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Luke Cage: Fear of a Black Super Hero

Folks who know me understand that I have always been an unapologetic comic book geek. But I must admit when I was younger the Marvel character Luke Cage was not on my radar. Now the show, named after the character, Luke Cage is getting some controversial buzz as the newest series on Netflix from some folks as being too black. Wow!

Luke Cage is a brother that is wrongfully accused, goes to prison, is beaten and generally treated badly. Well that sounds like a lot of brothers who face time in our prison system but Luke Cage undergoes an experimental treatment that leaves him with skin like steel, invulnerability, super strength and a general bad ass demeanor. Cage, who’s real name is Carl Lucas, tries to reinvent himself when he escapes from prison, but because of a series of events, he becomes a reluctant hero for the people of Harlem.

Folks seem to be okay with Luke Cage being the boy toy plaything to white Jessica Jones ― something you would think would piss the same folks off more, it being an interracial tryst and all. But, no, the world of Luke Cage is just too black for some folks. Newsflash people, the story happens in Harlem, and even with contemporary gentrification (something explored in the storyline) Harlem still has a black presence, and is a historical hot-bed of black culture. Luke Cage is a young, educated urban brother, which means he is into hip-hop, which is a big part of the sound design of the show, with guest appearances from hip-hop folks like Method Man. And, like any other young urban brother, he faces all the challenges that come with negotiating the world through those specific filters.

What is amazing to me is that folks are up in arms about a fictitious character, and his being too ethnic, but have no problem with almost any mainstream show that offers little or no representation of diversity. Shows like Friends, Seinfeld and even movies that warp storylines with substitutions of race, like Gods of Egypt, where a country that is in African shows Egyptian gods as non-black actors. But folks upset about Luke Cage.

God forbid you have a show where the main character is black and he is surrounded by a bevy of beautiful women of color as supporting characters and love interests. The story takes place in the black community where we get to see other black leaders, black antagonists and even a significant presence from the Latin and Asian communities represented. What you don’t see is a story based on mainstream narratives, and maybe that is what is freaking folks out. It must be hard when you are not the center of attention.

There are most likely other issues the show Luke Cage explores that folks do not want to address, or that are freaking them out. Maybe they do not like the fact that the story addresses real threats, like the gentrification of historically black communities, mass incarceration of brown bodies, judicial systems that fail marginalized communities and racial profiling. Maybe what really scares folks is that the folks in the series, including Luke Cage, have peeped the game and are fighting back. Luck Cage becomes a hero for the disenfranchised. He is not your typical, cape-wearing superhero like Superman or Batman, but looks like any brother walking down the street minding his own business in a hoodie, which becomes a symbol for those in Harlem that began to sport hoodies with bullet holes as a sign of solidarity to Luke Cage.

In a day and age where it has become open season to not only profile, but kill brown folks in broad daylight and have it live streamed on mainstream media outlets, so frequently that folks have become silent and desensitized to the brutality, Luke Cage becomes an urban hero. Maybe it is not the fact that the show is too black that scares folks, but maybe for the first time we see a black man being profiled and shot by authority figures but instead of dying, bullets bounce off of his impenetrable skin and he fights back; igniting a brush fire of supporters who want to do likewise in their own way. Maybe that is what has folks really upset about Luke Cage: You can’t kill this black man.

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