Luke Cage was a pretty fun romp through one of Marvel’s first black superheroes. The Hero For Hire took to the Netflix version of the marvel cinematic universe smoothly. Many pieces have been written about the cultural nods and asides in the series, but one big part of the black cultural experience stood out. It came in the interaction of Cottonmouth(Mahershala Ali) and Black Mariah(Alfre Woodard).
Cottonmouth was one of the most dynamic characters on the show. Not only did we get to see his transformation from innocent impressionable youth to a murderous villainous adult, but we were also given great insights into what exactly kept him going. His fears, his hopes, and dreams were all laid bare for us in a way that many shows are not able or willing to do with their villains.
As a child Cottonmouth was a virtuoso at piano. His grandmother, Mabel, a drug kingpin, didn’t care in the least about his talents, she was busy grooming him to take over her dynasty. His Uncle Pete(Curtiss Cook) however, cared very much, he’d sneak him to piano auditions and tried to steer him away from “the business” and towards the arts. Making him Cottonmouth’s hero. But while he was busy being a hero to a little black boy, he was a brutal villain to a little black girl.
Back in the real world, our week has been utterly insane. Between Kanye “officially, officially” losing his shit, Nas being outed as an abuser, and Cosby FINALLY being found guilty…a reckoning is coming for black folk and our male heroes. Over the years, the story has become an old one. Famous man beats a woman on Monday, rapes a woman on Tuesday, puts out an album on Wednesday. The artistic capabilities of the man outweigh the life of the woman. This part of it has no race, indeed the white perpetrators of this, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, the list goes on and on. The difference is, with black folks, the people doing this sit in hallowed ground. The first major black television star is probably going to die in jail for his actions. R.Kelly, A man who’s writing is so prolific he most likely crafted the entire sound of R&B in the 90s is probably next. Nas is often listed on the top 3 rappers of all-time list. Though in retrospect his songs reeked of respectablity politics, “I Can” inspired a generation of black kids to strive for something more. But that does not outweigh anything he could e
I remember sitting in a film course and the (white) professor was showing us Triumph of Will and was telling us that we must separate artistry from what was done with the art and I spent the remainder of the class telling him why that was utter bullshit, and black folks know it’s bullshit so we need to apply it everywhere.
It’s extremely easy for people not caught in the crosshairs of powerful people to say “not my problem boy this song is bumpin’.” But the history of black men and black women is that black men were first unable to protect them, and then unwilling to. We have the means now to unlearn things but we are more dedicated to our egos than our women. We want our heroes to remain pristine, even though ignoring their misdeeds and atrocities allows and breeds more men just as violent.
But here is where we have to make the distinction in the narrative seen over and over. We cannot claim that all these atrocities white people have done are horrendous and disgusting, and turn around and forgive/ignore our own people doing the same thing. If you really care about it, start demanding these people pay as well, not “oh well they got off so let Cosby off” Fuck that. We cannot aspire to be white. The one rule of whiteness is that we’re never going to get in, so stop trying to become white men. Maybe if we respect the trauma we’ve put our women through over the years, we’ll get some new heroes that ain’t shitty, that will actually get us where we want to go. Don’t be a Cottonmouth. Cuz putting black false heroes over black women ends with a metal rod beatdown.
Warning this review has harsh language and spoilers. Sorry it took so long, I’ve been extremely busy. Nonetheless I hope it’s enlightening.
I was lucky enough to be able to see this movie before its official release date. A movie that tackles the tough issue of race I went in high on expectations given to me from people who, honestly I don’t usually hear talk about these issues.
That should have been my first warning.
But lets start with the good.
An all-star cast turns in a stellar performance. Amandla Stenberg is amazing as Starr Carter. She brings so much nuance to the role. Every new obstacle in her way you can see her working it out in her mind, you can see it affecting her in different ways and she pulls you into that with her. Throughout the entire movie you see her brilliance as an actor shine through despite the gross mishandling of the script’s content matter. I couldn’t wait to see what she was going to do next.
Russell Hornsby also does a stellar job as the loving and proudly militant black father. His approach channeled so many black men I know and have known throughout my own life. Men who are trying their best to operate in this society and bring up their kids the best way they know how.
Of course Regina Hall is wonderful as always. Her performance in this film as the mother navigating her child’s emotional trauma while living in a place she resents was brilliant.
