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“13th” and “Black Panther”: A Film Analysis

After watching the movie, Black Panther, and the documentary, 13th, I got to see a wide range of how black culture and history has been portrayed in the past and present. Each film sought their own interpretation of race and the treatment that black people face in society. 13thtalked about how since the passage of the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery for everyone, laws and society have impacted black people immensely. Even though slavery was abolished, black people were still subject to varying forms of “legal slavery.” 

The movie Black Panther looks at black culture and portrays the beauty of black culture in a way that really hasn’t been seen. It follows the mythical nation of Wakanda and its struggle to engage with the outside world. It is a futuristic African society that is far more technologically advanced than the rest of the world and describes black culture and tradition as a powerful and beautiful image of black history. Both of these films approach the question of black people and their relationship to society. They represent the activism that is slowly changing the long-standing stereotypes of black people and represent important works of art for our society. 

            13this a documentary that is designed to shock the viewer with its powerful imagery and storytelling which at some points can be overwhelming. For example, as the movie goes from the 70’s to the 2000’s, they show the increasing number of people in prison. Every time the number spikes up higher than expected, the shock and anger from seeing the jump is impactful for the viewer. The main problem remains that even with the passing of the 13thamendment, black people still faced discrimination and unfair treatment by society in different forms that have continued until the present day.

            The film starts out with the expected evolution from slavery to Jim Crow and the injustices that black people faced during this time period. However, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we assume that things will change for the better. This was simply not true. Instead, society turned towards prisons as a way to maintain the segregated life that they lawfully agreed to get rid of. What started with Regan’s war on drugs continues today with the mass incarceration of black people. This process of the expansion of prison systems, harsher sentences, and racism resulted in the large amount of black people that ended up in prison. Furthermore, this turned into a business that politicians and powerful people kept running without acknowledging the harmful effects it was having on the people directly involved. 

            This movie is designed to send a strong message that the prison system and race relations are still a growing issue in the U.S. The shock from each statistic on incarceration or each video clip of another young boy getting arrested is there to let the viewers know about the lives that were destroyed by the mass incarceration of black people and the continuing racism. They are using a blunt message that is repeated and enforced by the people speaking in the movie. They recount the conscious efforts by both Democratic and Republican presidents to strengthen punishments for breaking the law. As a result, the statistics described by the movie show that they caused the spiral that led to the growth of the prisons as businesses, and the unfair lockup and killings of many black people. The institutions that sought to free and equalize the playing field for black people who for so long have been discriminated against, instead tipped the scales so that the imbalance is even greater and black people continue to face a long uphill battle to achieve true equality in a system that is inherently against them.

            Despite these setbacks, not all hope is lost with the expression of black culture. Black Pantheris almost the opposite of 13thin that it paints the picture of the mystical African country of Wakanda. There, it is a thriving, futuristic city that demonstrates a golden age of African art, beauty, culture, and customs. We see praise and excitement for black culture and people. This is contrary to what we are currently experiencing in the world. 13thdemonstrates the challenges and attacks black people are facing and Black Pantherprovides an injection of beauty and expression that people are missing since they are becoming numb to each new race incident. 

            In a way, Black Panthershows a world where black people, instead of constant oppression and racism, are free and leaders of their own world. The movie provides an opportunity for the viewer to escape the realities of the real world and instead experience the beauty of what is possible if society can change the way it sees race. For Black Panther, its goal is not to list statistics about all the negative experiences that people have. There is plenty of information out there that indicates the disparities between white and black people in the U.S. Instead, they show the possibility that can exist in a society that is different. In addition, the movie also comments on the nature of black America in the inner cities. There, a child grew up without his dad and that leads to spite and anger against those who wronged him. While not explicit, this was definitely a message against the unfortunately too common scenario where a black child is raised by one or no parents. Many times, one parent is behind bars and that is a result of the mass incarceration efforts. Th movie contains subtle messages that are designed to let the audience know about the injustices that black people face today and the good possibilities for the future.

            Black Pantherand 13thare films that both portray black culture in America, albeit in contrasting ways. Black Pantheris a superhero movie that praises black culture and all its beauty while providing subtle messages that show how the world continues to struggle with the integration of black people in America. On the other hand, 13this a shocking documentary that brings together 150 years of racism and oppression that has continued after the 13thamendment. It shows how black people have continued to be treated like slaves by American society and how they have been disproportionally affected by the prison system. It is designed to send a blunt message to people that there is still a problem that is hidden in society and people must stand up and change their behavior. Overall, both films have made a huge impact on America society and have sent the message that change needs to happen. They show the struggles of black society as well as the triumphs of black tradition. They offer hope to a society that has seen the worst and a solution to the struggles of race in America.

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