Month: October 2016

Oh, how far Latina’s come: Latina Magazine celebrates 20 years of progress in Hollywood with Platinum Anniversary Issue

Latina Magazine celebrates its platinum anniversary with a photomosaic of the legendary Selena Quintanilla.
Latina Magazine celebrates its platinum anniversary with a photomosaic of the legendary Selena Quintanilla.

NEW YORK, Oct. 26, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Latina magazine— the first in its space and the number one destination for the 35 million acculturated, second and third generation American Latinas—celebrates 20 years with a look back at the progress Latinas have made in Hollywood over the past two decades.

The magazine celebrates it’s platinum anniversary with a cover of the most influential Latinas (Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, Gloria Estefan, Christina Aguilera, and Sophia Vergara, among others) that combined creates a photomosaic of the legendary Selena Quintanilla (www.latina.com/20years).

“We chose Selena because, unlike other Latino stars who at the time made it big by modifying their names and ‘passing’ as white, Selena turned to her culture first, rediscovering her roots to find her voice,” said Latina Editorial Director Robyn Moreno. “And through her voice, American Latinas found theirs and learned they didn’t need to change to make it big.”

The thought bomb of Christy Haubegger, Latina became a pioneering force for Latinas underserved by the general market and Spanish language media. Latinas were, for the most part, invisible to mainstream culture during most of the 80s and 90s. For the past two decades, Latina has played a central role in helping readers connect to their culture, while also helping shape and launch the careers of some of the biggest Latina stars.

Through the help of Latina’s covers, J.Lo became a queen, Christina Aguilera crossed over, and Selma Hayek gained A-list status and was the first Latina to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

In the words of some of Latina’s most influential celebrity cover interviews on the progress Latinas have made in the past 20 years:

“When Hollywood starts considering me for roles where ethnic background doesn’t matter, that’s an even bigger step in the right direction for me.” – Jennifer Lopez (Summer 1996)

“A lot of my fans are young girls, and they go ‘You’re someone young Latin girls can look up to’ because there really aren’t many.” Christina Aguilera (December 1999)

“I want to empower young women like me to fulfill their dreams. I hope I can inspire somebody to get focused on what they want out of life instead of just taking what’s given to them.” Jessica Alba (March 2008)

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Chris Hemsworth’s apology is amazing—here’s why

Photo: Chris Hemsworth/Instagram
Photo: Chris Hemsworth/Instagram

Chris Hemsworth plays a Marvel superhero on screen, and on the regular, he lives out a rather superheroic life by making children’s dreams come true. But with his latest tweet, he’s ascended even further into superhero status by actually doing what many people seem incapable of doing–actually apologizing for being racially and culturally insensitive.

Recently, Hemsworth tweeted out his support of those against the North Dakota pipeline. In his statement of support, he also gave a heartfelt apology for a picture from a New Year’s Eve party he and his wife held last year. We saw that picture, and naturally, people felt upset, and rightly so. Dressing up as Native stereotypes isn’t cool. This year, we see Hemsworth is a new outlook on his actions.

Standing with those who are fighting to protect their sacred land and water. #nodapl #waterislife #mniwiconi @taikawaititi I would also like to take this opportunity to raise something that has been bothering me for sometime. Last New Year’s Eve I was at a “Lone Ranger” themed party where some of us, myself included, wore the traditional dress of First Nations people. I was stupidly unaware of the offence this may have caused and the sensitivity around this issue. I sincerely and unreservedly apologise to all First Nations people for this thoughtless action. I now appreciate that there is a great need for a deeper understanding of the complex and extensive issues facing indigenous communities. I hope that in highlighting my own ignorance I can help in some small way.

A photo posted by Chris Hemsworth (@chrishemsworth) on

“Standing with those who are fighting to protect their sacred land and water. #nodapl #waterislife#mniwiconi @taikawaititiI would also like to take this opportunity to raise something that has been bothering me for sometime. Last New Year’s Eve I was at a “Lone Ranger” themed party where some of us, myself included, wore the traditional dress of First Nations people. I was stupidly unaware of the offence this may have caused and the sensitivity around this issue. I sincerely and unreservedly apologise to all First Nations people for this thoughtless action. I now appreciate that there is a great need for a deeper understanding of the complex and extensive issues facing indigenous communities. I hope that in highlighting my own ignorance I can help in some small way.”

