Tag Archives: Netflix

Misty Knight’s bionic arm makes its debut in “Luke Cage” Season 2 first look

Marvel is getting ready to bring us Luke Cage Season 2, and Misty Knight finally has her bionic arm!

The first look image was released exclusively via Entertainment Weekly, and it shows Luke (Mike Colter) and Misty (Simone Missick) on the case, as it were (maybe they’re walking to take down Shades and Mariah?). What’s clearly evident is Misty’s brand new arm, something fans have been waiting on since the first season.

According to Entertainment Weekly’s Shirley Li, Misty gets her new arm from Tony Stark and Stark Industries in the comic book lore. Also, the way Misty loses her arm in the comics is in a bombing. However, in the new Marvel cinematic universe, Misty loses her arm due to Bakuto (Ramón Rodríguez), a member of the Hand. In the comics, Misty gained superheroic powers with her new arm, and we’ll see just what Misty can do with her arm once we see it in action when Luke Cage returns to Netflix in 2018.

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New Castmembers Added to “Luke Cage” Season 2

Mustafa Shakir and Gabrielle Dennis have been added to the second season of Netflix and Marvel’s Luke Cage.

Shakir will play a character named John McIver, a charismatic leader who is focused on vengeance. Dennis will play Tilda Johnson, a holistic doctor who always seems to find trouble.

“Mustafa’s incredible presence and power ignited us from our first meeting, and Gabrielle brings the charm and smarts to a very complicated role,” said executive producer Jeph Loeb. “Both will be wonderful additions to our already magnificent cast.”

The second season of Luke Cage will premiere in 2018.

Read more at Shadow and Act.

“GLOW” Is An Unexpected Commentary on American Racism

When I watched Netflix’s latest success, GLOW, what I expected was to see a faithful-to-the-ugly-’80s dramedy about the makings of real-life ’80s wrestling show GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. I expected a focus on strong women, which there was. But what I didn’t expect was a sneak attack of much-needed racial commentary.

One of the show’s overarching themes is how much racial stereotyping and trope plays into the world of entertainment wrestling. Racial and ethnic stereotypes have been an often-overlooked, but integral part of entertainment wrestling’s success, such as The Iron Sheik, Samoa Joe, Sheamus, Latin Lover, SabuMexican America, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and G-Rilla, the original gangsta character George Murdoch (aka WWE’s Brodus Clay and Impact Wrestling’s Tyrus) adopted to start his career. Stereotypes of all forms play a part in wresting’s personas, from the hillbilly character of Bubba Ray Dudley and the gimmicky play on Hornswoggle‘s height as a little person to the cartoonish, flamboyant “macho man” brashness of Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, and Randy Savage and spoiled brattiness of “The Miracle” Mike Bennett and his wife, “The First Lady of Wrestling” Maria Kanellis Bennett, to the self-explanatory nature of The Honky Tonk Man.

The show explores exactly why stereotypes are seen as means to an end in the world of wrestling–it’s easy to create a character. Unlike how director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) was trying to create an indie subversive treatise on the patriarchy with characters who needed a lot of backstory, there is no need for characters with layers in professional wrestling. The ease of stereotypes, especially the racial ones, allow for the audience to quickly understand who a character is and what their motivations are in one sentence (or in some cases, no sentences at all). Carmen Wade (Britney Young) is part Cherokee, but instead, her character is the Incan gentle giant Machu Picchu, with simultaneously plays on Carmen’s lovable demeanor and the stereotype of the wise, ancient, “medicine woman” type. Reggie Walsh (Marianna Palka) plays on a mish-mash of Viking and Nordic stereotypes as Vicky the Viking, who pillages towns.

Sydelle Noel (R) and Kia Stevens in GLOW (Erica Parise/Netflix)

Beirut (Sunita Mani) is, in wrestling terms, a “heel” by playing on the “brown-as-terrorist” stereotype that was reinforced within the season thanks to a newscast of Lebanese terrorists who held a U.S. plane hostage. It doesn’t matter that the character behind Beruit, Arthie Premkumar, isn’t actually Lebanese. Welfare Queen (Kia Stevens) spoke to the image white America had (or still has) of the poor black woman–that she’s actually a lazy slob living in wealth thanks to taking advantage of the government. It doesn’t matter that the character’s real persona, Tammé Dawson, actually worried about if her son, who is getting an Ivy League education, might be made fun of or, worse, that her son could actually come to resent her playing on all the stereotypes they’ve worked to disavow. Fortune Cookie aka Jenny Chey (Ellen Wong) is actually Cambodian, but what’s important is that she wrap up all of America’s dis-ease with the Vietnam War and its growing tension with communist China in one small bamboo hat-wearing package.

