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Why One Black Panther Character's Name Had To Be Changed

T'Challa returning home to Wakanda

While fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are still reeling in joy from seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming, there's always another film to look forward to. Thor: Ragnarok is the next installment to arrive in theaters, followed by Black Panther. The latter is extremely anticipated, as the first trailers and images from the film look stunning, and the cast is one of the strongest ensembles in Marvel history. Black Panther will bring the various characters of Wakanda to the silver screen for the first time, although some changes have had to be made to adapt the comic figures for film. In particular, the villain Man-Ape won't go by that name or wear his signature Ape suit.

The reasons behind this creative decision was detailed by Black Panther producer Nate Moore to EW. And while Man-Ape is a badass in the comics, the imagery of a black man dressed to and referred to as an ape seemed problematic to the powers that be. He said,

We don't call him Man-Ape. We do call him M'Baku. Having a black character dress up as an ape, I think there's a lot of racial implications that don't sit well, if done wrong. But the idea that they worship the gorilla gods is interesting because it's a movie about the Black Panther who, himself, is a sort of deity in his own right.

This actually makes a great deal of sense. Black Panther has the distinction of having an almost exclusively black cast, as well as Ryan Coogler as director/writer. It's finally time for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to become a more inclusive and diverse place, so special attention must be paid to ensure that the community is being represented properly.

And the imagery of a villainous black man wearing a gorilla suit does seem like it could be triggering for some people. People of color have been targeted by racist comments equating them to apes for years, so Man-Ape's inclusion in Black Panther had the potential to cause major controversy. Alas, he'll be referred to by his given name, and his costume is significantly less ape-esque than the traditional suit from the comics. This is one instance where pivoting away from the source material is most certainly the right move to make.

Man-Ape from the comics

Man-Ape made his Marvel debut way back in 1969, where folks weren't as cognizant to the racial implications of such a character. He villain typically has a variety of super powers at his disposal, including super strength, speed, agility, and near invulnerability. He shares a long history with T'Challa, and has battled against The Avengers for many years.

You can see the silver screen debut of M'Baku, played by Winston Duke, when Black Panther arrives in theaters on February 16, 2018. In the meantime, check out our summer premiere list and plan your next trip to the movies.

Corey Chichizola

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.