The second warning was that, while the book was written by a black woman, a white woman wrote the screenplay. I’m a firm believer of people telling their own stories, ESPECIALLY when it’s a story that revolves entirely around their identity or the oppression becoming of that identity. When others, especially those of the oppressing class get behind the reigns, they often (read: Always) get things wrong even in simple translation.
This film made me tired. Rather it made me realize just how tired I am of all these tropes.
I’m tired of the well-meaning white boy who doesn’t “Get it.”(wrinkle in time, dear white people the movie AND the series) Who’s colorblind, racist and or abusive foolishness is always satiated with a kiss and promise of hot and heavy affection down the line. He’s clearly their outreach to white people. “We still love you white people” this trope coos to them. “We still love you while you kill us, we just want you to do better that’s all” it sighs while lovingly stroking their hair. He’s there to coddle the white producers and give a boost to the egos of those funding the project, to make them feel like “hey that’s me” instead of them being the racist cop(spoiler alert they are usually the racist cop).
I’m tired of watching black people shot to death in real life and on film. It feels like trauma porn. Why did we have to see that so vividly? And if it(this movie) wasn’t for black people, why the focus on crime in the community?(more on that later)
I’m tired of the light-skinned caught between two worlds girl. I want to hear from the people who were ACTUALLY around Khalil. I want to hear from the unambiguous black girl who lives in the hood, stays in the hood and has no escape from the trauma. How does this affect her. Indeed Kenya’s version of the story would’ve been wonderful to hear, however we only see her as the loud, ready to fight sidekick who barely talks after the incident.
But what I’m really, REALLY tired of, is white people writing black people’s stories. There was absolutely no reason to give this script to the white scriptwriter Audrey Wells. Most of the issues with pandering to whiteness and the white gaze can most likely be attributed to this gross mishandling of storytelling. The scene where the white boy (hereafter referred to as WB) says he doesn’t see color and Starr calls him out on it only for her to forgive him as he (cornily) says “I see you” was astoundingly bad and completely misses the point. Then IMMEDIATELY after this Starr tells her dad that she’s dating WB because he didn’t show her what a good black man was, but what a good man was.
But you just said…Chile, whew.
There’s so many better ways to say why you are dating someone outside your race…and you settled on that colorblind mess RIGHT AFTER you explained very well, why that’s bull? Nah fam, back to the drawing board.
Also that whole interaction with her and her dad was creepy af but that’s a whole separate post. It made my skin crawl even with the wonderful acting, that was just written terribly, can’t fix that.
The biggest problem was with the end of this film.
You mean to tell me that you have me sit there and watch a black man die, vividly, then deal with the inaction of police, then watch the cop get off while another black family is torn apart….
And then chalk it all up to black on black crime?
“it’s not the hate YOU give, it’s the hate WE give.”
See, no, fuck you and the horse you rode in on, and the raggedy ass inline skates you wobbling out of here on.
This movie gets a lot right, which is why it’s so dangerous. it’s like they listened just enough to get people to listen and then switch them to the wrong side of a clear argument. People are going to walk out of this with a justification of their bs belief that black on black crime is equal to cop vs civilian murders and without an understanding of the underlying systemic issues that cause both of these things. There was a white woman in the movie theatre with me who had long grinch fingers in her hair, what she probably calls “dreadlocks.” She was a teacher and I can only imagine how emboldened her cultural appropriating arse was walking out of there. I fear for the lessons she will teach to children of all races about this topic based on this film.
And you mean to tell me that in the same movie a cop thinks a brush is a gun, but rolls up on an actual black child with an actual gun pointing it at an actual human being and they don’t shoot? And we watch the black guy go to jail but still nothing of the cop and that’s the happy ending?
Although the performances in the film were outstanding, moving, and ultimately some of the best I’ve seen this year…this movie gets no stars. As a general rule, steer clear of black trauma porn masquerading as a movie for black folks that’s really for sell-outs and fox news pundits.
I wrote this script in anticipation of the newest season of Bojack. This was my official application to the Writer’s on the Verge competition NBC has every year. Thought I’d drop it before the actual episode aired and see how it matched up. Really had fun writing it. I hope you enjoy just click the link below!
It’s been three years since this wonderful television adaptation left us too soon. The show captured the essence of the comics extremely well and quickly amassed a fanbase that was wildly addicted to the 13 episode series. However the powers that be decided not to renew and we were left with a gaping hole in the ever growing fandoms we join that only want to hurt us.
