I touched on racism once before and I felt like I might step on a landmine. I’m walking with the same trepidation today. The question: is Marvel’s latest Netflix show Luke Cage about racism?
For this show, Harlem acts as a microcosm of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Luke Cage is like the Avengers, loved by some and opposed by others. That microcosm happens to be populated with black people.
It’s a good show, but it’s my least favorite of the Defenders series because I found most of the villains boring. Most of Marvel’s other stuff, including Daredevil and Jessica Jones, have spectacular villains. Luke Cage has exactly two interesting enemies, and they’re both minions. They’re also the only two Caucasians in the main cast. But I can’t tell what that implies.
Cage faces clear racism in prison, in his backstory, but the main show is in Harlem where everyone is black. On the other hand, most of the bad guys are stereotypical black gangstas. The Big Bad looks like he’s trying to be the most stereotypical Georgia boy possible. “Can you dig it?” “Bye Felicia.” “Negro please.” “N***a please.”
That’s the other thing: there are a lot of n-bombs in this show. I only counted one F-bomb and maybe five scantily clad ladies, and there’s very little graphic violence since bullets bounce off the superhero, but I was surprised by all the n-bombs. But they’re all black people saying that to other black people. Is that less racist? See, this is why I’m confused.
Consider Supergirl. That show is about a girl trying to get ahead in Superman’s world, but that’s never the primary focus of the show. Similarly, Luke Cage is not about a black superhero trying to get ahead in Captain Blonde-Hair-Blue-Eyes-Perfect-Teeth’s world. He’s just a superhero who’s black. And I can’t tell if Marvel is being clever or crossing a line or shying away from the line.
You may notice that the question isn’t “is it racist?” It’s about racism. That’s an important difference. So many people are nervous about talking about racism, including me. I think we get it confused with actually being racist. But talking about it should be a very constructive thing. If we don’t talk about it we can’t hope to fix it.
I’m genuinely curious what our readers think about this. Let’s Connect.