Related post: Three Reasons Why You Should Care About the North Dakota Pipeline Fight

If we take a cynical approach, we could easily say, “Well, clearly he’s apologizing because the director of his Thor: Ragnarok is an indigenous person.” But, isn’t interacting with people how others learn about their ignorances in the first place?

The whole point of multiculturalism is to learn more about each other and how we can better ourselves. We’ve all come into contact with some limited aspects of ourselves that become broadened when we interact with people with different life experiences and cultures different from our own. I know I’ve had that happen to me before. Many people are afraid to experience other cultures because, as we are vulnerable creatures, we are afraid of being wrong. It takes a big person to actually apologize for ignorance, and it takes a smart person to know what they’re apologizing for. For that, I commend Hemsworth for doing so.

He didn’t just put out a B.S. apology like some out there have done in the past (insert name of who you think fits in this space now—you’ve got a lot to choose from). He put out an apology that reads as sincere and thought-out, particularly when he wrote that this issue had been “bothering [him] for some time.” He’s had a lot of time to process this, and while his apology might not have come as quickly as we as a collective might like, it’s better that it came from him when he had an understanding of the issues.

Now, can more people decide to think outside of their minds and apologize for things they’ve done wrong? Can more people follow Hemsworth’s example? If so, that’d be great.

What do you think about Hemsworth’s apology? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

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Fans Answer the Question: Who to Cast in Disney’s Live-Action “Don Quixote”?

Don Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho Panza, 1863, by Gustave Doré. (Public domain)
Don Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho Panza, 1863, by Gustave Doré. (Public domain)

Don Quixote is getting the live-action Disney treatment, and since this is a Spanish story, this would be a great time for Disney to give audiences the all-Hispanic and Latinx cast they’ve been waiting for.

Of course, some fans are already calling Disney on what they feel might happen: the probably inevitable casting of Johnny Depp to undergo yet a creature-feature makeup job (despite the fact that Disney’s stock in him should have lowered after Depp’s physical abuse case). If not Johnny Depp, some other white actor.

 

I posed the question to fans: Who do they want cast in Don Quixote? There were many calls for Jaime Camil, Oscar Isaac, and Pedro Pascal, but the overall message to take from the responses is that fans are eager for a Hispanic Don Quixote, and if they do cast Johnny Depp or Matthew McConaughey, there will be virtual riots in the Twitter streets.

Take a look at the responses below, and write who you’d want to see cast in Don Quixote below in the comments section!

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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.

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Comedy Troupe Skewers Police Brutality with Hilarious Viral Video

Black Magic Live
Black Magic Live

Everyone’s been talking about police brutality, from Colin Kaepernick to movie stars to Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Now, you can add a Los Angeles acting company to the list.

Black Magic Live, a production company monthly sketch show in Los Angeles, recently created a video to call out police acting outside of the law. The skit features police officer characters who are getting help with their shooting problem, thanks to Nicorette-esque gum and patches. Take a look at the skit for yourself.

The skit has already hit over 15,000 views and has been featured on the front page of Funny or Die. Black Lives Matter’s Patrisse Cullors has also called the skit funny and obvious satire.

While the skit has taken a stand on police brutality while getting in a few laughs, the skit also caused a bit of controversy after it was revealed that one of the players, the black police officer, is an actual police officer. A police captain, no less. Click here to read all about that controversy.

Brie Eley, who has been interviewed on JUST ADD COLOR before, is also a member and one of the producers of Black Magic Live. Eley’s latest short for her sketch comedy group 4PlayPassword Deals, has recently been announced as one of the eight finalists in the 2016 NBCUniversal Shorts Fest.

Make sure to follow Black Magic Live on Instagram  and Twitter .

What do you think about this skewering of police brutality? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

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Upcoming Animated Series “The Weeklings” Promises More Representation in Cartoons

Flydra Creative
Flydra Creative

I love cartoons and I’m sure you love cartoons. But despite the plethora of amazing cartoons out there, there still isn’t enough diversity in the genre. The Weeklings, though, plans on changing that.

The Weeklings is an animated series featuring characters based on the days of the week. “Set in a surreal world in which anything can happen, the series chronicles the everyday adventures of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” states the show’s Kickstarter page. “Each character has the personality of how each day feels.”