However, the same year I was applying to writers on the verge and they allowed for applicants to write an episode for Constantine. So I dove right in. I found every comic I could, I watched every episode multiple times and I wrote one of my favorite scripts I’ve written so far. It starts off the next season, the season that never was. I hope you all enjoy it! The Link is the drive link below!
Space is the Place in this Afrofuturistic film. Why stay on earth and face constant harassment, beatings, caste systems, and overall oppression? When a place waits for us amongst the stars? Sun Ra, after being reported missing for years, returns to earth and battles for the fate of the black race. With stunning costumes and riveting dialogue, this is one film that should be in every filmmakers library. From visuals, to social issues, this film covers a lot of ground.
Sun Ra and The aptly named Overseer are battling for the future of black people. Sun Ra has found a place that black people can go just be black without any oppression. For him it’s just a matter of transportation. Molecularization or music? It’s a beautiful dream. But when he gets back to Earth he’s immediately confronted with the type of black person that wouldn’t want this to happen at all. The Overseer enlists the help of a black media personality to get his word out to the masses. The interaction between these two is a reflection of what really happens with these media types. Always dangling a promise of something they want in their face, then when they do the job, and they don’t get what they want…the overseer does. The needle is always moving. There are many parallels to be drawn between this film and the real world and that’s the point.
One of the great things about this film is the dialogue that occurs between the overseer and Sun Ra. The overseer at one point singles out a black man, a pimp, who has beaten a woman and asks Sun Ra. “Is this what you want to save?” A pertinent question indeed. Questions actually abound in this film and leaves you with more afterwards. Beautiful questions, especially for the time period. Another line I love is “White people have already touched the moon, I see they haven’t invited you.” They begin listening to him when they realize there’s not much going here and as nobody is investing in a new start for them here, why not make space their place?
The plot and dialogue were great, suffers from a bit of stiff acting from Sun Ra but nothing to distracting.
One major point that I must make. Besides the women in his “Arkestra” there aren’t too many black women, none as leads to be sure. The ones(outside of the singers) we see are sex workers, and disbelievers with “attitude.” The one recurring black woman immediately strips, then gets beaten by white Nasa scientists after laughing at their impotence. It seems in this world black women who aren’t singing or having sex aren’t seen as implicitly worthy of saving as the black men are. Now, the disrespect of black women is definitely one of the themes, however I do believe the lack of care when crafting the black women characters is a direct contradiction to their stance on this issue and thus completely eradicates the intersections between black woman oppression and overall black oppression. In this dream of a future, I don’t believe I saw any black women on that ship other than his singers. It throws off the balance and makes it seem like the disrespect is a sidebar instead of a major issue. This is a huge problem for a film with such a progressive message. So that knocks down the rating.
I give this film 3.5 stars out of 5. Just can’t look past a progressive theme with a regressive treatment of black women.
The other problem with films like this is that 44 years later, we’re asking the same questions and dreaming the same dream. But if you love sci-fi blended smoothly with social issues I definitely suggest you Check it out.
Spoilers ahead, and some profane language. I’m going in, no holds barred. I’m going to be making wild speculations that could be completely wrong or totally right. Comments will be open for dialogue for all of my fellow comic followers!
Ok If you’re still here I’m assuming you’ve seen the movie OR you’re one of those strange hellspawn type individuals that like spoilers.
I’m going to take you through the stages that I watched this movie so that you, dear reader, can understand exactly where I’m coming from. A lot of “stuff and things” have been said about this film. So I’m going to try to filter it all out and get to the bottom of it all.
So the first 30 minutes were boring. We relive Bruce’s parents being killed. Interesting point here, Thomas Wayne attempts to punch the mugger. This doesn’t usually happen, and when it does it usually denotes some sort of, alternate universe. When it happened in Justice League, it was Batman’s favored reality brought upon by Mongul’s starfish creature. Now of course, this time he still loses, but this tiny change could be an indication of a fractured universe/timeline, especially since we see flash come through the speed verse specifically to tell Batman “you were right all along.” A clear allusion to the Flashpoint run, one of the biggest game changers in the DC universe. Brings about the new 52, changes hero origins, puts superman and wonder woman together, completely mishandles Static Shock. You know, the big stuff.
