Contributing writer for The Artifice.
Junior Contributor I
'The Magical Negro' - How Film's Offensive Stock Character Illustrates America's Changing Views of Barack Obama
‘The Magical Negro’ is a trope in American cinema in which a white protagonist is "saved" through the efforts of a self-sacrificing, wise, spiritually prophetic and often mysterious African-American. Examples include Will Smith in ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’ and Michael Clarke Duncan in ‘The Green Mile’. It is worth exploring the idea that white America once viewed Obama as a type of ‘Magical Negro’ when elected in 2008; interpreting his message of "hope and change" as an oath to drastically improve race relations. However, by 2016, race relations are infinitely more strained, and many who initially supported Obama now feel disgruntled and let down by what they see as a failure to make good on his promises (even though his rhetoric never truly specified this issue to that great a degree, and was spun by the media to reflect the general public’s desires). The Right also manipulates this issue to use as a strike against him. How might the specifics of the cinematic stereotype reflect this surge of negative feelings toward Obama? Do white Americans subconsciously rely on this trope politically as an effort for them to feel safe and comfortable with black people (specifically men)? Has film conditioned them to expect this from black men of influence?
Plays are definitely meant to be seen rather than to be read. Lighting, sound, scenic design, costumes, and actors’ interpretations make it into a completely different beast. While I think it’s important to introduce students to Shakespeare in the schools, I wish they were able to see the play in conjunction with reading it, to be able to fully appreciate it. I was able to do this when teaching in Wisconsin at one point, and the teenagers (who had only read, never seen Shakespeare) were surprised at how much they enjoyed it. This is more and more impossible now that we’ve cut so many theatre programs from schools (ohhh…don’t get me started).
Oh, I guess you’re right! Two halves of a whole, maybe. Where did you get sorted instead of Hufflepuff? (Sorry if you said it up top – I’m dashing off to bed!)
One more thing – if you have a LiveJournal account, there is an EXCELLENT Potter community called “hogwartsishome” that has everything mentioned in this article – community, sorting, etc., and is user driven. You answer questions in long form about particular topics and the users themselves sort you. It’s not a Sorting Hat, but it does tend to be correct (and if you don’t like where you wound up, you can make an appeal, and do the process over again). You can also answer other long form sequences that can match you up with a magical creature, a wand, and so on. The communities are active and vibrant, and there are not only PM systems, but also group chats for the different houses. There are weekly/monthly competitions, including House Cups, and you can work toward being a moderator for different arenas if you wish. For anyone mourning Pottermore, I highly suggest looking it up – it’s definitely worth creating an LJ account just to be a part of that (but they won’t admit you if your account is super new, so you might have to feel your way around for a bit first).
(Oops, is this somehow promoting a personal agenda? I’m not affiliated in any way with the creators or maintainers of the site – I just want to let others know that there are alternatives to Pottermore, especially since the format has changed and it sounds like it wasn’t very easy to navigate in the first place).
Why does enjoying the Harry Potter universe equate not learning about other subjects?
This is one of my favorite articles I have read on this site. Very interesting! I Love Harry Potter, and got involved with Pottermore before it changed over, but truthfully I was a bit bored. I guess I wasn’t looking in the right places. Side note: I have been sorted into Hufflepuff in every quiz I have ever taken, but Pottermore sorted me into Slytherin – about as opposite a house as you can get. Strange.
“Appropriated from slave culture” – really really good point! I hadn’t thought about that, but you’re absolutely right. What moral decisions do you mean?
One of my students is a makeup aficionado, and takes great pleasure in playing around with it, painting her face in varying degrees of artifice. She also has one of the healthiest self-images I have seen in a college-aged woman. I’d (and she’d) consider what she does art (and a form of personal expression), but that may be, in part, because we are in the theatre, and makeup is for us an art form as a general rule. Interestingly, my Theatre History class recently got into a discussion about “Can anything be art?” while discussing 20th century theatre movements that were alternatives to Realism (Dadaism claimed anything had the potential to be art). Opinions of the class varied from one end of the spectrum to the other. Although standards of what is considered art exists in every genre, ultimately it is all in the eye of the beholder.
I disagree about the lack of criticism regarding men’s looks. The “man-bun” “dad bod”, lumberjack look, and others have been roundly lampooned and criticized by many – there are memes, articles, and other opinion pieces all grousing about how “silly” or “stupid” they look, as well as drawing comparisons between his virility or lack thereof if he chooses to dress like a lumberjack or grow his beard out when he is, in reality, say, a Wall Street investment banker. No one is immune from the critical eye of the internet; from people who have nothing better to do than make fun of others for being different. It transcends gender; however, women are definitely scrutinized and judged more harshly, and for infinitely more reasons. Creative freedom of expression seems to intimidate others more often than not, especially when it’s perceived as being a trend.