“Grown Folks Marvel”: Marvel’s “Luke Cage” Excels on Many Levels

Marvel/Netflix
Marvel/Netflix

Marvel’s Luke Cage is undoubtedly the best thing Marvel’s created. You might think I’m being facetious, but having seen my share of Marvel properties, some of which I wish I’d never seen—I could have done without seeing Ant-Man, but I only went for the sake of my younger brother—Marvel’s Luke Cage hits all the marks I wish the Marvel movies would hit. While the films are highly concerned—too concerned—with being literal comic books on screen, Luke Cage is more concerned with authentic characterization. Everyone in this show is, in some way or another, exhibits traits of people you might know in real life. Even Cottonmouth. You know you know some guys in your family or friend circles who would respond to some wild video just like he did to the Judas bullet demo.

(His moment of frugality was also hilariously relatable. We’ve all been there when we’re trying to get something, and then you look at the price. “Per bullet?” indeed.)

I could go on and on about what I liked about Luke Cage, but I’ve already discussed my love for the show in my first recap for Tor.com!

Black America through the Lens of Luke Cage

Here’s a teaser:

Luke Cage is what Tarantino wishes he could do. Luke Cage gives you that pulpy feel that makes those old ‘70s films great, from the musical choices, to the fact that it’s set in a historically black city like Harlem (complete with a Cotton Club-esque nightclub), to the atmospheric direction which turns every step Luke makes into a mysterious and ultimately gratifying journey.

But where Luke Cage continues to go is normally where the ‘90s Blaxploitation resurgence films would end. While we all came to see the bulletproof man take on crime, what we all witnessed was an examination of the black American identity in America.

There is the obvious: Luke, as a bulletproof black man in a hoodie, acts as a salve to many of us who feel like we’re one bullet away from becoming another hashtag. Luke’s nightly presence in his hoodie full of bullet holes, recalls Trayvon Martin, who was killed just for being in a dark hoodie at night. Martin’s memory echoes throughout Luke Cage, even within the original rap song for the show, “Bulletproof Love” by Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Method Man. The line, “I’m about to trade my life for a Magnum/Give up my life for Trayvon to have one,” keeps the message of Martin’s life in the forefront of the viewers’ minds. At the same time, Luke’s presence is also a reminder of black humanity. We, like Luke, are feared, but we are still mighty.

There’s also the less obvious: Luke Cage takes a look at the fight for the soul of black America and black identity. This battle is the clearest in Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes and Mariah Dillard, two cousins who represent a multitude of ideas and philosophies that have shaped black America…Their relationship speaks to the conflicts of the heart many black Americans wrestle with every day. What Luke Cage seems to beg the audience to think about are the circumstances which made Mariah and Cornell what they are. Why is Mariah so worried about gentrification? Why did Cornell feel his manhood had to be proven on the streets? Why do Mariah and Cornell, and by extension many black Americans, feel that they, in their own way, have to fend for themselves in a country that is supposed to protect them?

Also, a lot of fans had a ton to say about Luke Cage and its intersectionality, diversity, and deep characterization. Some good points about Comanche (Is he a black Indigenous person? Is his name just a name?) were made and some light discussion about the usage of the N-word occurred. The quote that summed things up for me was from a commenter who called Luke Cage “Grown Folks Marvel.” She’s absolutely right, because the rest of the Marvel films are just child’s play compared to this. Check the Twitter Moment out for yourself.

What do you love about Luke Cage? Give your opinions in the comments section below!