Hollywood Racism {{ currentPage ? currentPage.title : "" }}


Zevallos, Zuleyka. "Hollywood Racism: The Magical Negro Trope." The Other Sociologist, 24 Jan. 2012, https://othersociologist.com/2012/01/24/hollywood-racism.


In this article, Dr. Zevallose examines the entrenched racist practices of big Hollywood studios, in particular the idea of the "magical negro trope" which refers to the way valiant non-White characters in movies exist only as a narrative device to teach the White protagonist how to be a better person. 



This article gives a good idea as to why this trope still exists today, namely that Hollywood studios are catering to the White majority who are actually paying to see movies in theaters. 


"Okorafor-Mbachu notes that the magical negro is a narration device that seemingly subverts racism (after all, it portrays non-Whites as virtuous)" (Zevallose).

"Richard Brookhiser argues that America has long loved the idea of the numinous negro, that is, African-American politicians, preachers and movie characters that lift up the spirits of White audiences. He notes this is in contrast to the 'thuggish' characterization of African-Americans that is also prevalent in the American psyche. Brookhiser’s point is that African-Americans are only allowed to be at either extreme – criminal or saint. They cannot be complex and flawed human beings, either in fiction or in public life. The magical negro is one variation of the numinous negro" (Zevallose).

"Okorafor-Mbachu, director Spike Lee and other cultural critics have argued that while the magical negro may have been Hollywood’s first minority group stamped onto celluloid, Hollywood uses the same characteristics of the magical negro to 'positively stereotype' other minority groups. This includes other non-White groups, with a special fixation on Indigenous cultures (also known as the noble savage trope); disabled people (refer to the inspirationally disabled trope); socially disadvantaged individuals, primarily poor non-White people (the White man’s burden); and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups (see the magical queer trope)" (Zevallose).

"Okorafor-Mbachu describes the gambit of magical minorities this way: 

‘1. He or she is a person of colour, typically Black, often Native American, in a story about predominantly White characters.

2. He or she seems to have nothing better to do than help the White protagonist, who is often a stranger to the Magical Negro at first.

3. He or she disappears, dies, or sacrifices something of great value after or while helping the White protagonist.

4. He or she is uneducated, mentally handicapped, at a low position in life, or all of the above.

5. He or she is wise, patient, and spiritually in touch. Closer to the earth, one might say. He or she often literally has magical powers.’” (Zevallose).

"Slick horror films often have a running gag where an African-American character will point out that Black people are often the first to die. They then consequently proceed to fulfil their prophetic joke" (Zevallose).

"No matter the genre, with the exception of some action movies** and a couple of big-name actors such as Denzel Washington and Will Smith, movie heroes are almost uniformly White, heterosexual, able-bodied men" (Zevallose).

"She sees that today the persistence of the Magical Negro is not so conscious but it still reflects unresolved issues of historical racism. Okorafor-Mbachu muses that the producers of these stories probably see themselves as anti-racism advocates" (Zevallose).

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