Thomas Wayne’s fist clench initiated that whole line of thinking. Different universe, fractured timeline. Now the question is, what’s going on? Superman has already shown he’s willing to kill, Luthor threatens his mother, who, we’ve already seen what he did the LAST time that happened (Zod). So I’m thinking maybe Justice Lords? (more on that later)
Back to the movie. Lane goes to some desert in order to follow a story. Shit hits the fan, superman comes in and tackles a guy(presumably human) through two buildings, apparently that doesn’t kill him, or it does, whatever who cares at this point, everyone’s dying. And that’s the point. The next scene an African woman who was there describes in detail to the US Senate, the horror she felt when seeing him come down from the heavens, bringing his wrath.
This whole time Lex Luthor is discovering a giant piece of kryptonite and figuring out how to use it. While, as usual he has legitimate concerns about a seemingly all-powerful being operating under no one’s laws or supervision, his plan to handle it is devious and flat-out evil.
The movie gets a bit confusing (ok a lotta confusing) if you don’t follow the comics and or TV shows at this point. Dream sequences are thrown in apparently willy-nilly and are not explained at all. The desert scene with Batman would seem completely nonsensical. It actually made me angry how completely out of the loop the writers and directors left the casual film goer. Batman is tricked into believing the kryptonite is in the truck, they turn on him killing everyone. Batman starts fighting, takes a gun, starts shooting. As all of this fighting is going on all of a sudden from the sky, Mosquito men come down.
(Ok I always called them that since I was a child, but I was informed by Lord Darkseid himself they are called parademons).
But anyway, ALIENS COME DOWN FROM THE HEAVENS. With no explanation. Batman is knocked out and wakes up to Superman killing two of his comrades. Then he wakes up again and is in front of his batcomputer and Flash comes through the speed force to tell him “Batman you were always right about him.”
WTF kinda fevered ass dream was that? If you don’t know about justice lords, Darkseid, Apokolips, AND Flashpoint you’re gonna be completely in the dark. Reason one why I can understand a lot of people giving this movie bad reviews. You shouldn’t have to have prior knowledge of 3 separate timelines in order to “get” a film.
A great part of the movie is the bombing scene. Where the Senator slowly realizes her tea is “granny’s sweet peach tea”, and allusion to an earlier conversation she had with Lex, the bomb goes off right after, leaving superman the lone survivor in the building.
Batman breaks into Luthor’s building and steals the Kryptonite, of course, he meets Wonder Woman there. Her role is pretty small, but opens the door for the Justice League to form.
Anyway following some great fight scenes with Batman, and some Messiah like scenes with Superman, it’s time for the final battle.
The hardest thing to write, I believe, must’ve been that fight. But I give all the kudos here. It was extremely well done. Full disclosure, I’m a Batman fan so I know why Superman fans are mad but go ahead and take the losers cape so you can be super mad at this. Batman beat his ass. At one point Bats LITERALLY DRAGS HIM. Now I don’t say this often, but at that point I was like YES DRAG HIS ASS!
The way the fight goes, it’s clear that Batman had the upper hand the entire time. He knew they’d end up at the bottom, right where he’d planted the spear (why a spear, idk, probably something about Jesus).
The fight was a great battle and showcases the difference between the two, brute strength vs skill. The fight ends right about here–
The only thing that stops Batman from killing Superman, is Superman begging for the life of his mother. As she happens to share the same name as Bruce Wayne’s mother, he pauses. It’s an extremely thin thread but they hang the plot twist of “let’s be friends” on it.
While Batman is saving Martha, Superman is watching Lex birth Doomsday. Strange that he let Luthor sit there and talk when he could’ve stopped him…
There’s a giant battle between Superman, Doomsday, and Wonderwoman. It’s a flashy battle with of course, lots of CGI. But It gets the point across I suppose.
Superman sacrifices himself to kill Doomsday which I suppose solidifies his “good guy” status with Wayne because he seems kinda torn up about it. The movie ends at Superman’s funeral. Bruce is talking to Diana(Wonder Woman) about starting the Justice League. Dirt begins rising from Clark’s tomb indicating that, of course, he isn’t really dead.
Which brings up a problem because Clark Kent has been declared dead as well, though his death was regulated to a back page of the Daily Planet. Won’t it be weird if he comes back as soon as Superman does?
All in all there were a lot of allusions to the comics…but that’s really a double-edged sword here. On the one hand, a lot of it was unfair to expect a casual film goer to understand. In the context of the dream sequence it was not explained, which was the problem with that. But some things like the weaponized Kryptonite gas, needed no explanation, but Frank Miller fans immediately recognized it. The line when the bad guy is saying “I’ll kill her!” and batman says “I believe you.” Classic, pulled straight from the comics and animated film. That kind of homage shows the respect and dedication that these people had to this film.