The ultimate heel of the show, Zoya the Destroyer aka Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) plays heavily on America’s fear of Soviet Russia. Does it matter that “Zoya” isn’t actually Russian? Nope. All that matters is that she portrays every Russian stereotype to the nth degree. The same goes for Liberty Belle aka Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin), who has to play up every nasty stereotype about “The Good U.S. of A.,” which includes believing White Jesus is an American citizen, that apple pie reflects patriotism (even though it’s actually Dutch in origin), and that blonde and white equals pure and “All-American.”

Alison Brie (L) and Betty Gilpin in GLOW (Erica Parise/Netflix)

However, stereotyping is quickly shown to be a double-edged sword; while it might be easy to get your characters out, it also opens the fans, particularly those who don’t realize the gag, to use the stereotypes as an excuse to showcase their racism. The best example of this is in the final episode, when Arthie gets spit on and heckled with racial epithets. The fact that she’s playing up the terrorist stereotype could be, if we’re using Sam and producer Bash’s (Chris Lowell) lenses, subverting the stereotype itself and taking the power away from that image by mocking the absurdity of the stereotype. But the audience for wrestling isn’t thinking about writing a thesis on stereotype subversion. What ends up happening is that there are some fans who believe whatever is put in front of them, and if they see a stereotype of a terrorist, they feel justified in hurling racial slurs. What happens to Arthie is exactly what Tammé and Junk Chain aka Cherry Bang (Sydelle Noel) discuss one-on-one; how will they know if the audience is in on the joke and laughing with them instead of laughing at them?

The first season of GLOW sets up for a second season that seems ripe to dig deeper into the emotional fallout the wrestlers will go through when it comes to playing up stereotypes. We were left with a question mark on whether Cherry would continue with the group, seeing how she aced an audition for a lead part on a TV procedural. The procedural itself seems to still be in line with Cherry’s blaxploitation past, but still, it’s miles better for her than the work she’s putting out as Junk Chain. For her, she’d finally be seen as a legitimate actress, not a B-movie star. Arthie might have a love for TV wrestling, but that love might pale in comparison to the amount of inner turmoil she’s already facing after her first TV match. Ruth is naively oblivious to the fact that she’s not portraying Russians as actual Russians, something made clear when she went with the hotel owner to his family’s gathering. But she’s primed and ready for a huge inner dilemma next season. Tammé hasn’t had to face her son yet, but with GLOW’s growing popularity, she’ll certainly have to.

(From right) Sydelle Noel, Ellen Wong, and Sunita Mani in GLOW (Erica Parise/Netflix)

As The Atlantic‘s Dion Beary wrote in the 2014 article, Pro Wrestling is Fake, but Its Race Problem Isn’t, it’s the behind-the-scenes dilemmas that are the real draw for wrestling fans, since what happens in real life is often woven into the on-screen conflicts. And, just like how racial stereotyping and racism itself is a part of GLOW, The WWE was also facing its own issues with racial bias.

Beary detailed how the WWE’s black wrestlers were constantly getting beaten in the ring, from “jobbers”–wrestlers whose main job is to be beaten–and veteran wrestlers alike, like Big E and “The World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry. All of this highlights the fact that in its then-62 years, the federation had yet to crown a black wrestler the winner of the WWE Championship, the highest honor in the federation.

The article focuses on a 2003 WWE match to make its point. WWE’s RAW World Champion was Triple H, and the underdog looking to take him on was Booker T, a black wrestler.

“‘Somebody like you doesn’t get to be a world champion,’ Triple H told Booker T during a promo, a segment meant to build excitement for a match. Triple H made mention of Booker’s ‘Nappy hair,’ and claimed Booker was in the WWE to make people laugh, to be an entertainer rather than a competitor, to ‘do a little dance’ for him.

The crowd ate it up, and loud ‘ASSHOLE’ chants rained down on Triple H. The next week, Booker T gave an impassioned talk about his past, about how he’s overcome every obstacle that has been put in his way in life, and how he was going to beat the odds again at Wrestlemania 19 to become the world champion. It was, in one sense, brilliant storytelling. Hollywood is chock-full of plots that involve scrappy minorities overcoming racism to accomplish their dreams. With Triple H as the franchise, and the franchise’s job being to eventually lose to the underdog, fans were thoroughly in the corner of Booker T. The storybook ending just made so much sense.

And then Triple H won. 1-2-3. There was no cheating, no controversial finish, non ambiguity about it.
There’s real-life drama and then there’s fictional drama. WWE’s response to allegations of racism, misogyny, homophobia ad ableism have always been the same: It’s fictional. But that excuse wears thin when the fictional racism lines up perfectly with the real-life racism.”

