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Welcome to your mid-week Data Sheet. Aaron in for a vacationing Adam today, fresh off a viewing of the year’s most popular superhero movie, Black Panther.
The film, directed by Ryan Coogler, has been rightly praised as not just another entertaining romp through the Marvel universe, but also as a commentary about black history, black empowerment, and the politics of race over the past few hundred years. It’s also a gorgeous piece of moviemaking, with designer Ruth Carter borrowing looks from tribes across Africa.
But there are also some parallels between the all-powerful, high-tech kingdom of Wakanda and a couple of tech superpowers from the real world. Like fictional King T-Challa, Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Larry Page have commanding positions over our society and culture—thanks not to the super-powered metal Vibranium, but super-voting shares of stock in their companies. Atlantic writer Vann R. Newkirk II frames the key question posed by the movie: “What will they do with the power they do have to make the world livable for those without it?”
Historically, the answers have been formulated by the CEOs and their advisers without enough input from the many other parts of our diverse society. Without giving away any spoilers, T-Challa’s final speech could be advice not just to some prominent American politicians, but for business leaders as well: “In times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.”