Great cartoon from blogsforthompson!!!!
Pretty much says it all doesn’t it?
The Illinois senator lends himself to white America’s idealized, less-than-real black man.
AS EVERY CARBON-BASED life form on this planet surely knows, Barack Obama, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois, is running for president. Since making his announcement, there has been no end of commentary about him in all quarters — musing over his charisma and the prospect he offers of being the first African American to be elected to the White House.
But it’s clear that Obama also is running for an equally important unelected office, in the province of the popular imagination — the “Magic Negro.”
The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. “He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist,” reads the description on Wikipedia http://en.-wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_Negro .
He’s there to assuage white “guilt” (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.
As might be expected, this figure is chiefly cinematic — embodied by such noted performers as Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Scatman Crothers, Michael Clarke Duncan, Will Smith and, most recently, Don Cheadle. And that’s not to mention a certain basketball player whose very nickname is “Magic.”
Poitier really poured on the “magic” in “Lilies of the Field” (for which he won a best actor Oscar) and “To Sir, With Love” (which, along with “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” made him a No. 1 box-office attraction). In these films, Poitier triumphs through yeoman service to his white benefactors. “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” is particularly striking in this regard, as it posits miscegenation without evoking sex. (Talk about magic!)
The same can’t quite be said of Freeman in “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Seven” and the seemingly endless series of films in which he plays ersatz paterfamilias to a white woman bedeviled by a serial killer. But at least he survives, unlike Crothers in “The Shining,” in which psychic premonitions inspire him to rescue a white family he barely knows and get killed for his trouble. This heart-tug trope is parodied in Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant.” The film’s sole black student at a Columbine-like high school arrives in the midst of a slaughter, helps a girl escape and is immediately gunned down. See what helping the white man gets you?
And what does the white man get out of the bargain? That’s a question asked by John Guare in “Six Degrees of Separation,” his brilliant retelling of the true saga of David Hampton — a young, personable gay con man who in the 1980s passed himself off as the son of none other than the real Sidney Poitier. Though he started small, using the ruse to get into Studio 54, Hampton discovered that countless gullible, well-heeled New Yorkers, vulnerable to the Magic Negro myth, were only too eager to believe in his baroque fantasy. (One of the few who wasn’t fooled was Andy Warhol, who was astonished his underlings believed Hampton’s whoppers. Clearly Warhol had no need for the accouterment of interracial “goodwill.”)
But the same can’t be said of most white Americans, whose desire for a noble, healing Negro hasn’t faded. That’s where Obama comes in: as Poitier’s “real” fake son.
The senator’s famously stem-winding stump speeches have been drawing huge crowds to hear him talk of uniting rather than dividing. A praiseworthy goal. Consequently, even the mild criticisms thrown his way have been waved away, “magically.” He used to smoke, but now he doesn’t; he racked up a bunch of delinquent parking tickets, but he paid them all back with an apology. And hey, is looking good in a bathing suit a bad thing?
The only mud that momentarily stuck was criticism (white and black alike) concerning Obama’s alleged “inauthenticty,” as compared to such sterling examples of “genuine” blackness as Al Sharpton and Snoop Dogg. Speaking as an African American whose last name has led to his racial “credentials” being challenged — often several times a day — I know how pesky this sort of thing can be.
Obama’s fame right now has little to do with his political record or what he’s written in his two (count ’em) books, or even what he’s actually said in those stem-winders. It’s the way he’s said it that counts the most. It’s his manner, which, as presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Biden ham-fistedly reminded us, is “articulate.” His tone is always genial, his voice warm and unthreatening, and he hasn’t called his opponents names (despite being baited by the media).
Like a comic-book superhero, Obama is there to help, out of the sheer goodness of a heart we need not know or understand. For as with all Magic Negroes, the less real he seems, the more desirable he becomes. If he were real, white America couldn’t project all its fantasies of curative black benevolence on him.
I suppose we owe it to the old Captain to give a little tribute post. The following is from Wikipedia. It IS good for some things. (LOL)
Captain America was one of the most popular characters of Marvel Comics (then known as Timely) during the Golden Age of Comic Books. Though preceded by MLJ‘s The Shield, Captain America immediately became the most prominent and enduring of a wave of patriotically themed superheroes introduced in American comic books prior to and during World War II. With his sidekick Bucky, Captain America faced Nazis, Japanese and other threats to wartime America and the Allies.