According to Wikipedia, there still hasn’t been a black wrestler crowned as the ultimate champion. However, wrestlers of other minority backgrounds have been crowned throughout the championship’s run in the late ’90s and ’00s, including The Rock, Eddie Guerrero, Yokozuna, Alberto Del Rio, Rey Mysterio, and Batista. Still, the fact remains that in matches such as the one between Triple H and Booker T, racially-laced storylines play a huge part in professional wrestling, much to its detriment.

The cast of GLOW

What’s happening in GLOW not only shines a light on the issues plaguing professional wrestling, but also the acting industry as a whole. The same problem affecting Ruth and the other GLOW women are the same ones affecting actors today–all of the great, meaty roles are given to white men, while everyone else has to make lemonade out of lemon roles, with your success hinging on how much (or how willingly) you lean into your assigned stereotype. But as GLOW shows, even if you happily go into creating the best stereotypical character ever, your reward might be in the form of diminishing returns.

The success of GLOW’s second season will hang on just how much time is devoted to delving into the problems caused by the cast opening up Pandora’s Box of stereotyping. With so much material to mine, from the world of professional wrestling to the real life actresses’ own stories of offensive casting and other Hollywood horrors, it’d be to GLOW‘s detriment if it doesn’t hold Hollywood down in a headlock in Season 2.

It’s official: The Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o film is now real!

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Who knew Twitter would turn into the next Hollywood casting office! It’s amazing that this tweet about the two stars at a 2014 Miu Miu fashion show:

launched this result:

According to Entertainment Weekly:

After a dramatic negotiation session at the Cannes Film Festival, Netflix has nabbed a film project pairing Grammy winner Rihanna with Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, in a concept that began as a Twitter sensation. Ava DuVernay (Selma) will direct, and Issa Rae (Insecure) is writing the screenplay.

According to sources, Netflix landed the project in a very aggressive bid, beating out multiple other suitors.

The film will go into production in 2018 after DuVernay finishes her latest project. I, for one, is excited for this film and I can’t wait to see it when it comes to Netflix. Twitter–particularly #BlackTwitter, which started the whole movie talk–is excited, too:

Twitter users have also continued the casting train by providing Ava DuVernay tons of suggestions:

As Shadow and Act brought up, the big question is whether the person whose tweet originated this idea will get paid. “This could be one of those precedent-setting situations,” wrote Shadow and Act’s Tambay Obenson. If there is payment on the way, that means that the floodgates have opened for tons of films coming from Twitter, with tons of creators getting some steep royalty checks.

What do you think about this film? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Netflix is 3% Closer, but Still Fighting White Supremacy Saviors

Netflix

Eric S.B.

Originally published on Nerds of Color

At this point, it’s damn near impossible to keep up with the onslaught of Netflix original programming. Along with all of the film and series content, the tentacles of the entertainment Kraken inevitably started reaching out for more international collaborations. Around Thanksgiving we were treated to the Brazilian series 3%. In terms of originality, it doesn’t score high: another variation on the theme of a future world where young adults do what they have to do to survive.

It does have its points of deviation though from say The Hunger Games and Divergent with a touch of Elysium. Brazil has had a long and appalling history of income inequality, which I’m sure is where the idea of the tagline came from: “In a dystopian future there is a clear divide between the rich and poor, but when a person turns 20, they have the opportunity to cross the divide.” As implied, by free will all the candidates get to try to make it from the miserable mainland to the utopian island Mar Alto; that looks kind of like Recife to Fernando de Noronha on the map. The tests they undergo are less physical and more psychological until they are whittled down to the fabled 3%. The setting, albeit futuristic, feels closer to present as we undergo our own survival in the collapse.

 

The cast is stellar. Like a small Brazilian microcosm, the ethnic roots of the world are all on screen. Lovely diverse faces. And yet, this is where my principal criticisms also lie. Within all of the inclusiveness, two things happen. Firstly, for audiences both in and out of Brazil, I worry it could perpetuate the Brazilian myth of the “racial democracy.” I have attached a short appendix with a quick break down of Brazilian history and race relations from points I remember studying. And yelling at people in debates. The point is this and let me be clear: Brazil is racist as fuck.

Allow me to do a quick, sloppy, and profane history of Brazilian history and race relations through an anti-fascist lens breaking down some of the sub-myths that make up the larger “racial democracy” myth.

Myth #1: “The Portuguese were far nicer and more benevolent to Native peoples compared to the Spanish and other Europeans. Look at all the tribes that have survived comparatively.”

The Portuguese were mercantilist, imperialist, racist, genocidal terrorists. They not only employed the literal sword, but — certainly different than their English Puritan counter parts — were masters of the metaphorical sword raping who-knows-how-many indigenous women and forcing their children into Jesuit churches to be reprogrammed until their language and culture was lost and gone forever. So add misogynist to the above list.

