The Words That We Know
by ETHAN PETERSON
dir. Ryan Coogler
If the aggressively mediocre Ryan Coogler had not at one point found Michael B. Jordan, is it too harsh to say all would have been lost? Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) is a most unusual Marvel villain in that he is not strictly speaking a villain at all. This is not a novel concept, since was Judas all that bad considering? But Killmonger is way better than Judas in almost every way.
Last week, a student at Christ the King high school in Queens wasn’t allowed to wear a jersey with his birth name on it. His birth name is Malcolm Xavier Combs. Was he also named after P. Diddy? Time will tell on that one, but white administrators at Christ the King were evidently not enthused by the controversial career of the civil rights leader.
According to National Action Network crisis director the Rev. Kevin McCall, school administrators actually ranked different black leaders as appropriate or inappropriate.
While former President Barack Obama and civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received a thumbs-up, Malcolm X and the Rev. Al Sharpton both were given a thumbs down.
I guess some people have a long memory about the whole Tawana Brawley thing. But I can’t blame Al for that – how was he supposed to know a fifteen year old was lying? Getting even more short shrift in this tawdry affair is Malcolm X himself, the man who was born Malcolm Little. Everyone who has read The Autobiography of Malcolm X knows that Mr. X was a very fine Mr. X, maybe the best Mr. X except for Mr. X.
Malcolm dealt with some struggles. He grew up in a pervasively racist society. There was no such thing as rap. LeBron was just semen in a man brewery. Michael B. Jordan’s mother was living comfortably. Malcolm X was not. For what he endured, he should never be villified. Plus as I recall he had exactly the right amount of anti-Semitism a human being is capable of ignoring, pretending it doesn’t exist.
Anyway, there is a lot of time to sit and think during Black Panther. I don’t personally (and this is not a view I extend to any of you) feel that a white character created, some might say, to take commercial advantage off a militant movement of African-Americans of tremendous historical and academic importance, is something that should be supported. I heard Harrison Barnes, a small forward on the Dallas Mavericks, took an entire theater of boys to see Black Panther in Texas. That sounds like a tedious afternoon.
My heart goes out to the family of Malcolm Xavier Combs. It is great that Ryan Coogler can just make these weird African epics now but I have a lot better ideas for stories he can work on. You see, my concepts for Ryan Coogler’s career involve actual African-American authors, and yet box office success is assured because of the three most important words in Ryan Coogler’s and my life: Michael B. Jordan. These are the words that we know.
Just in general here is a list of characters I would love to see Michael B. Jordan play. (I would like to see Chadwick Boseman work in local theater.)
– protagonist in a remake of Big
– David Ben-Gurion
– Richard Wright
– a remake of Marshall but without Chadwick Boseman and only Michael B. Jordan
– Michael Jordan (too on the nose?)
– Deleuze and Guattari in the same movie
I think you get the idea. Black Panther features a fictional African nation. But there were great nations made of African individuals that you don’t even have to make up!
Anyway, it is sad what they did to Killmonger, but it is also great for those of us who imagine that something besides a safe action movie could be produced from that enduring historical culture. Then again, lowering your expectations leads to unhappiness in the long term.
Malcolm X was a great American purely because of what he overcame. He was an inspiration to so many people, and he probably wasn’t that bad of a guy.
Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.