unitedstatesian, by definition every recipe I prepare is unitedstatesian. Prepared in the United States by a unitedstatesian, eaten in the United States by unitedstatesians. What are they if not unitedstatesian?

  2. Michael Fisher
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    “…concepts of African, People Of Color, and Superhero Comics; and does not seem to fully appreciate that the three may overlap, especially in fiction, but they are not the same”

    She’s a Christian – she can’t help confusing comic books with reality.
    source: justJolie

    • Toni Jordon
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink


  3. glen1davidson
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Maybe don’t look to movies as your source of knowledge?

    Of course, in a day when many college courses are nothing but fictional narratives, movies might seem about as likely to divulge the truth as Gender Studies.

    Glen Davidson

  4. Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    I feel for her. I’m pretty sure I’d be thrown out of Smurfland because of my height and the colour of my skin.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      A good comparison.
      And I *sniff* will forever be excluded from the the ant kingdom in A Bug’s Life just because I am a 6’3″ vertebrate.

      • Craw
        Posted February 28, 2018 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        Not if you *identify* as a 3mm Formica. Insist on your rights.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

          Put your foot down. NO, not there!

    • Gordon
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

      Well Smurfs were thrown out of Disneyland in Paris a few years abck

  5. Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Apparently she missed the end of the movie, and the first after-credits scene. The King announced to the U.N. that Wakanda was going to share it’s resources with the world, and help out other countries. This included helping out disadvantaged kids in the U.S.

  6. Paablo
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I thought that one of the themes of the movie was


    Wakanda beginning to move away from its isolationism after realizing its unintended consequences. This interpretation of course invalidates the reviewers entire thesis.

    • Paablo
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      (What Michael said above)

    • Eric
      Posted March 1, 2018 at 2:53 am | Permalink

      Yes agreed. That was a IMO the best plot in the movie; the idea that essentially the bad guy was right in pointing out that the good guy’s exclusionary policy wasn’t as good as they claimed, but had horrible consequences for a lot of non-Wakandans. And the good guy took that lesson to heart, and changed the policy.

      Frankly IMO the main plot was quite thin for a 2+ hr movie. I liked the movie, but The side commentary on social policy (mostly by the bad guys) was a very welcome add.

  7. KD33
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Dogget’s commentary, besides simply being dumb in its content, completely misses the point of the movie. To the time in which the movie tales place (present day in Marvel land), the Wakandans’ isolation has been self-imposed for their own protection. By the end of the movie, they’ve come to the realization that they need to interact, and work, with “outsiders.”

    BTW, I had my reservations but really enjoyed the movie.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Here’s part of her beef (in toto it’s a very large cow)


    I saw Black Panther last weekend. Not my kinda movie, but quite a spectacle — an orgy of CGI and F/X. I just kinda let it wash over me; couldn’t tell you the plotline except in vague, general outline.

    Whole lotta very toothsome sisters & brothers, too. Plus Forrest Whitaker, in full Ghost Dog mode, and Angela Bassett, in full regal mode. (That woman can do regal even after taking a beatdown from Ike Turner.) Love me some Forrest and Angela.

    Not sure I’ll ever go to the trouble of seeing it again. But all told, I enjoyed it. Jolie Doggett, on the other hand, seems to have watched it under the penumbra cast by her own narcissism.

  9. Posted February 28, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Surely in her Authoritarian Left point of view, she doesn’t have the right to comment on Wakandan culture. Only Wakandans can do that!

  10. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I have to admit, however, reluctantly, that this late movie series involving characters of the Avengers are sometimes pretty good movies.
    I have not yet seen this one, but I am looking forward to it.

  11. Pavan
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    While I certainly don’t find Black Panther offensive, I believe the point of the HuffPost article was misunderstood. It wasn’t really about Black Panther at all, but rather, about the search by some African Americans for a cultural identity in Africa.

    The author is disappointed that Black Panther depicts an African nation that feels no kinship with African Americans. She laments this but bites that this is a situation in the real world. She claims that she feels like an outsider in the United States and that she has no home land in Africa either. She expresses hope for such a home land.

    Such a hope is impractical in my view— and Americans certainly tried with Liberia. But the author expresses a valid point. It just has nothing to do with Black Panther.

    • Posted February 28, 2018 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      I think you are right.