As for the second part, this is mostly because of the sheer size and terrain of the country; specifically, in the Amazon. There are some tribes still being encountered. Hide comrades, hide! My native ancestors that were once all over had their population drastically decreased and relegated to what is now Paraguay (a Guarani word meaning “born of water”). Good on Paraguay too to keep the language alive and recognize Guarani as an official language, though you can’t travel anywhere in Brazil without seeing Guarani names for places and natural features. Yes, Uruguay is also a Guarani word (“bird river/waters”).

Myth #2: “Slavery wasn’t as bad in Brazil as it was in the Southern U.S. or the Caribbean. The master-slave relation was better and more eqaul.”

waiting

If you ever hear this; please, please, head-butt the person. Zidane style; right in the damn nose. This nonsense stems from Freyre’s famous Casa Grande e Senzala work that every student reads at some time and forms the basis for the racial democracy propaganda campaign. If this were the case, millions of Africans would not have been brutalized and countless murdered under the system. If this were the case, there would have been no reason for the centuries of African resistance revolving around the Quilombos and the legendary revolutionary leader Zumbi dos Palmares. If this were true, any of you that practice capoeira would have no capoeira to practice.

If this were true, the idea of branqueamento along with the absurd amount of ethnic identities that exist in Brazil to keep the multi-ethnic populace confused, divided by identity and dependent on nationalism to unify and bow to the flag, would not exist. If this were true, all of the racism and inequities that all people of African descent must navigate anywhere in the Americas, would not be present in Brazil. If you call police violence against black folk in the U.S. genocide, then it breaks my heart to say, but it’s some kind of hyper-genocide in Brazil. Slavery was hell, because of course it was. Nobody gets to use “better” and “slavery” in the same sentence. Slavery was fucking slavery. Period.

Myth #3: “Brazil is far more religiously tolerant than the rest of the Americas.”

This one falls apart quickly with the disappearance of numerous indigenous people’s beliefs with genocide and forced Christian conversions. Slaves had to create syncretic religions like Candomblé to fake out masters to keep their beliefs and traditions alive. Judaism and Islam arrived with the first Portuguese foot prints on the sand, because of the simple fact there was and is no such thing as an ethnically pure Portuguese.

Most were recently converted poor Sephardic Jews and Moors looking to get rich quick or die trying to better themselves back home. Ironically, the early Portuguese that barely understood Christianity would harass and attack those who held on to their original religions. The first synagogue in the Americas was founded in Pernambuco, under less attentive Dutch colonial rule in the 17th century, and Jews and Muslims played key roles in the quilombo’s resistance. Kind of like an earlier version of the underground railroad hiding and protecting run-away slaves until they were safe in the quilombo. Today, following corporate media hysteria from the north, Islamophobia is on the rise from Brazilian media even though a large percentage of the populous has ties to the Islamic world via Portuguese roots or more recent immigration.

Myth #4: “Brazil has always been welcoming to immigrants.”

3

On the surface, this is true. But you don’t have to scratch hard to peel back the sinister underbelly. Outside of the home lands, there are more people of Italian, Japanese, Lebanese, and other nationalities I’m forgetting in Brazil. Former president Dilma is the daughter of a Bulgarian immigrant and current illegitimate coup leader Temer is of Lebanese descent. Refugees welcome. Sort of. That white elite — to tie it in let’s call them “the 3%” — whose families a few generations prior were slave owners eventually found themselves in political and economic power. As the 3% looked around and realized that there were far more people of color than them, they needed to take action. Open borders; especially to Europeans.

Back to branqueamento; but a different tactic on the whitening of Brazil. German immigration began in the 19th century for the same reasons many came to the U.S. While not as large in numbers compared to the U.S., after Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese descendants, Germans are fifth largest at present. The big difference with the U.S. was the isolation of the German communities in the Southern Brazilian states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and Paraná. They did not assimilate and held strong to language and culture. You can easily hear German on the streets of Blumenau today. Fast forward to Hitler’s rise, and the world ended up with large numbers of Nazi sympathizers in Brazil and the Southern Cone.

As racists and fascists themselves, the white political elite had no problems with the Axis and tried to play both sides and stay neutral in WWII. After they started letting the U.S. set up bases, U-Boats began sinking Brazilian ships and forced Brazil’s hand to join the Allies. At the same time, there were Brazilian born Germans fighting with the Reich. The war declaration and more attention to assimilation only heightened tensions with the South. In the aftermath, the Southern states sought a sort of revenge to protect their kin.

There are pieces of truth in the fictional Boys from Brazil story, and thousands of Nazis ended up in hiding in Brazil and the Southern Cone. Almost out of the pages of a second Man in the High Castle book, Hitler was well aware of his South American support and planned a “re-colonization” effort of the Southern Cone. I know of two friends of family in Santa Catarina that learned after their reclusive grandfathers died that one was a former SS officer and the other fought in the underground Jewish resistance in Germany. And they lived on the same block.

