Recently someone said that Aquaman was Black Panther but with a better ending.
And that’s garbage.
Look, I’m far more a DCU fan than an MCU fan. But c’mon. You can’t deny the importance of such casting, not only in terms of characters of color but also in terms of women, and Killmonger’s choice at the end was his choice. It’s not that you can’t criticize Black Panther because you can – why does the only African-American woman character in the movie have few lines and dies, the reliance on STEM and not philosophy, and so on - but at least criticize with intelligence.
But what gets lost is the racial discussion that the Aquaman movie has. Okay, it may not be as nuanced as Black Panther, but it is there, and strangely, despite its perhaps more simplistic nature, and connects to the current American political situation.
Aquaman aka Arthur as played by Jason Momoa is a poc. His father is a poc and his mother is the Queen of Atlantis, white and blonde. As far as we know in the movie, Aquaman is the only half Atlantean and half human. Additionally, most of the other Atlanteans with speaking roles are white, very white. Aquaman’s half-brother, his rival for kingship, is blonde, though Patrick Wilson is not a natural blonde. He is a purebred. Aquaman is a bastard half breed to those underwater. This change is important because in the comics Arthur Curry is blonde and blue-eyed. His brother is usually dark haired. It is inverted in the movie. For the better.
What’s more, when Aquaman’s half-brother decides to declare war on land people, he has to get the whole of the sea peoples to join together under his rule. With the ones that look like him, he negotiates, tricks, and doesn’t kill. The two that look unhuman, more fish, he kills. Sounds vaguely white supremacist or Nazi like doesn’t it?
Aquaman, on the other hand, listens to those who are different from him. He talks to fish, he is the first to talk to the Kraken. He unites in a way that his brother doesn’t. Early in the movie when he doesn’t do this, he learns from his actions. He is, as his name refers to, a King Arthur for modern world.
The distrust of the surface world by some of the Atlanteans is because of pollution and invasion. Sound familiar? It should. Those are the reasons that Trump gives for his wall – a wall to keep brown people out of what Trump sees as a white land.
It’s important to note that one of the ending notes of the movie is the reunion of Aquaman’s parents, not only does it bookend the movie, but it shows the strength in coming together as opposed to living separately. It is being stronger for our differences and embracing them instead of being fearful of the other.
This isn’t to suggest that Aquaman is a perfect movie. I mean, isn’t Mera worthy too, but it isn’t just simply a super hero movie.
Perhaps Aquaman’s racial message is too simplistic for today’s conversation,
but it still has some relevance.