    • Mikael
      Posted March 1, 2018 at 2:09 am | Permalink

      Yes, and I can only assume many African-Americans feel the same way.

    • Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      Wasn’t there a movie about South Africa a few years back (I only ever saw the trailer) where an Afrikaner (i.e. white from South Africa descended from Dutch) and someone played by an African American actor debate “African”?

  12. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I think it may have been pointed out here before that the movie has of course also been criticized for not representing LGBTQ.
    As if the LGBTQ people in a movie have to be acting all, you know, LGBT or Q all the time because sex is all they think about.

  13. DW
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    From what I understand, the protagonist is the fascist dictator of a militant isolationist ethno-state whose immigration policy makes Donald Trump look like an open borders advocate. And the primary villain is an American, because of course he is.

    “a real Afrofuture we all should strive toward, where everyone in the diaspora has a place to call home”

    Reverse the race and that’s what Richard Spencer’s goons are calling for. And, btw, we tried this before. It’s called Liberia, and it kinda sucks.

    How about we instead work toward getting over our racial hangups, because the differences between races isn’t all that important.

    • Craw
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      You don’t even have to reverse the races. He’s a racial separatist and so is she. They agree right now, no reversals needed.

    • PW
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      We have a winner. The fact that this is non-obvious is disturbing.

    • Posted February 28, 2018 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      You forgot the part where the audience is supposed to cheer along for a CIA backed coup to occur to overthrow what everyone assumes was the rightful ruler of the country.

      The movie has some awful politics that I can’t believe are not getting called out or discussed.

    • Posted February 28, 2018 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      I’d argue he’s the opposite of Trump. While Trump wants to go from relatively open borders to closed borders, T’Challa is opening up Wakandan borders.

  14. J. Quinton
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I feel sorry for Jolie Doggett. She’s lived in such a cloistered world she’s never had to encounter actual Africans who look down on black people for not being African enough. Her only experience with anything remotely close to this is in a superhero movie.

    She makes the same mistake racists make: treating the *continent* of Africa as a unified *country*

    – Signed,
    A black guy who has actually left the USA.

  15. Posted February 28, 2018 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    This particular plot feature to Black Panther was really good. This is the kind of dialogue people need to have.

    It is precisely because Black Panther puts disturbing elements that reflect colonialism and fratricide and injustice and racism that we should be promoting it. Anyone scared of this movie is scared to make the claim that prejudice is real and something we always need to work on.

    She is so far off mark.

  16. Posted February 28, 2018 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if all these people who are offended by everything are just repeating what the Russian bots on their social media are telling them.

  17. Francisco García
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Probably it won’t take her long to get the answer she seeks when she finds out that Black Panther was created by two white guys, Stan Lee (Stanley Martin Lieber) and Jack Kirby (Jacob Kurtzberg). Of course she felt excluded! It’s a plot to demoralize coloured people!

    Then she will push even further since both are/were Jewish artists… Conspiracy!

  18. Posted February 28, 2018 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    The hits just keep on coming:
    Is The Black Panther Islamaphobic?

  19. BJ
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    A good movie makes people feel good for having watched it, but not people like her. She can’t enjoy anything because she has to find reasons to dismiss everything as somehow doing damage to her mind and existence. She feels excluded because her beliefs force her look for reasons to feel that way in every corner and crack. People like her are addicted to searching for offense, exclusion, and anything else to sate this deep need to feel like the world is against them.

    I can’t imagine how joyless such a life must be. The one thing in the world that’s oppressing her most — robbing her of feelings like joy, safety, and satisfaction — is her own mindset.

    • Jay Baldwin
      Posted February 28, 2018 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      Well I’m not sure. Does the act of confirming biases release a bit of dopamine? Maybe she’s addicted to confirmation bias-induced dopamine. Poor girl.

    • Jamie
      Posted March 1, 2018 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      The end point of such logic is that joy, safety and satisfaction are merely a matter of positive thinking, not rooted in material reality. While I agree that Doggett has some confused expectations of the film industry, I highly doubt that the one thing that oppresses her most is her own mind. By extrapolation, all oppression is self-imposed. I cannot believe that you actually think that.