The three Southern states tried to secede on more than one occasion, mainly because: racism. Oh and by the way, the movement is still active at present. Finally, while it may sound impossible, when you take all of this into account, it really isn’t too surprising that there is a city in Brazil where the U.S. Confederacy lives on. Yep. Shit is ugly, but the future is ours. A luta continua.

Without even knowing Brazil’s complicated history, all you have to do is walk a few blocks out of your comfort zone in a city like São Paulo, Rio, or a small town like Quirinópolis, and talk to people. If you dropped any white college kid and a black college kid, say, from Minneapolis, in the same city anywhere in Brazil and checked on them a few months later, you’d likely hear stories as though they were on two different planets. Not unlike such a reverse experiment in the U.S. With the brown skin I’m in from my Mediterranean/indigenous roots, I’ve even felt that discomfort in Southern Brazil a few times. While I’d agree there are differences in the dynamics in race relations between the U.S. and Brazil, the racial democracy angle is still a clever tool of white supremacy and ultra-nationalist bullshit.

The topic of race in Brazil is super deep, and I’ve got to get to the show. Google it and you won’t run out of books to read. Borrow some of mine, if you’d like. All of the issues people of color deal with in the U.S. exist there and the rest of the Americas with our common ties to a past of colonialism, imperialism, genocide, slavery, capitalism, and neo-liberalism into the fascist butterflies all coming out of their cocoons. The latter may be something new to many in the U.S. (it shouldn’t be), but it’s just a new wave in the case of Brazil and Latin America. At this point in socio-political history, the countries have more in common with one another than ever before. Yikes. On the positive side, it has been interesting to see how the Black Lives Matter movement has influenced the Afro-Brazilian movements of the same nature.

Next, even with Brazilians of African, Native, Asian, and MENA/Mediterranean descent cast in the show, the triangle between Michele, Ezequiel, and Rafael always seems to come into focus. There’s a reason for that, no spoilers. But the whiteness. Although not as blatant as Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, Matt Damon’s new thing (come on, Zhang Yimou!), or any of the many other examples, we have the subtle arm of the white savior complex a foot here in the 3% exam world.

Whiteness has been the theme in Brazilian media since, well, shit, forever. There’s a famous quote, to whom I wish I could give credit, that goes something like: “If you only watched TV and never left your hotel room in Brazil, you would think you were in Switzerland.” Or Sweden is it? Either works and having traveled elsewhere in the Americas, it changes little. Actually you don’t have to go anywhere; turn on Univision. For diplomats and businessman, this is, as it turns out, closer to their own bubbled realities while they are there.

It was certainly like this when I was younger, and has improved some to be sure, but the racist ties in Brazilian media seem endless. I disclaim that I haven’t watched TV Globo in years, I’ll check with my mom or feel free to correct me, but Netflix coming after them and making these kind of casting and writing choices is definitely going to apply pressure. Then there’s the reach. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that this one Brazilian Netflix show in Portuguese will be watched by more people worldwide than the last half century of Brazilian television programming. Boom.

If we briefly look at history, we can add a few extra layers of media revulsion; because racism isn’t bad enough. Ah how the road to fascist dictatorship doth need media collaborators at the wheel. This may sound familiar. The largest media conglomerate in all of Latin America, Globo, aided in disinformation (then as print media, just beginning TV) during the Operation Condor U.S. sponsored coup d’etat in the ’60s that led to decades of dictatorship and utter terror for millions of Brazilians. Some very close to me. In fact, the opening scene in the final episode shows a, let’s call it a “hard scene to watch,” with ties to the School of the Americas in the U.S. that was then perfected by the Brazilian Military Police of that time. Globo was, unsurprisingly, the dictators’ megaphone. Alternative fucking facts.

More recently, history repeated itself as TV Globo acted like Fox News on nitro during the “Car Wash” political scandal that rocked the country last year. But now imagine Fox News ate and took the reach and power of all the other networks combined and became super powered propaganda. TV Globo led the charge against former president Dilma and played the key role in swaying public opinion for her impeachment. Not that she was innocent, but the aftermath at present has been much worse. Familiar, right? Whenever capitalism and democracy pollinate, the fruit is rotten. Glenn Greenwald may be a polarizing figure, but he was badass in exposing all of Globo’s bullshit; to the point he started the Brazilian wing of The Intercept (Greenwald lives in Rio).

elenco
Gomes in the lead as Fernando

Okay, well, the world is fucked. But you know this, so here are some reasons to give 3% a try for a little escapism. I mentioned it before, but the cast. The cast! The ensemble is tight. What the production team lacks in funds, they make up with talented young and older actors. The youngsters get their own Lost-like backstory vignettes letting us in on where they’re coming from and what makes them tick. Michele (Bianca Comparato) is fire and on a mission and her relationship with Fernando (Michel Gomes) is lovely. Fernando is the heart and inspiring force of the ensemble.

