This post is merely an attempt to describe my last Netflix viewing experience. I like to start my reviews (of books or else) with a quote that stood out and inspired me, but with Marvel’s Luke Cage I admitted defeat 17 minutes and 45 seconds into the first episode; at that point I realized that I was drinking the actors’ words like a famished kitten sipping on sweet milk. Hats down Cheo Hodari Coker, the creator, and his writing team. Here are some of the quotes that either cracked me up or made me ponder within the first minutes:
“UPS ain’t the only brown that delivers.” — Cottonmouth.
“Everyone has a gun, no one has a father.” — Luke Cage
“Now, Harlem is a community that welcomes everyone, all people. But at the same time, since the days of Langston Hughes, Malcom X, Zora Neale Hurston, Duke Ellington, Harlem has been the jewel of Black America. It’s a perpetual symbol of… hope and prosperity and excellence. For black lives to matter, black history, and black ownership must also matter.” — Black Mariah
I’ll cut to the chase and say that, as a Marvel Comics fan, I had an incredible time watching Luke Cage: It’s funny and action-packed, yet while being entertaining, it doesn’t shy away from some of the heartbreaking topics currently headlined in the news. That is a feat, considering that the script was written a year ago.
In bullet points, here’s why I loved Luke Cage and would recommend it to anyone, regardless of the ethnic background:
- For the sport fans out there, the NBA names throwing is funny and timely, with the season starting in a few weeks.
- Mike Colter and Simone Missik melted my screen from their first appearance together, and onward (you owe me!).
- The differing point of views regarding the word “Nigga,” within the black community. I like that this was addressed.
- These topics: state violence, gun control, the criminal justice system, Harlem history, black history…
- The dynamic in these male relationships: father/son, brother/brother, mentor/mentee…
- The diverse representation of black characters within one single TV show (I’m referring here to their professions) and the shades of skin tone unapologetically represented.
- The ethnicities represented within the Harlem community, beyond the afro-american one.
- Mike Colter’s somber voice, which matches Luke Cage’s dark and grave persona.
- Alfre Woodard. Enough said.
- Rosario Dawson, Mahershala Ali, Frankie Faison, Theo Rossi… the whole cast is incredibly good.
This superhero makes reading cool. The literary conversations taking place in the barbershop between Pop and Luke… Here’s to another shattered stereotype.
- The Bruce Lee / Jet Li verbal jest. Not many realize how much martial arts mean to the black community, and how much actors such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, just to quote a few, are appreciated for their on-screen and off-screen contributions beyond our cultural boundaries.
- The music. The featured artists, the insane playlist. You need to see and hear for yourself.
- Dapper Dan, the famously creative Tailor of Harlem, who also happens to be a natural on screen.
- Feminism: The show features several strong and courageous women, from the Asian American landlord to the female high players, i.e. the politician, the detective, the police chiefs, the nurse, the psychologist, the mama running a crew, all standing for themselves… There’s an interesting gender role reversal to a magnitude that I don’t often observe in TV shows or movies, with, for example, the super self-educated male superhero who humbly chooses to wash dishes and sweep a barbershop for a living.
- I grew up reading Marvel Comic books in Cameroon, in Central Africa, at a time when people of color in books for children and teenagers were nearly non-existent. While my friends and I were very grateful to Stan Lee and his crew for creating the Black Panther and Storm, I’ve always been bothered by the hyper-sexualization of women in comic books in general, and in Marvel in particular. This didn’t translate in Jessica Jones and in Luke Cage.
I gotta stop there.
Luke Cage broke Netflix down for about two hours on Saturday. That, of course, sent the fans worldwide into a frenzy. You can follow the Luke Cage twitter saga via the #LukeCage and #SweetChristmas hashtags.
Controversy sells, and Mike Hale from the New York Times obliged, stating in his review that “Mr. Colter was better served (…) playing a stoic Cage in a supporting role [in Jessica Jones] — here he doesn’t seem comfortable carrying the show.” Uh, no.
Quentin Tarentino lamented about the show not being set in the 70s, and not following the first comic book issue to the T. I side with the showrunner on this one, who managed to blend the 70s with the present, to give us a character that is relatable across generations, and to serve us plenty of food for thought via the multiple cultural and historical references (not to mention the books read here and there by the characters). Cheo Hodari Coker created a platform that makes us appreciate a portion of the richness of America’s black history, while causing us to ponder about current events. That, in my opinion, prevented me from being detached from the show. Hours after I watched the last episode, the questions that Luke Cage raised in my mind still lingered.
A few additional links of interest:
- Cheo Hodari Coker interview: Luke Cage is not a Black Lives Matter superhero.
- Nerds of Color thorough review of Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix: It’s Sweet Christmas in Autumn.
- The Wrap gave us a rundown of the artists who performed in Harlem’s Paradise.
- Dapper Dan interview for Variety, just because.
- Simone Missik on the need for more women in TV, article by the Express.co.uk.
- AV Club: Luke Cage shines a spotlight on its female characters.
- Luke Cage on IMDB
- Luke Cage on Twitter
- Luke Cage on Netflix
Luke Cage was released on Netflix on September 30, 2016.
Genre: Hip-hop western.
Rated: R, but contrary to Deadpool, my hands didn’t spontaneously shield my eyes for most of the duration of the movie; the action scenes were not gruesome from beginning to end, and I don’t remember screaming. Laughing out loud, that was inevitable.
If you’ve seen it, feel free to share your thoughts.
*Edits as of 10.03.16 8:55 AM. It took me a few times to get the title of this post right.*
*Very last edits on 10.04.16 4:46 PM. Convalescent and fever-free proofreading…