  20. Brian Jones
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Some people are simply determined to be victims…

  21. kelskye
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    The modern world of criticism is not what a text says, but what it doesn’t say but other to in the eye of each beholder. Yet another reminder how pointless it is to try to engage in any media these days because inevitably what matters is what it’s not because it could have been.

  22. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 28, 2018 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    Well, there is one category of people who are obviously excluded from the movie – white people!

    (But so what and who gives a shit?)

    This ‘inclusiveness’ thing was a good idea but – like any good idea – it can be made absurd when pushed to extremes.


  23. Mikael
    Posted March 1, 2018 at 2:35 am | Permalink

    I think Jolie Doggett may have misunderstood the strong anti-isolationist (even anti-Trump) message of Black Panther. Clearly the gist of the film was to criticize the selfish Wakandan isolationism, not celebrate it. The main character needed to learn this, and this was the moral journey he and the Wakandan people had to travel in the story. And this is why Black Panther had a better story than most superhero films.

    But Doggett does raise a valid point and I can only assume many African-Americans feel the same way. I’ve noticed a lot of Americans still want to identify themselves by their ancestral background, often European, while feeling a strong connection to the American history, too. A European-American ancestry gives them two cultural backgrounds to choose from and mix them as they like. But for African-Americans it must be much more difficult, as an African-American ancestry might leave you with almost none. For one thing, it must be too bitter to whole-heartedly celebrate any American holiday dating from the time the American society considered your ancestors sub-human. And for many, their actual African ancestry must be even impossible to trace, since it is so diverse. The American society seems to lump all “blacks” together, which is based on the political history of racial oppression. I’m “white”, but being Finnish, I don’t see myself sharing any particular “white” ethnicity with the Poles, the Swiss or the Italians, even though Europe is a tiny place compared to Africa, which is a huge continent with hugely diverse cultures. In African terms, it would be quite silly to consider a Kenyan, a Nigerian and anyone from the diverse Bantu nations the same ethnic group. And most African-Americans are likely to be a wide genetic mix with ancestors from all over Africa (although mostly around the Gulf of Guinea). So, it’s very understandable if Doggett doesn’t feel comfortably connected to the American history, but neither can she find a clear ancestral home in Africa, either. The pan-African ideal is a political one, not cultural reality.

    I’m not a fan of superheroes, but I loved the idea of Wakanda, an African super-power of science and technology. Although it is a comic-book fairy tale, I can only hope it might encourage some African-American kids to pursue a career in science.

    • Posted March 1, 2018 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      This is an excellent, thoughtful (and thought provoking)comment. Thanks.

  24. A B Carter
    Posted March 1, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    The lede begins with “I didn’t like ‘Black Panther’ at first.” and ends with “I came to realize that my discomfort was actually the whole point of the movie.” The article ends with #WakandaForever and Wakanda for everyone.
    As an African American, Jolie Doggett is unsettled that the only African American in Black Panther is a violent gangsta named Killmonger who is treated like an alien by the Wakandans. As an American, she wants to refer to her roots, like when someone says, “I’m Irish!” But being a descendant of slaves from parts unknown, a point that is touched upon in perhaps the most painful line of the film when Killmonger asks to be buried at sea. So the relation between Killmonger and Wakanda stands proxy for a host troubling truths. “That this Marvel move could evoke these emotions in viewers like [her] and start an uncomfortable but necessary conversation about black American and African relations actually makes “Black Panther” an amazing and import cinematic journey.”
    How is this anything other than a stunning accolade for the film?

  25. Diane G.
    Posted March 1, 2018 at 9:36 pm | Permalink


  26. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted March 2, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    It’s a shame, because Black Panther was one of the more interesting characters in my comic reading of my childhood years. I was quite interested to see how they managed the entire “black repression/ rebellion” theme without frightening the USian customers.
    But the local flea pit is under boycott for not paying a living wage to it’s staff. I’m sure it’ll be on TV some time. Fast forward through the adverts.

  27. Venturalost
    Posted March 14, 2018 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    After reading this, I’ve come to the realization that black Americans focus too much on race and ancestral origin, so much so that they’ve essentially segregated themselves.

    It’s always good to know where you came from and to learn about the history of your people, but it shouldn’t define who you are.

    Time for you to get up in the morning, and be satisfied with being a modern US american, not black, not white, not african, not irish, not whaterver. All you are, is American. Own it, be it and stop hating yourselves.

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