Tag Archives: Netflix

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.

Olympic-sized “Rogue One,” “Luke Cage,” “Hidden Figures” trailers promise awesomeness

The Olympics is like the Super Bowl in that lots of big properties reveal their big trailers. Three such trailers were released during the Rio Olympics: Luke CageRogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Hidden Figures. Let’s take a look at each.

Luke Cage

First of all, it looks incredible. If I’m being completely honest, I’ve never tuned into a Marvel Netflix production, either because I didn’t know the lore or, quite frankly, I just didn’t care. But the updated ’70s blaxploitation take on Luke Cage is both reminiscent of past awesome crime fighters like Shaft and extremely timely to what’s going on today.

Everyone has mentioned the imagery of the unkillable black man in a shot-up hoodie providing both commentary and relief from the constant deluge of black men and boys being killed by police or overzealous, racist men. But seeing that imagery in motion, just in the trailer, says so much without Luke Cage every saying a word. Also, the story itself seems to be told in such a way that someone like me, who has a hot-cold relationship with keeping up with all comics except for Archie Comics, can come into it fresh. It engages the audience whether you know about Luke Cage from the comics or not. That kind of treatment of comic book lore is gold, since you can’t always assume your audience knows everything about every character, especially if that character hasn’t become part of the collective consciousness in the same way Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man have.

Overall, this is a WIN for me. I’ll check out the series once it drops, despite my own squeamishness of hearing/seeing broken bones.

Rogue One

As Marv Albert would say, “Yes!”—this is ticking all of the boxes for me. I think from now on, I’ll lessen my usage of “diversity” and starting using the word “inclusion” more, because the rebooted Star Wars series (yes, rebooted—let’s just admit that the prequels are out of canon now) is showing other movie franchises how inclusion is done. You don’t just hire actors of color to be sidekicks, MARVEL MOVIES. You hire actors of color for substantial roles and treat them just like any white actor. You create characters that actually represent and empower your audience, not just appease them with some paltry offerings. Somehow, Marvel seems to do better at inclusion with their television shows and Netflix series than they do with the actual movies. Even stranger is that Marvel and Lucasfilm are now under the same Disney umbrella, so you’d think some cross-pollination with casting tactics would have happened already. Marvel needs to take some notes from J. J. Abrams, stat.

Anyways, we’ve got talented actors doing talented things in this film. Even cooler is that the central character is a woman. Also cool is that Darth Vader finally looks cool again (once again, proof that this is a completely rebooted series). We also have some disability representation with Donnie Yen’s blind Jedi or Jedi-adjacent character. But will Yen’s character dip too far into the “mystical Asian kung-fu master” trope? Because if there’s one potential issue I see, it’s that. We just have to wait until the movie comes out. The other potential issue: Forrest Whitaker’s odd accent. But on the whole, Rogue One looks like it’ll proudly carry on the awesome legacy that began with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Hidden Figures

The film looks like it’s going to be one along the lines of 42 and Race in the sense that it’s going to be a feel-good film that also manages to teach the audience a historical lesson about overcoming discrimination to achieve excellence. But this film is also a reversal in practice for Hollywood, an industry that has ignored a story like this until now.

This role is something Taraji P. Henson should have played long before now, and its these types of roles Hollywood should have cast her in. What I’m saying is that usually, this type of “feel-good” role featuring a female character from the 1960s usually goes to a white woman, because in the ’60s as in today’s time, whiteness allows a certain privilege, meaning the character won’t have to deal with any sticky issues like race.

However, turning attention away from the history makers and achievers of the time only keeps black movie narratives stuck to the Civil Rights Movement. While that part of the ’60s is wildly important, there is more to the black experience than just misery. We didn’t exist just in the south; we existed all over the country, doing all kinds of things, including sending a man to the moon. Stories like this should have been lauded decades before now, not just now that Hollywood is slowly waking up to what many call in jaded tones the “diversity trend.”

On a much more shallower note: much like Whitaker, I’m unsure of Janelle Monaé’s accent in this film. I’m assuming she’s portraying a southerner; as a southerner, I’m always…disturbed by bad southern accents in films. There is an art to the southern accent not many non-southern actors have mastered. They always want to take it to that Scarlett O’Hara level, and not all southern accents are remotely like that. (I hated writing this paragraph, because I’m a loyal member of Electro Phi Beta…but I can’t lie about the accent.)

What do you think of these trailers? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Fall TV: Analyzing the Odds of 5 of the 2016-2017 Shows

We have a lot of shows coming our way, and a lot of racially-diverse shows at that. I thought it would be cool to take a gander at some of the shows I’m interested in this fall season and guess at what their chances are at garnering a second season. I know these shows haven’t even premiered yet. But we’ve already seen the trailers for the fall season, right? We already have our opinions anyway. So let me start off the opinion-giving by providing my thoughts.

(I must say that even though there are racially-diverse shows this fall-winter season, the shows featured in this particular list showcase shows featuring black leads.)

Luke Cage (Netflix)

I dare say that it’s already a given that Netflix and Marvel’s Luke Cage will be a smash hit. Mike Colter, who will be playing the title character, has already amassed a cult following from playing the character on Netflix’s second Marvel endeavor, Jessica Jones. And, let’s not discount Marvel’s wide and powerful reach; nowadays, almost everything Marvel touches turns to gold. So chances are Luke Cage will be here for a long time.