Did I mention he’s a POC in a wheelchair? Rafael (Rodolfo Valente) is annoyingly good for the POS you want to punch every time he says something.

Ezequiel (João Miguel) is a captivating complicated mess, and Aline (Viviane Porto) is powerful and also one of the most beautiful humans on Earth.

aline
Porto as Aline

I can’t talk about Marco (Rafael Lozano) without spoiling, but holy shit, his episode is… it brings a certain kids book to mind that gave me nightmares. Zézé Motta (Nair) is a living legend and the queen of Afro-Brazilian cinema. Dandara! Last, but definitely not least, is the true star of this whole thing for me: Vaneza Oliveira as Joana.

star
Oliveira as Joana rules

She is incredible. Steals every scene. I kept thinking; “where have I seen her before?” And the answer is: nowhere. 3% IS HER DEBUT! What a casting gem. Remarkable.

Behind the cameras, there is also some good news. 3% started out as a film project turned web series from Pedro Aguilera. He had three directors on his team, one guy and two ladies, and made the good decision to keep the team together as they made the jump into Netflixlandia. While they added César Charlone (City of God) as the principal director with their heftier budget (still tiny compared to other Netflix shows), Daina Giannecchini and Dani Libardi get to tag in for directing responsibilities.

Trying to remain spoiler free, but one thing I will say is that the way the first season ends, it leaves the strong possibility that the white savior complex may be resolved. Which is awesome. And which is why I’m in for the second season and which is why you should swim through the sea of Netflix programing to find it and give it a shot. Take a little of my messy Brazilian history with you, turn on the Netflix, and know that what you’re about to watch may not be perfect, but it may also be the best Brazilian show ever filmed.

There’s levels to this s***!: 5 parallels in Luke Cage

Netflix/Marvel
Netflix/Marvel

I’ve thought about Luke Cage a lot since viewing the first season on Netflix. Part of the reason is because I’m knee-deep in #ShadyMariah stuff, which includes Theo Rossi himself signal-boosting my ShadyMariah post.

So Shades knows I exist. That’s cool.

The other reason I’ve thought a lot about Luke Cage is because there were tons of parallels and foreshadowing moments that I didn’t realize until weeks after viewing. Ill run through a couple that have come to mind.

1.  Cottonmouth throwing Tone off the roof.

When Tone gets thrown off the roof, Cottonmouth was actually predicting his own death—death by freefall.

2. Mama Mabel’s a direct foil to Mariah, and Cottonmouth is more like Mama Mabel than he realized.

Mariah is shown saying to Mama Mabel’s picture, “I’m not like you.” I dare say she isn’t. I’ve already explained this in my ShadyMariah article, but to go deeper in what I was writing about, Mama Mabel doesn’t kill someone unless they directly betray her and her money or if they insult her. Remember when Mama Mabel cut off that boy’s finger and then had Cornell kill him? The boy insults Mama Mabel, which made Mama Mabel immediately furious. This reaction is the same one Cottonmouth had when he killed his goon for suggesting that he was handling the Luke Cage situation wrong. How dare he suggest the “Benign Neglect.”

Meanwhile, it seems like Mariah’s tenure in politics (and maybe just her own temperament) allows her to see beyond just her own ego, unlike Mama Mabel and Cottonmouth. Mariah seems like she’s someone who creates a collective, but unlike Mama Mabel (who was also a stalwart figure in the community), Mariah wants to take people out that affect her people as well as her status.

3. Both Shades and Mariah tell Cottonmouth to sell the club

Shades’ insistence that he and Mariah think alike has its foundations in moments throughout the series, one of which being that both Shades and Mariah tell Cottonmouth to sell Harlem’s Paradise when it seems like Luke Cage is going to ruin their money laundering. Even more interesting is that they each tell him this without the knowledge that one of them has already said this. Even before they begin vibrating together, they are already on the same wavelength, with Cottonmouth being the concrete wall blocking the signals.

Related: Monique’s Luke Cage reviews | Tor.com

4. Shades and Mariah are both loyal to a fault

Both Shades and Mariah are loyal to their people. Too loyal, probably. They only leave or attack when a core tenet of the relationship has been demolished. Shades stuck with Diamondback even though Diamondback’s mind was gone. Shades only left Diamondback when Diamondback betrayed him.

