TV Show Praise: Raising Dion.

How do you raise a superhero?

I won’t bother calling this blog post a review, because I have nothing but praises for Raising Dion: from the amazing writing of the graphic novel and script (thank you, Dennis Liu!), to the performances of both children and adults, to everything that went on behind the scenes to make this TV show such an awe-inspiring and self-reflective experience.

I’ve been up all night. I can’t sleep because I’m thinking of the kids I’ll meet in a few hours, and that upcoming event made me think of all the topics, related to children and raising them, explored in Raising Dion. Without giving too much away and just to quote a few:
– struggling to make friends (at all ages)
– To fit in or not to fit in?
– How do you define friendship? (At all ages)
– How to help a child deal with loss/grief?
– Keeping one’s memory alive…
There is also the richness of the backstories, i.e. the going up against parental authority and its consequences, the pursuit of one’s dream and its cost, the tough conversations to be had… So many times the words of Nicole Warren (aka Dion’s mom, beautifully portrayed by Alisha Wainwright), transcend the screen to resonate with our realities, as in their conversation about boundaries.

It is my opinion that more diversity is (still) needed on both the big and small screens. Raising Dion surprised me by its fresh and real tone, as well as its seemingly effortless, yet original treatment of the story. It’s because of shows like this one that I’m happy to be a Netflix subscriber. It’s easy to get attached to Ja’Siah Young’s Dion ; Alisha Wainwright makes you forget that you’re watching a fiction; Jason Ritter’s convincing awkwardness provides understated comedic moments. Does Michael B Jordan need an introduction? I was excited to read that his investment in the show went beyond acting, as he is also listed as an executive producer.

Can we talk about Sammi Haney? She slayed, rocked and stole my heart from the moment she appeared on screen. I couldn’t believe she had no acting experience, she’s a natural. I’m following her on Twitter and IMDb, and as with the aforementioned actors, I hope to see her sassy, lively and charismatic self in many more movies and TV Shows. She plays Dion’s best friend, and is in a wheel chair. In real life Sammi Haney helps raise awareness about biases toward disabilities, through her t-shirt designs.

So… How do you raise a superhero? The underlying truth in this question is that regardless of the challenges that life and the world throw at them, children have superpowers of their own. Especially the marginalized ones.

Thank you, Raising Dion and everyone who brought this story to life—including those not credited on IMDb, for a sweet, exciting and moving viewing experience.

Check out “Raising Dion” on Netflix.

Photo credit: Netflix #RaisingDion

PS: At the time of the writing of this post, fans still anxiously await news regarding a season 2 of the show. Here’s hoping our wish is granted.


Marvel’s Luke Cage: UPS ain’t the only brown that delivers.

Image courtesy of Deadline.com
Mike Colter as Luke Cage. Image courtesy of Deadline.com

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

Marvel’s Luke Cage’s cast. Picture courtesy of www.mcuexchange.com

“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.
  • luke-cage-mahershala-ali-cornell-cottonmouth-stokes_netflix-brightened
    “Everyone wants to be king.” — Cottonmouth

    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.

Picture courtesy of www.411mania.com
Picture courtesy of www.411mania.com

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:

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…