Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Superhero Media: Luke Cage - Season 1

Sweet Christmas! This programme was amazing. The cast, production, writing and photography was all spot-on and it has more layers than an onion. Warner Brothers and DC keep trying to make their audio-visual media more "adult", but Luke Cage blows them all out of the water with what it does. If you haven't seen it yet, get on it before you go too much further; I won't be doing many plot spoilers, but I will be talking in-depth about theme, character and the role of music and race in Luke Cage. The series is set in racially-ghettoized Harlem and musically the audience are transported into that world, from John Lee Hooker to Wu-Tang Clan, this is more than a soundtrack, it's an outburst. In the first few episodes, the classic soul and R&B of Pop's Barber Shop is juxtaposed by Cottonmouth's preference for the gangster rhythms and flow of Biggie Smalls, much in the way "Black Music" is categorised by a mainstream [white] audience. It is not until Luke is about to bust in a drug smuggling hideout, when he puts in his headphones and we hear "do you think your Wu-Tang style can defeat me?" and "Bring Da Ruckus" starts up that the full breadth of the sound of black rage at systematic and cultural oppression is brought to bear

It must be time for some major film nerding, because I'm about to discuss the overt use of semiotics inn Luke Cage. That a bullet-riddled hoodie becomes emblematic not only of Cage himself, but of events like Trayvon Martin and the #blacklivesmatter movement, is not only clever writing, but is a use of the superhero medium of storytelling in a manner more subversive than any other since V for Vendetta. The idea that Luke is the hero that Black America needs more than any other, not because of his inherent humanity, but because he is simply a black man that the police cannot shoot dead, is a powerful message that rightly has made many conservative and white audiences and commentators uncomfortable. The Luke Cage presented here is not the Blacksploitation pastiche that first graced the comics, he is Martin Luther King, Chuck D, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Trayvon Martin, Rodney King, Obama, Grandmaster Flash and Danny Glover wrapped in unbreakable skin and giving the strength he needs to tear down the establishment. Sweet Christmas.

I guess I should about the story, it's ok, not as good as past Marvel Netflix efforts, but as Captain America: Civil War demonstrated, Marvel's strength lies in character more so than narrative. I mean, what are you going to do, watch DC stuff for character? Arrow is built around hot people moping, at least with Luke Cage tells the story of fascinating people dealing with the circumstances into which they are thrust. I am super keen for Iron Fist and The Defenders now, but I really want to see Luke join the Avengers, like his comic counterpart.

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