Mariah’s favorite thing to tell Cornell is “Family first, always.” She lived by that tenet, but Cornell’s own out-of-control ego and resentment of Mama Mabel makes him forget that once he starts feeling stress. First, he nearly his Mariah with a bat until Mariah breaks something herself and yells at him to snap out of it. But even then, she sticks by him. It’s only when Cornell blames Mariah for her own sexual assault that Mariah breaks and pushes him out of the window.

Shades and Mariah’s loyalty further show why they’re tailor-made for each other. Each one will go HAM for the other if threatened once we get into the second season, I’m sure. There’s going to be some real Bonnie and Clyde stuff going on.

5. Luke’s a hero, but he’s also kinda a villain through his own inaction. 

There’s quite the villains gallery in Luke Cage, but do you know what started everything? Luke—he didn’t tell Pop (or the cops) about Chico and Shameek when he had the chance, which created the series of events that led to Chico and Pop’s deaths. He saw Chico’s gun, and he knew they were up to no good. Yet he didn’t care enough about them or anyone else to stop them. All he cared about was himself and how he was going to stay low. Sure, he hasn’t killed anyone, but, since Luke respects his black heritage, he should know what Martin Luther King said about those who see but don’t act being just as culpable as those who do commit acts of violence.

What parallels and foreshadowing moments did you see in Luke Cage? Give your opinions below!

Luke Cage: The Black Disabled Superhero We Need

 

 

 

Courtesy of Mike Mort
Courtesy of Mike Mort

Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Originally posted on Ramp Your Voice!

Luke Cage was one of Netflix’s original series I had waited all summer to watch.  Being a blerd and someone who enjoys comics, I was proudly a part of the #Cagetember fandom seen on Twitter.  What excited me was not just Luke’s amazing abilities, but the fact that he was a Black disabled character, an existence that does not receive enough attention or respect within comic spaces.  Luke represents so much to disabled blerds like myself, and I felt that it would only be justly to share why Luke’s existence matters, and the need for more Black disabled characters.

Luke’s Disabled Body:  A Man-Made Creation

Luke Cage’s body is invincible against bullets, and he has supernatural strength.  This is a man who can bend guns like they are made of Play-Doh, throw vehicles across the street without breaking a sweat, and can take a full clip of bullets without blinking.  Luke Cage, in a time where Black bodies are brutally victimized at the hands of the police, is the superhero Black America needs.  He wears a hoodie in homage to Trayvon Martin and those targeted in our community, and has taken on the “Harlem protector” role that he fought internally against.  Luke does not see himself as a hero, but to Harlem, and fans of the series, he IS our hero against crime and police brutality.  It has been quite humorous to see discomfort displayed towards a character who is unapologetically Black.  Luke Cage embodies the kind of Blackness that many of the majority fear – a Black man who cannot be harmed and a Black man who uses his superhuman powers for good.

Luke’s body, as amazing as it is with its seemingly endless capabilities, was man-made – he was a part of a scientific experiment that was unethically conducted while he served time at Seagate prison.  It was due to an accident when he was under experimentation that caused him to become powerful; he is the only known person with his abilities.  Due to this, Luke has remained low-key about his strengths, and was reluctant to be casted into the spotlight when his abilities gained attention in the community.  Luke knew that his powers, if he was not careful, could attract the attention of those who would want to use him for their own personal interests and possibly do harm.  One of the many things I love about this character is how humble and self-reflective Luke is.  He understands fully how his strength can be used for good and evil, and when it comes time to do the right thing, he does not hesitate to do so.

Though Luke’s physical capacities causes him to be perceived as either friend or foe to others in the series, we must not overlook Luke’s hidden disabilities – the trauma he endured while in prison that has had lasting effects on his psyche.  While at Seagate, Luke was forced by beatings and manipulation to be a part of a corrupt prison fighting scheme.  To ensure he would participate, the livelihoods of those Luke befriended were put at risk if he did not do what the prison guards wanted of him.  The emotional and mental traumatization Luke endured can be seen early on when he has flashbacks of his imprisonment, and the pacing he does in attempt to calm himself.  The mental anguish of being dehumanized while incarcerated is not uncommon; though Luke is a fictional character, the trauma he lives with is the reality for many in our criminal system.

Luke’s body is disabled due to the encounters he has had at the hands of people – those of authority and those who sought to make him submit for their own gains.  This realization stood out to me profoundly as I watch the series unfold; the causations of Luke’s body to be disabled cannot be ignored by lovers of the series, or comic book enthusiasts.