The show is created and directed by African-American animator and founder of Flydra Creative Jabril Mack. The series will “advance cultural representation in animation by highlighting cultures and ethnic groups that are not traditionally shown in cartoons.” From the official press release:

Los Angeles-based animation studio, Flydra Creative aims to increase cultural representation in cartoons with their latest project, an animated comedy called, The Weeklings. Set in a surreal world in which anything can happen, The Weeklings chronicles the everyday adventures of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Each character personifies the characteristics of the day of the week they are named after. While Monday’s eccentric personality is off-putting to many, Friday’s natural charisma draws everyone in!

Creator and director of The Weeklings, Jabril Mack, wants to give people of all races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations the opportunity “to see a little of themselves in a cartoon”. He intends to combat the lack of cultural representation in mainstream media by drawing diverse characters everyone can relate to.

“The goal of the series is to celebrate diversity”, Mack says. He and his team at Flydra have spent the last year researching holidays and celebrations from all over the world to bring to life for the show. Characters like Diwali (inspired by the ancient Indian festival), Quinceanera, (inspired by the Mexican tradition), and many more will allow The Weeklings to highlight cultures and ethnic groups that are not traditionally shown in animation.

Check out the official trailer and clip from the show:

If you’re loving what you’re seeing, there’s a way to help make The Weeklings a fully-realized project. Flydra Creative has set up a Kickstarter for The Weeklings, and with 21 days left in their campaign, they’ve already met their initial $20,000 goal. However, the more money they get, the better The Weeklings can become. Make sure to check out their Kickstarter and donate what you can. The campaign ends Nov. 7. Make sure to follow The Weeklings at its website as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

What do you think about The Weeklings? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

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Tyrant EP Howard Gordon Acknowledges Troubled First Season

tyrant-s3-logo
FX/Facebook

While we wait to see if FX’s Tyrant will be picked up by another network, there’s been some interesting news from Tyrant‘s EP Howard Gordon. Apparently, he also felt the first season left a lot to be desired.

Related: On “Tyrant”: Its Cancellation and Its Importance in Pop Culture

In a Sept. 7 interview with Deadline, Gordon gave his true feelings on that first season, which involved a host of offensive things as well as meandering characterizations.

GORDON: Well, I’m disappointed but not entirely surprised [about Tyrant‘s cancellation]. We were hoping for an eleventh-hour reprieve, but I’ve long known it was an uphill battle. But look, I also dn’t think the first season was our strongest season and that didn’t help matters unfortunately. I try to be pretty honest in my own assessment of what seasons worked and how they worked in relation to each other. We got off to a slow start and never really recovered from it, that’s just a fact.

I have to agree with Gordon. As much as I do love Tyrant, and as much as I can see its potential, I too think that the first season affected Tyrant for the rest of its television life. Even though the show began picking up steam towards the end of the first season and had finally found its footing in the second and third seasons, that first season still sticks in the mind as a season that didn’t give off the best impression. If anything, that first episode in particular seemed like it wanted to do as much as it could to garner its TV MA rating.

Related: ‘Tyrant’ recap: A traumatic start to a season | Monique’s Entertainment Weekly’s Community Blog recap

Howard’s surprising honesty has given me a good insight as to how the show was able to rectify itself, though. EPs who are honest about their own work and are willing to criticize themselves along with the TV critics shows a personal commitment to storytelling.

Hopefully, Tyrant can come back in some form. Perhaps it could even be rebooted in some way so that Howard can finally tell the story he might have wanted to tell from the get-go. Seems like Howard gives an indication as to what kind of story he wanted to tell, a story that was finally unfolding in the third season.

DEADLINE: And you had that speech by Annet Mahenddru’s widowed Nafisa Al-Qadi proclaiming that “Islam is peace”–not exactly a statement we hear on TV of late especially durig this election season.

GORDON: One of the ideas and one of the themes we had this season was the battle for the heart and the soul of Islam. Obviously, neither Chris nor I are [speaking] with any authority on that, but we did want to reflect voices in Islam that don’t get a platform or that stage enough in real life because they are blunted by louder, more violent and angrier voices. So we gave a fictional platform to some very real voices. Those are some of the voices that some of our regional consultants on the show felt the series had kept out of the story.