In the post-war era, with the popularity of superheroes fading, Captain America led Timely/Marvel’s first superhero team, the All-Winners Squad, in its two published adventures. In his own series he turned his attention to criminals and Cold War Communists. After Bucky was shot and wounded in a 1948 story, he was succeeded by Captain America’s girlfriend Betsy Ross, who became the superheroine Golden Girl. Captain America Comics ended with #75 (Feb. 1950), by which time the series had been titled Captain America’s Weird Tales for two issues, with the finale a horror/suspense anthology issue with no superheroes.
Captain America was briefly revived, along with the original Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner, in Young Men #24 (Dec. 1953), published by Marvel’s 1950s iteration Atlas Comics. Billed as “Captain America, Commie Smasher!”, he appeared several times during the next year in Young Men and Men’s Adventures, as well as in three issues of an eponymous title. Sales were poor, however, and the character again disappeared after Captain America #78 (Sept. 1954).
In the 1970s, the post-war versions of Captain America were retconned into separate, successive characters who briefly took up the mantle of Captain America after Steve Rogers went into suspended animation near the end of World War II.
In the Human Torch story titled “Captain America” in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales #114 (Nov. 1963), by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the brash young Fantastic Four member Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, engages in an exhibition performance with Captain America, depicted as a legendary World War II and 1950s superhero who has returned after many years of apparent retirement. The 13-page story ends with this Captain America revealed as an impostor: the villain the Acrobat, a former circus performer the Torch had defeated in Strange Tales #106. Afterward, Storm digs out an old comic book in which Captain America is shown to be Steve Rogers. A caption in the final panel says this story was a test to see if readers would like Captain America to return.
He did so in The Avengers #4 (March 1964), which story explained that in the final days of WWII, Captain America fell from an experimental drone plane into the North Atlantic Ocean and spent decades frozen in a state of suspended animation. (Retellings sometimes place the event over the English Channel.) The hero found a new generation of readers as leader of the all-star superhero team the Avengers, and in a new solo feature beginning in Tales of Suspense #59 (Nov. 1964), a “split book” shared with the feature “Iron Man“. The new Captain American stories were written by Stan Lee and generally penciled or laid out by Captain America’s Golden Age co-creator, Jack Kirby. Gil Kane, in some of his earliest Marvel work, also drew some stories. The feature went to full-length and took over the numbering of Tales of Suspense with #100. (Iron Man received his own, separate series.) The new title Captain America continued to feature artwork by Kirby, as well as a short run by Jim Steranko, and work by many of the industry’s top artists and writers.
This series — considered Captain America vol. 1 by comics researchers and historians, following the 1940s Captain America Comics and its 1950s numbering continuation — ended with #454 (Aug. 1996). It was almost immediately followed by the 13-issue Captain America vol. 2 (Nov. 1996 – Nov. 1997), the 50-issue Captain America vol. 3 (Jan. 1998 – Feb. 2002), the 32-issue Captain America vol. 4 (June 2002 – Dec. 2004) and Captain America vol. 5 (Jan. 2005 – ).
Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
|“||What I found is that all the really hard-core left-wing fans want Cap to be standing out on and giving speeches on the street corner against the [President George W.] Bush administration, and all the really right-wing [fans] all want him to be over in the streets of Baghdad, punching out Saddam [Hussein].”||”|
Marvel Entertainment Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada commented, however, that a Captain America comeback wasn’t impossible. The character’s death came as a blow to co-creator Joe Simon, who said ‘It’s a hell of a time for him to go. We really need him now.'”
In reaction to dialogue between two characters in another Marvel comic released the same day, Marvel issued a press release that said “[c]omments from Ms. Marvel in … Civil War: The Initiative, which seemed to indicate that Captain America is still alive, and being held prisoner by the Pro-Registration forces, may not have been exactly what they seemed on the surface … yes, Captain America, Steve Rogers, is dead”. The release also stated that the Captain America series would continue.
Thanks for “Rollin with a Brutha”, John.
We hardly knew ya.
Thanks to these guys!