The Portrayal of Black Masculinity in Luke Cage

What pleasantly surprised me while watching the series was the many facets of Black masculinity depicted that goes against typical media representation.  Every male character – Luke, Pop, and Cottonmouth especially – were deeply complicated and sides of their humanness, no matter how grotesque or gentle, were equally shown in order for us to see the full person.  As I described earlier with Luke, we got to understand why he was so guarded about his abilities, and yet saw his tender spots when it came to those he loved.  Cottonmouth, the villain we love to hate, was not a hard-hearted individual by nature; his environment helped to shape him into who he became as a man.  Seeing Cottonmouth’s “evolution” sadden me because he embodied how nurture (in this case, familial makeup) can drastically influence how a person becomes.  He had so much potential with his musical abilities that were not fully supported, and we learned how that was a regret he had towards his family.  Pop displayed a different type of evolution – he was a “big man/hustler” in his community who turned into the father figure many desperately needed and relied on.  Pop represented the “we can all change and become a better person” character; Pop’s barbershop was considered Switzerland, a safe space against the harshness of Harlem.

The complexities of these three characters specifically showed that Black men are more than the stereotypes the media and society attempts to box them into.  The depth of their humanity and flaws were significant for a series where Black and Brown characters dominated.  Luke Cage is a prime example as to why we need better representation of people of color; this accurate portrayal should not be considered an anomaly to viewers like myself.

Black Disabled Comic Book Characters Matter

As one can easily gauged by this piece, Black disabled characters matter to me, and good representation matters more.  Though Luke is the center focus of this piece, I would be remiss if I did not shine a light on the other Black disabled character in the series, Mercedes “Misty” Knight.  Though Misty is not disabled in this particular series (Misty becomes disabled when she loses her arm in a bomb explosion while on the job for the NYPD; Iron Man makes her a bionic arm), she is one of the few Black disabled female characters in comic books.

Excuse my language, but Misty is one badass woman, and we see that badassery in Luke Cage from her hard-nosed approach in handling the bad guys.  Though Misty is perceived as no-nonsense when it comes to doing her job for the NYPD, her vulnerability, sensuality, and softness as a Black woman were also captured fully in the story.  Seeing the complexity of Black female characters is just as important as it is for Black male characters.  Black people are not incapable of experiencing emotions beyond anger and aggression; Luke Cage does an excellent job of debunking those myths with characters like Misty.  Misty is hands-down my favorite comic book character of all time, and to see her have such a resonating role in Luke Cage made me fangirl hard.

Though there are not many Black disabled characters in comics, their absence is definitely apparent when the publicity and fandom of white disabled characters in comics are the visible faces of disability.  Yes, this is a good example of #DisabilityTooWhite in literature, and must be recognized and corrected.  Disabled people of color need comics with characters that look and live like them; the limited visibility is not lost on us who desire for more Lukes and Mistys in these fantasy universes.  For me, characters like Luke and Misty displays a different type of Blackness that goes unseen; my Black experience matters just as much as anyone else’s, and disabled characters drives that truth deeply home.

Final Thoughts

It has almost been a month since #Cagetember took place, and I still cannot get over the awesomeness of Luke Cage.  My excitement for season two cannot be contained; I want to see Luke and Claire together, #ShadyMariah got my goat (the “so bad it’s good” ship you cannot help to root for), and to see some of the new players we will be introduced to.  Though I am still geeking over the show, the soundtrack deserves equal appreciation because the performances were too fire for words.  (The song that had my head bobbing was “Bulletproof Love” by Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad featuring Method Man.)  It will be interesting to see what transpires next season (and if Netflix will experience another shut down again – be ready, ‘Flix), and I know my heart will feel as if it will jump out of my chest with every battle Luke faces.  He is indeed the superhero I need.

Thank you for existing, Luke Cage, from the bottom of my disabled blerd heart.

Vilissa Thompson, LMSW is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant “tire track mark” on the world.

“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!

#YourBigBreak: Netflix’s “The Get Down” Is Casting for Season 2

Netflix (Twitter)
Netflix (Twitter)

The Get Down, Netflix’s hit show set in the 1970s Bronx amid the collision of hip hop and disco, has taken the viewing public by storm. Now that the show is set for a second season, they have issued a casting call for speaking lead character roles!

Project Casting wrote about the casting call Sunday, stating that The Get Down‘s producers are now accepting video auditions.

Here’s what they’re looking for:

MALES 18-21 YEARS OLD, AFRICAN-AMERICAN OR HISPANIC/LATINO

FEMALES 18-21 YEARS OLD, AFRICAN-AMERICAN OR HISPANIC/LATINO

YOUNG BOY 11-14 YEARS OLD, AFRICAN-AMERICAN. IRRESISTABLE, WISECRACKING, STREET-SMART, ALWAYS TAGGING ALONG WITH HIS OLDER BROTHER

RAPPERS MALE/FEMALE, ALL AGES, TYPES

HIP-HOP DANCERS MALE/FEMALE, ALL AGES, TYPES

The casting directors are also looking for extras as well. The casting directors are auditioning speaking roles via video audition. Visit ProjectCasting for more information and the links to send in your video auditions.