16 September 2014

The Magical Negro

Yesterday I had the great fortune of listening to a presentation by Effie Brown (producer of the upcoming film Dear White People) about growing up African-American, about the power of otherness in creativity - both as a source of inspiration and a source of frustration - and the usefulness of rage in finding the conviction to get across your message.

One of the most fascinating takeaways from the presentation was Brown's discussion of the Magical Negro. For those unfamiliar with the trope, think of Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption or Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile. Actually, Steven King has several Magical Negros, god love him. There's ones in The Shining and The Stand as well.

Further reading on the concept introduced me to more specifics on the concept: that the character is essentially a plot device, that they often exist only to teach the (white) main character the lessons they need, and occasionally to sacrifice him/herself in service of same. The links between the concept of the noble savage the magical negro abound.

Being (half) Persian I can't help think about how Persians are perceived in fiction. When we are perceived at all, that is. Excepting, of course, the usual Middle Eastern Terrorist stereotype, I can't think of a lot of Persian characters in general. But Middle Easterners are often Exotic Spice Merchants or sometimes Haggling Businessmen. Generally we're villains. Or comedic relief.

I don't know where I was going with this. Just thinking aloud, I suppose.

Blog posts can't all be gold, right?