Wednesday, October 12, 2016

CALLING B.S. ON NETFLIX'S LUKE CAGE


When I was young I pretended to watch superhero cartoons because there was one television and my brother insisted. But I have always loved superhero cartoons. Well, maybe not always. The reruns of super goody-goody, super whitey-white Captain America made me wanna puke.

But Spiderman?  He had a self-effacing sense of humor. And, Spiderman's costume covered him from head to toe. You could pretend he was black.  It also helped that, in the cartoons, you didn't see Peter Parker that much. So it was easy to forget Spiderman was supposed to be white.

However, I never read a single comic book about Luke Cage because I couldn't stand his image.

Luke Cage was drawn like the Hulk but with brown skin. Even as a kid I recognized that he was just half a step from animal. The X-men and The Avengers and all the other white superheroes, except the Hulk, were presented as good, all American, empathetic thinkers. And you could see that on the comic book covers.




Nothing should be surprising about this. If white people didn't draw Luke Cage, then white people were the ones that got to say "yea" or "nay."


Yea, this looks realistic
or
Nay, this look's false.

And what is accepted by white people as realistic images of blacks for publication, television, or movies is usually based on stereotypes of black people that feel familiar to white people.


That's why Denzel Washington won an Oscar for playing the thuggiest thug cop there is.


That's why Halle Berry won an Oscar as the wife of a dead, death row convict (who will have abandoned sex on a dime.)


That's why Octavia Spencer won an Oscar for playing a sassy maid. 


That's why Gabourey Sidibe won for playing an empty headed, abused, inner city teen in the movie while that same "Precious" character in the book was an intelligent woman only short a few opportunities and sisterly support. 

Maybe if I'd have actually gotten past Luke Cage's image, I'd have felt differently about him as a kid. But I didn't. Maybe there was something redeeming between the comic's front cover and back cover that I never saw.  
But now you know how biased I was when I forced myself to watch the first few episodes Luke Cage series on Netflix.  

By the way, biased or not I'm still resentful that Luke Cage is on Netflix instead of getting a shot at the big screen like the white superheroes.

I never would have guessed, for example, that Iron Man was a popular enough superhero to get his own series of movies -- which stars an actor that was most famous for his drug use and going into rehab repeatedly. More importantly, Ironman was never popular enough to get his own cartoon. Was he?


Okay. So I was doubly resentful watching the first two episodes of Luke Cage.  


The first thing I notice is that I can't tell what decade we're supposed to be in. Something about the music, the decor, and the way the people are talking make me think we're still in the 1970s or something. But then I see cell phones and computers


And then there are audio holes I can't figure out.


There were places where people were either walking or talking and there's no music or ambient noise. I can't figure out what's missing. But whatever it is, it's not there. 

And the characters seems like they are slow-talking and whispering. You can hear them just fine. But it seems like all the actors are modulating their voices in a strange way and talking so carefully that the dialogue doesn't seem like real people talking.


Something is wrong. I can't figure out what it is. My suspension of disbelief is not taking place. And, I don't like it. But I was predisposed to not like the show. So maybe that's not a surprise.  

But the biggest thing I cannot put my finger on is how this entire project feels like black people through a white lens

  • Again

  • I kinda hate  Luke Cage a lot 


The thing I notice at the same time though, the thing that makes me happy, was that that there are all these dark chocolate people all over the place in a black neighborhood.

That doesn't usually happen in things Hollywood-made unless it is totally black controlled (like a Spike Lee Movie) or the white folks are making a movie centered on black gang life (And, I'm not sure Luke Cage isn't just that. Not yet.)


But one of the first scenes is in a barbershop. 



That looks like a real barbershop (except for primary colors of the decor) There are a variety of skin shades among the characters in the series, just like in most real black neighborhoods. And there are tons of dark-skinned people everywhere you look in this series. 


In other words, you'll never turn on the television set without knowing what channel it's set to, see a "Luke Cage" episode and mistake it for "Empire."

The main characters I saw, the good guys and the bad guys, are all deep chocolate guys. 

Main Actors In First few Episodes Of Luke Cage

There are so many dark-skinned people, I start thinking they probably were FORCED to get black directors and black people to do the lighting because you can't expect to use the same lighting in dark scenes with dark black people as you would with white people-- and still expect to be able to see them. 

And there a lot of dark scenes with hard contrasting lighting in Luke Cage. 


But then here come the women. 



Except for Alfre Woodard, 63 years old in real life and one of the mostly bad guys*, all of Luke Cage's potential love interests can pass a paper bag test in the dark -- even the one that's probably supposed to be dead before the show begins. 



Please note how dark brown these female characters were drawn in the original comic. 

Just so ya know: I cheered Halle Berry on for decades because she was THE black woman making it Hollywood. I got up off my butt to go see almost anything she was in, with the exception of "Cat Woman." And from what I hear, I'm glad I spared myself.

I cheered for "The Cosby Show" even though I now know Cosby cast that show so as to make sure the light-skinned girls played his older daughters, played the ones that would have romances while the younger, darker ones would be cute and harmless like dark girls are supposed to be. (I suppose Cosby never thought the show would last long enough for Vanessa or Rudy to have boyfriends. And they kinda didn't.)

Then Cosby created "A Different World" and went even lighter. Four out of five of the female students on "A Different World" were biracial or white. And most of us didn't even notice, right?

Do you know how damaging that is? To have light-preference washing over the black community from black shows while we do not notice?

Isn't that how brainwashing is done?

Is it any wonder so many black women are just NOW learning how to take care of their natural hair without a relaxer or a weave?

