A Dark Night for Black Superheroes
This Summer’s movies have been packed with action and super powers. The three most anticipated movies of this summer were based on superheroes. The Avengers surpassed my expectations, I didn’t bother to see the Spiderman reboot, and The Dark Knight Rises was just as epic and dramatic as I hoped it would be (even though Milton hated it). It seems as if comic book superhero movies have gained a new level of respect in Hollywood as new characters enter the world of cinema. I was sitting on the edge of my seat with my eyes widened like a grade school nerd when I saw The Dark Knight Rises. These movies remind me of my childhood, when I used to pretend that I was a superhero and ran around outside with my friends. But I had to make up superheroes back then, you know, because I’m Black. Black boys these days are in the exact same predicament, even when there are movies like The Avengers that are packed with characters.
Come to think of it, there are no Black superhero movies. Decades of cinema and no one has trusted the fate of the world solely in the hands of a superbrotha. Some of you may be pushing the brim of your glasses up and have already begun typing rebuttals to this statement. Before you finish, let me provide my operational definition of “superhero movie”.
I’m filtering out any superhero that we’re not supposed to take seriously. I know some of you may not take any movie based on a comic book seriously, but I think we can distinguish Blankman from the rest of our sample. He was mentally handicapped, which isn’t a super power the last time I checked. We also have to eliminate Meteor Man from the pool, since his outfit is made of pillows and he has that Uncle Tom-ass part in his hair.
We’re not going to include a kid who used to work at GoodBurger and simply thought that he was invisible. So Invisible Boy from 1999’s Mystery Men doesn’t count.
And of course we’re not going to count any alcoholic bums who do more harm than good. So Hancock is out of the picture.
I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the news coming out of Comic Con this year. I was especially hype to hear about a Black actor, Anthony Mackie, being cast as Falcon in the next Captain America movie. Mackie was good in The Hurt Locker and She Hate Me, and he made a great cover pic for one of my posts. But when Falcon hits the screen, it’ll still be about Captain America. So we’re not including sideckicks. Even if we did, it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. We’re only eliminating War Machine, aka Bootleg Iron Man.
I’ve had discussions about Black superheroes before, and for some reason, many of my brothers think that Green Lantern is Black. Some have gone so far as to say that we should count the most recent Green Lantern movie as a Black superhero movie. I assure you, when a white guy wrote about a character named Alan Scott in the 1940’s, he was not picturing a Black fellow. Yes, Green Lantern is Black in Justice League on the Cartoon Network series that started in 2001. They also turned the comic Spider Man into a Puerto Rican in 2011. I guess the big screen slapped the Black off of both of them.
That leaves us with two undeniably badass superheroes:
Regardless of their ability to kick ass, they don’t pass the last filter for my operational definition of “superhero movie” in the argument stated earlier. No one has trusted the fate of the world solely in the hands of a superbrotha because these two heroes are anti-heroes.
Anti-heroes are characters who lack traditional heroic qualities. Anti-heroes typically distrust conventional values and are unable to commit themselves to any ideals. They generally feel helpless in a world over which they have no control. Antiheroes usually accept, and often celebrate, their positions as social outcasts. (Encyclopedia Britannica).
The only reason this dude Blade doesn’t massacre the human race with the rest of the vampires is because he’s constantly on drugs. He injects a serum into his body to keep his thirst for human blood suppressed. He’s basically popping Nicorette gum for vampires. Society fears his kind and he exhibits high levels of self-hate. Blade would be the perfect participant in a case study for a researcher using a deficit approach. My dude has identity issues in a hard-knock life.
Spawn, aka Al Simmons, was just a Black dude trying to do right. He had a beautiful wife, he dedicated his life to military service and protected our nation. The government ordered Al’s fellow soldier to murder him while on a mission in Botswana. Then Al went to hell because he was an assassin during his life on Earth. But he makes a deal with the devil to be a soldier for hell, so long as he can see his wife one last time. Too bad his old girl ended up getting cuffed by his best friend; they ended up having kids and shit (she wasn’t a ride-or-die). So then Spawn is on Earth with super powers from hell that only deplete his independence the more he uses them. It’s easy to remember that his Black ass ain’t free because Spawn is constantly wrapped in chains. The tagline of Spawn should be, “Witness this nigga struggle.”
Hellspawns and vampires almost act as analogies for the Black male struggle, trying to do good while the world fears your kind and wants to kill you.Think about it, even though President Obama received millions of white votes during the 2008 presidential election, many of those white people thought that he wasn’t like, “other Black people.” They thought, and still think that he is the exception to the rule when it comes to these wild Black folk. Obama knows it too. We’ve all seen him white it up when he’s in Wisconsin, then turn on his MLK voice during a speech in Harlem. In politics and in superhero movies, the Black guys have to combat fears associated with their ingroup in order to get the leading role. No one in Blade or Spawn’s world actually calls them a hero. There is yet to be a serious Black superhero movie in which the protagonist saves a baby from a burning building or receives the love of an adoring journalist. Hollywood be like, “NO! You niggas get Hell and bloodsuckers! Handle that shit.”
Fortunately, The Dark Knight has raised our standards when it comes to superhero movies. Now everyone wants their heroes grittier, darker and full of angst. The protagonists in these films now have to be nerds with no friends (eg. Hulk, Spiderman, Captain America) or douchebags with serious emotional problems and family issues (eg. Batman, Thor, Iron Man). Angst is in now. If struggle and angst is what Hollywood is looking for, tell them to look no farther than the nearest Black guy. We got angst. Hopefully, as this nation continues to increase its trust in our people (ask Trevor if he’s cool with having a Black doctor), we will continue to see an increase in the amount of melanin shown in superhero cinematic adventures. In fact, there are rumors that Marvel Studios is developing a Black Panther movie set to release in 2014. That’s just hearsay, but I’m hype nonetheless. Until that release date is confirmed, I’ll just keep informing the world that we’re capable of saving the world and protecting good citizens if given the chance. And we’ll do it