Chadwick Boseman is probably most famous for being the Black Panther (first in Captain America: Civil War, next in his own upcoming movie), but he’s also a Harvard-educated guy and has clearly put a lot of thought into portraying the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first black superhero with their own movie. Case in point, the accent he uses for the character; it turns out, there was a lot going on in the decision, as Boseman himself explained to CNET.
People think about how race has affected the world. It’s not just in the States. Colonialism is the cousin of slavery. Colonialism in Africa would have it that, in order to be a ruler, his [Black Panther’s] education comes from Europe. I wanted to be completely sure that we didn’t convey that idea because that would be counter to everything that Wakanda is about. It’s supposed to be the most technologically advanced nation on the planet. If it’s supposed to not have been conquered—which means that advancement has happened without colonialism tainting it, poisoning the well of it, without stopping it or disrupting it—then there’s no way he would speak with a European accent.
In Marvel Comics, Wakanda is an African nation that has secretly thrived for centuries, having never been invaded by Europeans. Boseman’s character T’Challa becomes king of Wakanda after his father dies and inherits the mantle of the Black Panther, more of an honorific title than an actual superhero name.
If I [talked with a European accent], I would be conveying a white supremacist idea of what being educated is and what being royal or presidential is. Because it’s not just about him running around fighting. He’s the ruler of a nation. And if he’s the ruler of a nation, he has to speak to his people. He has to galvanize his people. And there’s no way I could speak to my people, who have never been conquered by Europeans, with a European voice.
As io9 writer Charles Pulliam notes, it’s a good example of why putting people of color in positions of leadership in these adaptations can help sidestep problematic content that may not have been observed otherwise.
This is the sort of important thoughtfulness that comes from putting creators of color into positions of power. https://t.co/1Jv5ykwZ6z
— Charles Pulliam-Moore (@CharlesPulliam) November 8, 2017
Want to watch that trailer one more time?