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‘Wakanda Forever’ has a controversial message about mourning. And nails it.

By November 9, 2022No Comments5 min read

Wakanda’s reaction to the loss of T’Challa, the world’s reaction to their loss of a protector, the introduction and history of Talokan — Coogler once again proves himself savvy at the helm. But the aspect of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever I really want to talk about is one that hasn’t been touched upon enough. King T’Challa’s passing. That isn’t a sneak diss or anything. Wakanda Forever begins with the reaction and immediate aftermath of his death, signaling a profound moment of silence for Boseman and his character, before very consciously moving forward.

Shuri (Letitia Wright), doing everything she can to save her brother from his undisclosed illness, is interrupted by her mother coming into the room. Before she even has to say a word, before Shuri asks her AI for an update on her brother, she knows. Seeing the beginning of this movie opened up the floodgates for a lot of memories. February 2018 was when the first Black Panther came out. It was also the month I lost my grandfather, not too long after seeing the movie.

The exhilarating rush I had gotten from experiencing a project so rooted in blackness, community and family, only to lose my family so soon after. “Shock” is not strong enough a word to use. But time moved forward. I grieved, I bottled up, I broke down. I forgot. Never the memory of that day, or the ones shared before, of course not. But at some point, that recollection of the kitchen counter, and the wooden floors, and the weighted air, all went away. The ship stayed still, drifting in place, as the tides just kept flowing. Life continued, and new opportunities for memories whizzed by daily until eventually, I found myself seated for Wakanda Forever.

“I had forgotten that Chadwick Boseman was gone.”

And for two minutes, two incredulous minutes, before the movie had started, and all there was to stare at was a black screen, I had forgotten that Chadwick Boseman was gone. I’m not afraid to admit it. I’m actually proud to say it…I had forgotten that Chadwick was no longer with us. I didn’t feel good about it in the moment. It almost felt like a betrayal. (To understand this fully, here’s my written tribute to Boseman from 2020).

Lupita Nyong’O as Nakia in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Like, how could anyone forget about everything this man had sacrificed for us? Everything he did just to bring a smile to the faces of people everywhere? Boseman suffered in silence for years, just to do what he loved most, just to show us that anybody could as long as they believe. And here I was forgetting about him. Well of course I started thinking of my grandfather, how much time had passed, and how much longer the moments in-between thinking about him get. I was a blubbering mess, I’d have promised the moon for just one Kleenex at that point. 

But the beautiful thing about Wakanda Forever is that it almost seemed to know my reaction, one shared by many others in the crowd I’m sure. For whether you’ve experienced personal loss or not, the hole left in Boseman’s wake is felt by all lucky enough to have seen him perform. About halfway through, the film invites us to explore these feelings. 

We and Shuri are reminded by the magnificent Queen Ramonda (portrayed by the even more magnificent Angela Bassett) that T’Challa isn’t gone. That yes, Boseman is dead, but he is still very much with us. His memories, his moments, every accomplishment he achieved, the very essence of his spirit lives on with us for eternity. That’s when the realization kicked in — that it wasn’t him I was forgetting, it wasn’t my grandfather I was stranding in the middle of “Memory Sea,” just the thought of losing them. 

The power of silent memories.

I still had him. I still had those memories, the good times and the bad times. But keeping them at bay just felt necessary, in order to also keep at bay the feeling of losing him. That feeling, that crushing, immeasurable feeling that feels like it will never go away. Like Shuri, many have struggled with the notion that forgetting that feeling means forgetting them. So sometimes it seems better to just keep it tucked away with the other memories of them, locked behind a Pandora’s box of emotion. The process of healing requiring one to reopen a wound sounds counterintuitive on paper, but it can sometimes be the best medicine. 

The beginning of the film, that moment of silence scoring a beautiful tribute of Boseman/T’Challa, was a way of allowing us to mourn. The silence reflected at the end, as moments of T’Challa swirled by — images of him smiling, laughing, loving his family, defending his people — was a way of showing that that mournful feeling can go away without jeopardizing your memory of them.

Wakanda Forever is an incredible movie in its own right. Its story is uplifting, yet poignant. Grounded, yet it aims higher than the first one. The characters we’ve already been introduced to are given much-needed growth, and the ones we meet for the first time become instant icons.

With all of that, I am not ashamed to say that again, during most of the movie, I had forgotten about Boseman’s passing. But that’s truly the point. It’s a movie tackling the catastrophic effects of colonizations and the consequences of war, while simultaneously having a “who will carry the mantle” story and layering connections to Kevin Feige’s gigantic sandbox. There isn’t time to sit and mourn Boseman because that’s not what Coogler wants us to do here. He wants us to do exactly what the film is doing; move forward and acknowledge the life of Chadwick Boseman.

When he left us physically, he didn’t leave behind a hole, he left a door.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever opens in theaters on November 11. Read our official review of the film here.

Featured image graphic designed by Jon Negroni, photos courtesy of Marvel Studios.

Adonis Gonzalez

A desert seed that let the wind carry him to the chilly east coast. Currently in his “starving artist” era.

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