Lethal Weapon (FOX)

I will be honest; this show seems to have whiffs of Rush Hour all over it. Not the film, mind you, but the CBS TV adaptation of Rush Hour. That show had the diversity quota going for it; just like in the film, the buddy-cop duo was comprised of a black man and an Asian man (with Vine star Justin Hires and British actor Jon Foo taking reins of the Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan roles). But the writing was just too terrible and lackluster for the two leads to carry it. Let’s be clear; just because a show has a diverse cast doesn’t mean it’ll automatically succeed. The writing still has to be good.

Lethal Weapon seems like we could be going down another Rush Hour path. Not only does it look like it’ll be potentially unfunny, but just how relevant is Lethal Weapon these days? A similar question was posed about the Rush Hour TV series; the story is so of its time that it doesn’t resonate with younger TV viewers. But we’ll see how Lethal Weapon does; it is starring Damon Wayans, so the show does have that going for it.

Still Starcrossed (ABC)

First of all, Still Starcrossed is a Shonda Rhimes show. So you can assume success is already in the bag. But secondly, and most importantly, it’s a show that many people, particularly women of color, have been wanting since the dawn of television; a period show featuring people of color who aren’t slaves. Instead, Still Starcrossed, which takes place after the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, showcases a rich, affluent black family in Verona, Italy, who are just as powerful and viable as any other family. That alone will attract viewers who are excited to see a different and much-needed portrayal of the black family in ancient times. Look for several seasons of Still Starcrossed.

24: Legacy (FOX)

As well as the original 24 did, what with it being steeped in post 9/11 paranoia, 24: Legacy will probably do just as well, since politics has gotten even worse since 9/11. However, the fact that politics have become more divisive and stereotype-laden makes me question whether it’s even responsible to bring any iteration of 24 back. As popular as 24 was with its audience, it also was plagued by stereotypes of Middle Eastern Muslims as terrorists. What makes 24: Legacy even more troubling is that there’s the distinct possibility that these same terrorist stereotypes will be juxtaposed against the new hero, Eric Carter (played by Corey Hawkins). If there is an uplifting of one marginalized group at the expense of another marginalized group, then the entire exercise of the show is a problem. Regardless, 24: Legacy would still garner a sizable audience, so it could remain for another season or two.

Pitch (FOX)

Pitch will be a game-changer when it premieres. The show, about a young woman who becomes the first woman signed to a Major League Baseball team, will advance the cause of women in sports by showing that women can play any sport they want to, with the same passion and ability as men. The show has also cast Kylie Bunbury as the lead, which is fantastic; if this show were made just a few years ago, a woman like Bunbury wouldn’t even be considered.

I’m intrigued to see what Pitch will do once it premieres. If it plays its cards right, it could last for a while. It could become the Empire of baseball shows, I think.

What do you think of these shows? Give me your opinions in the comments section below!

Netflix Acquires “Where the Road Runs Out”, First Film Shot in Equatorial Guinea

Netflix is trying to step up their movie game, and it would seem they are on the right track with their acquisition of Where the Road Runs Out. The film, directed by Rudolf Buitendach and starring Isaach De Bankolé, is a history making film; it’s the first film to be shot in Equatorial Guinea.

The film has impressed audiences across the indie circuit. As the press release states, “the indie has also won awards at Sunscreen film Festival, Helsinki African Film Festival, and has also featured and been warmly received at the Pan African film festival, AFI Silver and Heartland film festivals.”

The film looks like it’ll be one you’ll have to put in your queue when Netflix releases it next year. Take a look at the poster and the press release in its entirety below.

WHERE THE ROAD RUNS OUT, the first film to ever shoot in Equatorial Guinea, picked up by Fairway Film Alliance, has been acquired by Netflix for US and partial foreign (Canada, The UK, Australia, New Zealand and English speaking African countries) distribution. The film, which premiered at and won best narrative film at the San Diego film festival in 2014, is directed by Rudolf Buitendach and stars Isaach De Bankole, Juliet Landau, Stelio Savante and Sizo Matsoko.

SYNOPSIS: A Rotterdam-based respected scientist and lecturer (Isaach De Bankole) has grown weary of the world of academia. The sudden death of an old friend who has been running a field research station in Africa gives him the incentive he needs to turn his back on his academia and return to his African roots. Arriving in Equatorial Guinea he finds the field station in a state of disrepair. Through a local boy Jimi, his jaded eyes are opened to the possibilities of life there. Jimi also introduces him to Corina (Juliet Landau) who runs the local orphanage and a tentative but heartfelt romance begins. With the unexpected arrival of George’s old friend Martin (Stelio Savante), George discovers there are many obstacles on the road to redemption… and many more where the road runs out.

Lensed in Equatorial Guinea, South Africa and the Netherlands; the indie has also won awards at Sunscreen film Festival, Helsinki African Film Festival, and has also featured and been warmly received at the Pan African film festival, AFI Silver and Heartland film festivals.

NETFLIX is planning for an early 2017 release in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and English speaking African countries. The deal was brokered by US Distribution/Production Company Fairway Film Alliance and Ocean Avenue Entertainment (Chris Bueno).

Fairway Film Alliance is a Los Angeles based full service independent film sales agency and production company, founded by long time indie film veteran, Marty Poole. Fairway Film Alliance along with Rogue Arts has distributed or produced films that have appeared in the Sundance Film Festival, Slamdance Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, and Toronto Film Festivals.  Earlier in 2016, Lionsgate released Fairway Film Alliance’s family film Army Dog starring Casper Van Dien, Grace Van Dien and Stelio Savante.

WTRRO-poster_laurels_4print.tif