What do you think about Tyrant’s first season? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

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The Unexpected Joy of “Luke Cage” Power Couple #ShadyMariah

Marvel/Netflix (from Theo Rossi's Instagram account)
Marvel/Netflix (from Theo Rossi’s Instagram account)

Hernan “Shades” Alvarez and City Councilwoman Mariah Dillard. On paper, these two people shouldn’t even be in the same stratosphere of influence. But in reality, these two go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Perhaps you’ve seen the internet become besides themselves with this new power couple, otherwise known as #ShadyMariah. Heck, even Shades himself, Theo Rossi, is onboard.

I asked some of my followers and #ShadyMariah fans what they thought about the pairing. The reaction was a little more subdued because as we’ve come to know Shades, we’ve come to see just how his self-serving mind works. It could be possible that we don’t know Shades the way we think we do.

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

Speaking honestly, we really don’t know what the endgame for these two will be. Will one turn on the other? Will it be Uncle Pete in the backyard all over again? There’s a reason they showed that particular scene. Not just because it showed how intense Mama Mabel could be. It also showed how Mama Mabel was frustrated with the fact that she’d opened her heart to a man who ended up betraying her (despite his assertion that he was trying to grow “the family business”). Mariah doesn’t want to end up like Mabel, and we don’t yet know she will. But we do know is this:

1.  Mariah has opened her heart to Shades, and Shades was happy to work for it. 

It took a lot for Mariah to trust Shades, and she can’t be blamed for that. She’s trying to keep her reputation afloat as well as grow her power and influence. Not to mention she just killed her beloved cousin in a pique of anger. (Killing’s wrong, but she had justified anger, since Cottonmouth blamed Mariah for being molested by Uncle Pete).

At first, she can’t tell if she can trust Shades, but she’s wise enough to know she needs him to get through covering up Cornell’s death. Next, she needed him through what she thought would be a turnover of power. Then, she needed Shades to traverse the madness that is Diamondback. But when Diamondback lies to her about Shades’ death, she realizes that she had come to trust him despite herself. Feeling lost without Shades made her realize that perhaps she had opened herself up to him more than she thought.

Shades managed to worm his way into her heart by being forthright and honest, which is, frankly, the strangest thing to say about a villain. But even still, Shades has been with her every step of the way, and even before Mariah caught a body. Remember when Shades told Mariah, in both blunt and urgent tones, that he wanted her to win and regain the majesty of the Stokes name?

Shades has always been on Mariah’s side, and it could be that he went to Cottonmouth originally because he was hoping the Stokes brand could be revived. When he first saw Mariah, he was looking with thirst (as Mariah herself says), but some of that thirst isn’t white-hot lust; Shades also had the thirst for power at the forefront, and he saw Mariah’s stature and poise as power that could revive a lost name.

2. Shades gave back the champagne bottle, meaning he now has no chips to play when it comes to her. 

“We’re in this together now,” he said after giving her back her murder weapon, which was basically him saying, “I’m opening my heart to you. I’m for real.” If he was really about himself alone, he wouldn’t have given Mariah the bottle because, as Mariah said, he could have used it to blackmail her. Why give her the bottle if he has some ulterior motives? Shades is a smart dude, and he should know that giving her that bottle—giving her the power, power she could use over him—would be a less-than-smart thing to do if he had some other bad plan up his sleeve. He’s actually being serious with Mariah; he wants them to be equals.

3. Shades has always been straight-up and, in his own disturbing way, comforting to Mariah

Shades has always had Mariah’s back. He’s always wanted her to succeed. His speeches to Mariah about regaining the Stokes name and how to cover up Cornell’s death are two such examples.

But he’s always gracious to her in other ways, too. As shown in a gif-set on Tumblr, Shades subtly notices Mariah on the roof when he, Tone, and Cottonmouth are discussing what went down at Pop’s.

http://michaelxtrevino.tumblr.com/post/151526709353/luke-cage-s01e02-code-of-the-streets

He’s also the one who looks back to Mariah after Cottonmouth throws Tone off the roof; without saying anything, he’s trying to see how she’s holding up after that shock. However, at this point in time, he can’t say anything; he’s still under both Diamondback and Cottonmouth, and because of Cottonmouth’s influence shielding Mariah from him, Shades hasn’t gained enough permission, for lack of a better word, to openly see about her. What would Cottonmouth do if Shades was the one to ask if Mariah was okay and not him? He’d probably be over the side of the building with Tone.

