The Power of Black Magic: The Magical Negro and White Salvation in Film

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Cerise L. Glenn, Assistant Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: Movies featuring a “magical” or spiritually gifted Black lead character have been released for many years, and the trend continues to grow in popularity. These Black characters, often referred to as “magical Negroes,” generally focus their abilities toward assisting their White lead counterparts. At first glance, casting the Black and White leads in this manner seems to provide examples of Black and White characters relating to each other in a constructive manner; however, a closer examination of these interactions suggests a reinvention of old Black stereotypes rather than authentic racial harmony. Using a textual analysis of eight selected films: the Matrix trilogy—The Matrix (1999), The Matrix Reloaded (2003), and The Matrix Revolutions (2003)— The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000), The Green Mile (1999), Bringing Down the House (2003), Nurse Betty (2000), and Bruce Almighty (2003), this study formalizes a definition of the magical Negro and determines how these characterizations reinvent traditional Black stereotypes of mammy, jezebel, and Uncle Tom. This study reflects on the complex nature of the portrayal and acceptance of Blacks in contemporary times because these roles may commingle limited progress with traditionally racist stereotypes.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2009
African American, magical Negro, motion pictures, stereotypes

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