Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Re-reading Jack Graham on Villainy After Black Panther

If Black Panther had ended with Killmonger taking the throne
and the weapons going out, I'd have been OK with that.
Instead, in Merlin, as in so many other products of the capitalist culture industries, the oppressed in revolt become evil and more powerful than the oppressors. The oppressors become the victims of the oppressed. The oppressed become the aggressors. They become machiavellian schemers. They become simultaneously cynical demagogues, fanatical zealots and amoral nihilists. The various villains that Arthur and Merlin face are all representatives of the groups that Uther has ruthlessly persecuted. They are engaged in antagonism because Uther has persecuted them, but they are depicted as the evil victimisers of the poor tyrant who just wants to live in peace. Their behaviour – disproportionately ruthless and destructive - justifies the structural violence of Uther’s regime. It’s perhaps unfair to hold Merlin up as a whipping boy. This is a very common and old strategy. On screen, it’s as old as Stagecoach and Birth of a Nation. And it goes back much further than moving pictures.  
It’s worth remembering the origin of the word ‘villain’. It comes from villein. The villeins were pretty much the lowest of the low in feudal Europe. The scum of the earth. The serfs. Peasants, tied to the land. Effectively, the property of the landowner. And they were in the majority. Our word for ‘evil person’ or ‘antagonist’ comes from the word that described the great masses of oppressed, bullied, exploited working people in feudal Europe, the people who created all the wealth that the kings ate and wore and traded and stored and administered and fought wars with and sat their fat arses on. 
Jack's essay is fantastic, each time I re-read it I want to go back and immediately read it again. Re-reading it today because it helps to clarify why #TeamKillmonger is so appealing.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...