Shades is also always a gentleman around Mariah, which again, is something odd to say about a literal murdering villain. Shades always holds the door open for Mariah, always does her the courtesy speaking to her with his shades off (making it seem like Mariah is speaking to Hernan, as if Shades is his alter-ego), walks behind her as she goes into action, and is constantly hovering close to her or holding her shoulders in a comforting way. He also doesn’t want her to get her hands dirty (which might mean that he didn’t expect her to kill Cottonmouth, which begs the question of if #ShadyMariah would have even happened if Shades was able to follow through with his plan).

There’s a lot of subtlety about Shades that makes him one of the most intriguing villain characters I’ve seen from Marvel, certainly. But he’s also one of the most intriguing villains I’ve seen on TV period.

Marvel/Netflix (screencap)
Marvel/Netflix (screencap)

Mariah herself is pretty intriguing as a villain. She’s sympathetic and she also represents someone that people might actually vote for in real life. To an engaged voter, she’s laser focused on keeping Harlem out of gentrifying hands, uplifts the city’s black history, and (seems to) care about the people of the city. She’s also gotten stuff done, too; it’s not like she’s just using her platform as a complete ruse. The fact that she actually wants to make Harlem better—whether or not its an altruistic goal, because she does participate in cynical “there are black people and then there are N-words” ideology from time to time—is what makes her the true heir to the legacy of Mama Mabel, who seemed like the woman everyone in Harlem ran to when they had any type of problem. Mariah’s power and her intelligence are what Shades is attracted to.

I’ll end this post on a small discussion of the Basquiat painting Mariah had hung in Cottonmouth’s former office. We saw in the beginning that Cottonmouth considered him the king in a hip-hop way; he wanted to run things like how Biggie rapped, hence the Biggie photo. Like some of gangster rap (maybe particularly Biggie’s brand of east coast rap), Cottonmouth is blunt, to the point, unpredictable, and hardcore. However, bluntness isn’t what’s going to keep Harlem under the Stokes iron grip.

Mariah, however, represents everything she and Shades could be together all in one picture. I’ll quote Reddit user Emerson73:

The painting however is a piece called “Red Kings” painted in 1981 by Jean-Michel Basquiat. He was a black artist that died to young and spent a good amount of his short time in association with Andy Warhol. This piece is understood as his personal proclamation or claim to the throne. The ‘king’ on the left being him as he placed the main letters of his name in the open parts of the face and the ‘king’ the right being [Picasso]. He saw himself as stepping up to be on [Picasso]’s level of greatness and a king in the art world. I think many people would agree that even in his short time he did step up to a very high level in the art world and maybe would have gone further if he hadn’t died younger.

I think this painting works great as a replacement of the Biggie photo. In the quick subtlety of it being hung up in the background the audience is left without question that we are supposed to perceive the ending of Maria and Shades’ arcs as stepping up to supplant Cottonmouth and Diamondback as royalty of the illegal trades in Harlem and surrounding areas. It is also another place of fitting in an important part of black history and cultural relevance into the show and even pushing Maria’s original sentiment of ‘keep Harlem black’ by supporting the continuation of black culture as important.

Maybe there could be several more things read into these topics and i’m sure their story doesn’t end here. Maybe one or both will die sooner than they planned just as Basquiat did. But the main thing for me is that an addition to the show like that makes me even more sure that this material is in the right hands at Marvel.

Related: ‘Luke Cage’ Baddies Shades and Mariah Are the Best MCU Villains | Inverse

In short, everything about #ShadyMariah is coming together nicely and maybe, just maybe, there won’t be an “Uncle Pete in the backyard” situation again. Since Shades seems like he’s completely into Mariah, we just might have our first Queen and Consort of Marvel Villainy. In that respect, Mariah doesn’t have to worry about ever becoming Mama Mabel.

The cherry on the evil sundae? #ShadyMariah actually has a theme written into Luke Cage! If you’ve got the soundtrack, it’s “Bad Love,” which plays right after Shades talks her through framing Luke for Cottonmouth’s murder in Episode 7 (listen immediately after Shades fixes Mariah’s hair for her).

What do you think about #ShadyMariah? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

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“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!

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