Mike Colter (left) and Rosario Dawson attend the Netflix’s original series premiere of Marvel’s “Luke Cage” at the AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9 Theater on Sept. 28 in New York (Photo Credit: Andy Kropa/Invision/AP).
A Much Needed Hero
No matter what critics think of Blaxploitation movies, they represented a need for the Black community in the 1970s.
Coming out of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s when Black heroes were attacked and assassinated, the heroes of Blaxploitation flicks represented the new brother and sister, who refused to take jive from the man.
Fast forward four decades, with the number of unarmed Blacks being killed by police officers, excessive inner city crimes in cities like Chicago and the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement, Marvel’s new Netflix show “Luke Cage” represents another hero on screen for the Black community.
“He’s a bulletproof character in a world that seems to have focused on Black people in a way that people were not aware of before,” said Mike Colter who stars in title role.
“In light of what’s happening today we didn’t mean to necessarily be topical, but we didn’t run from it,” showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker added. “Because these things that are happening have been happening for a long time. The only difference now is that people have a camera crew in their pocket and they can capture these things. So we’re not shying away from the politics, we’re not shying away from the culture. But at the same time we also have a hero who is born for these times.”
Thanks to Coker, the superhero wears a hoodie, in honor of Trayvon Martin, does not tolerate being called the N-word and has bulletproof skin.
If that is not perfect, there is no such thing as perfection.
The show is equal parts Harlem and hip-hop, bringing in a certain “New York Undercover” vibe with famous musicians like Raphael Saadiq, Faith Evans and D-Nice performing at the club Harlem’s Paradise.
“Harlem has always been the nexus of music, politics, culture, criminal figures,” Coker told the Los Angeles Times. “I mean because if you look at [drug dealers] Frank Lucas and Nicky Barnes, at the same time you also have (Adam) Clayton Powell and Malcolm X, you have the Cotton Club, you have Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Muhammad Ali. Every place that you walk on the streets, there’s this history…You feel that culture and that vibe. We were able to use Harlem for Harlem.”
“Luke Cage” also addresses the violence in inner city neighborhoods and how to combat those issues.
Many characters like Pop (Frankie Faison) and Luke Cage work tirelessly to be a positive role model for youth who grew up surrounded by the negative aspects of street culture.
Furthermore, Luke represents a demographic that does not get enough exposure in mainstream media, wrongfully convicted African-Americans in prison for crimes that they did not commit.
Unfortunately, like Blaxploitation flicks, “Luke Cage” does not totally get away from Black stereotypes.
Actor Mahershala Ali (“House of Cards”) plays gangster Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes.
But unlike some Blaxploitation flicks, the hero is not the gangster.
The hero is the guy that opposes the gangster and the dirty police officers on his payroll.
And for a change the “man” or hero is the brother man, and not the other man.