"Luke Cage" isn't the only television show providing the light-skinned-women preference as brainwashing in 2016 either.  




In the new television series, "This Is Us" one of the three couples centered on is black. The black wife is played by an actress named "Susan Kelechi Watson."


<-This is what Susan looked 
                                                         like before they hired her. 

 This is what Susan looked like after they hired her-->


The studio added a more natural hair style (for black women) to make her look black-er


The studio did the same thing to Luke Cage's love interest, Misty Knight.



Though this pale skinned actress does wear natural hair styles in real life, the studio still went looking to hire an actress that fit the Aisha-With-The-Good-Hair profile.


I don't know what the actual race/ethnicity of either actress is. I just know I can't keep going for this combination pale-woman/dark-man as "representative" of blackness anymore.

So now I'm going look for the alternatives. And I'm going to be looking for them for at least the next 40 years. 


Dark woman/Dark man = fine. 
Dark Woman/Light man = fine.  
Light Woman/Light man = semi-okay


We've been watching dark man and light woman in television and movie fiction too often. Black men have not missed us either.

I'll mention how black women (who you don't have to squint at to figure out if they are black) have been missing from television and video, even black male created television and video until Shonda came along, and all I get blank stare.  And we, as black people, have been watching the same color combination (dark black man/pale black wife) in real black life too via seeing who our male Civil Rights Leaders married and/or promoted in Civil Rights Organizations.  

I simply cannot allow paper bag tests for-black-women-only to continue without comment any longer. 
Been there. Done That. Have the t-shirt. It's 2016. Time for this to be over.  

This means I'm done with Luke Cage too.

If I ever start watching "This Is Us" I'll let you know what's amazing about it. Because it'll have to be amazing for me to get over my annoyance. 



So, if you let your daughters and especially your easily influenced sons to watch either show, at least make sure they recognize the colorism and misgynoir washing over them.  Don't let this repetitive internalized racism inducing nonsense keep washing over the black community unseen except for the effect it leaves behind -- a preference for light and white women as representative of beauty and as partners in real life.

Pale Wives, Girlfiends and replacements for
Spike Lee, Eddie Murphy, and Taye Diggs.

Individual preferences are not the problem. The actor Mike Colter might have demonstrated that he understands that in an interview (or quote) he gave recently. Maybe. But the pattern of highly visible black men preferring paleness for mates and the casting of paleness opposite usually medium to dark-skinned black men IS a problem and an obvious one.

And I'm having a hard time believing that a black men that have black wives, that look unquestionably black, wouldn't have noticed how casting bent toward pale for the women in his show. 




Denzel Washington, for example, has female co-stars are all pale. But when he directs a film, if he has a wife, she is black in a way you don't have to stare to figure it out. However, she's usually on screen for all of ten seconds. Yet, every time I'm in a movie theater peeved that Washington doesn't have a female supporting actress that is black in his movie, the white female character winds up being somebody he's just using for sex, or a gold digger, or a drug addict. Unless the co-star (not supporting) is someone big like Angelina Jolie or Julia Roberts, I'm usually wind up glad a black actress is NOT in the movie by the time it's over.

Misogyny is a double edged sword, I guess.  But I digress.

In regards to the black female colorism I find in Luke Cage, maybe Mike Colter is new on the scene. 
Maybe he has no creative control. But since he has a white wife, I'm not going to hold my breathe that things are going to get better in his future projects.

The source of the dark male/light female pattern is a problem.  And the images being blasted at us all of the time is the core of the problem. And, I don't know if "Luke Cage" or "This is Us" contains the chickens or the eggs. But I'm going to leave these shows alone because they are part of the colorism cycle that is emotionally and psychologically beating black women down and leaving a profound mark on black men too.


When Bill Duke made the documentaries Dark Girls and Light Girls he totally missed the core issue. He skipped right over just how much high profile black men are fueling this competition by the their "personal preferences" -- much like white people skip over how white flight creates ghettos when writing academic papers and documentaries. 



I've said it before and I'll say it again: Black women and young black girls with afro hair and dark skin, are not crazy. They know what black men want. And black actresses and singers know that white casting agents want the same thing. So the Azaelia Banks-es, Laverne Cox-es, and little black girls near you go out and buy it. They go buy the long, limp, straight hair and bleaching creams.


Azealia Banks Says Skin Bleaching Doesn’t Make Her Less Black

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/azealia-banks-says-skin-bleaching-doesnt-make-her-less-black_us_577d54cae4b0c590f7e7a689





Sometimes black girls are a little smarter: They don't buy the hair and creams. 
They simply choose, instead, to resent those women that have what black men want by "luck" of genetics. Then a huge percentage of light-skinned girls will turn around and deny that there's any preference at all from black men  seeking partners or from white people casting television shows and movies.

Get off the merry-go-round anytime you find that you can. And I suggest you do so today by skipping Luke Cage altogether.




This aggravates me every time I see it.
If Marcus Garvey wasn't aiming this at black men too in his day, 
he should have been.
Somebody let me know when they put a black man on this t-shirt.



-------
*
The worst thing about Alfre Woodard's character is that she's a criminal trying to do good. If she is the only black political leader in Luke Cage then she represents compromised "black culture" and we can call the white lens through which black people are seen as white racist lens and call Luke Cage a Blaxploitation series of the worst kind.

I'm not sure that's true as I only got through a few episodes and I'm done. But I'm pretty sure Blaxsploitation is where it's at for Luke Cage. That plus black female colorism? That's a no-go 


updated 10 15 16