Netflix’s Luke Cage Series Explores Black Male Masculinity

Words By: Romani Poole

The new Netflix series based on the Marvel power man, Luke Cage, has debuted and has raised some questions about the current state of black masculinity.

When the first issue of Luke Cage came out in 1972, the creation of the “unapologetic black men” was described as the man comfortable in his skin, but aware of his patriarchal brainwashing.

This mindset was partially due to the black power movement during the time and the need for a strong black, male figure.

What does the series say about the idea black masculinities current state?

Nothing.

Luke Cage was created in an era where society’s overall conception of being a black man in America was big, strong, and violent, known as the “Mandingo” motif. It was during the same time many “Blacksplotation” films were at its climax. There was a narrative that reinforced a “hyper aggressive, hypercritical” character “that never gives or never says die.”

This is where the problem arises.

“Men aren’t like that; everybody has frailties, everybody has this blended identity…most of the time when you see someone [Luke Cage] like that, you’re dealing with someone who has been wounded, who’s dysfunctional, who doesn’t communicate very well, ” Darryl Scriven, Ph.D., department chair of Visual Arts, Humanities and Theatre at Florida A&M University said.

Scriven goes on to clarify that this might work on the football field, but it doesn’t work when you actually have to talk to people in reality.

In the Netflix trailer, Luke Cage has many doubts about going into crime fighting and, though reluctant, seemed to be persuaded that it would “be a waste” if he didn’t protect his community.  This reinforces society’s thoughts on how a black man should act.

According to Scriven the idea of black masculinity is “a performance existing under patriarchy and ultimately white supremacy.”

If that is true, then Luke Cage is merely a puppet.

All movements or theories evolve over time and it was not until recently that we saw a spark of change in what we thought black masculinity is. Many stories are changing in pop culture of the roles a black man should play and Luke Cage does no justice to that.

Comic book enthusiast, Ervin Donaldson and Winslow Jones, sees the shows premiere in a completely different light.

“It gives us hope…I feel like he was the perfect one to bring because he is bulletproof, and a lot of us have been getting shot… it basically tells us that we can still be somebody in the scope of things,” said Donaldson.”

Jones revelled about to the series being placed in Harlem.

“Back in the day [Harlem] was a real good spot for black people,” he said.

The full series released on Netflix on Friday, September 30.

 

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