Themes and Philosophy
Woven intricately throughout the entire film are several intense questions.
What makes a hero? What makes a deed heroic? What is bravery? Is it saving a life?
If all it takes for you to save a life is you pressing a button and you have no consequence, are you a hero or merely a decent living creature with bare minimum empathy?
It’s always been an interesting theme to me and I’m glad they explored it here. What makes someone like Superman good or bad? If he sees a mugging and doesn’t help is he bad now? He has literally no risk associated with helping, so does that make him responsible? If so, his hearing has been demonstrated to be so strong that he can hear things around the world. So, is the only responsible thing for him to do is to sit in a chair listening all day? Because if he doesn’t, surely he will miss something and someone will die because he wasn’t paying attention. And wouldn’t that technically be his fault?
“I’m worried I didn’t see it, because I wasn’t looking.” This hints that he may start his plan of bugging and watching everyone. Locking up anyone he deems suspicious or dangerous seems like the logical end to his current thinking. Which kind of takes away people’s lives and free will.
How about collateral damage?
So many people died in that fight with Zod. You saved the world, great, but there were times where you literally threw him through buildings which subsequently fell, killing and endangering even MORE people. It was great to see the ramifications of his actions there as well. Far too often it’s seen as “The good guy saved the day, the end.” But in this world of hardcore politicians, policies, and ever-changing structures, like they say in the movie “every action is political.” It’s never over. As Friedrich Nietzsche poses in the book Beyond good and evil, nobody is all good, or all evil. So, if Superman does even one thing bad, with his powers…what is that bad thing and how many people does that wipe out?
One of my favorite lines is “You aren’t brave, Men are brave.” It’s said in the midst of the big fight, but it’s poignant and necessary in the argument of who is better, Batman or Superman. Again, Supes has little to no risk associated with his “acts of heroism.” So for instance, when Bruce Wayne ran and saved that little girl from the collapsing rubble, he could’ve died.
That was heroic. That was brave. He put his life on the line.
For superman to do that? It’s laughable to call that heroic. I mean, it’s nice but, it’s clearly not the same thing. Another juxtaposition that, while isn’t back to back, is there in the film.
Superman does literally nothing to achieve his powers. He wakes up and he’s a chiseled, super strong, sonic boom flying, son of a krypton. In the film they show how hard Batman pushes himself in the gym BIG UPS to Ben Affleck properly conditioning himself to do that scene. Phenomenal work man.
And therein lies the true, huge difference.
Batman has mentally and physically pushed himself to the limit in order to become a person who CAN be a hero, Superman just has to get out of bed and passes judgement.
As Doctor Ian Malcolm once said-
“I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it.”
In the context of Superman it’s, you didn’t earn the power for yourself, so where’s your sense of responsibility? Clark Kent wields his power as if the only thing he can do wrong is NOT catch someone. In this film Batman sees this danger and goes to take care of it.
Because in this world, Superman, is a God. And what kind of God gives his people free will knowing they will suffer countless atrocities for it? The kind that wears a lab coat or a sweater and takes notes while silently judging you sure… But definitely not the kind that wears a cape and desires your love and acceptance.
A good point that Superman does bring up (as Clark Kent) is the fact that Batman has been hitting underprivileged areas hard, and because of this he believes the Daily Planet isn’t covering his attacks. Especially the act of branding that he’s been doing that is essentially a death sentence for prisoners. Batman’s “in the dark” methods stray greatly from Superman’s more “boyscout” style. However in this movie, both heroes are a bit more grim, and more willing to hurt people so, each character calling out the moral failings of the other are a bit muddy.
There are many reasons to hate this movie, but I’m already past 2000 words so I figured, I’d just talk about it in general. There are characterization issues mostly, and they just stopped the entire movie for an email attachment to tease Justice League, which could’ve been handled far better. Dream sequences all over the place with no real transitioning. A couple of the redundant plot holes like why would you let the bad guy press a button when you have super speed…
But overall though, the movie was fun and intelligent. They may have overextended themselves, but the message is still there. In the next films they won’t be trying to do so much outside of the main feature. So it should be a bit more put together. I’m look forward to seeing what comes next from DC.