On September 30th, Netflix will reunite the world with Mike Colter’s Luke Cage, who originally appeared in Marvel’s Jessica Jones. The highly anticipated series is coming at an interesting time in American history; debuting hot on the heels of this summer’s rise in civil unrest in accordance with the morally questionable killings of 117 African-American citizens, followed by a retaliation involving the death of several police officers around the country.
Following these events, for the first time on television, an African-American superhero will lead his own series, alongside a predominantly black cast. Not only should fans be excited for the show because of its inevitable greatness, but also because the show will make a cultural statement that is more than important for all people to hear.
When a corporation as large as Disney’s Marvel Studios exists, there is a certain obligation of that corporation to express a message—be it directly or in a more overt manner—of tolerance and acceptance, in order to further the growth of our people and our country. Jeff Loeb even touched on just that in an interview with Wired.
“We have a responsibility, more than with any other character we’ve had so far, to make sure that we get it right.”
So far, the studio has made some incredible strides: gender flopping the Doctor Strange character Ancient One, casting Tessa Thompson and Idris Elba as Norse Gods, and putting an Asian-American female superhero in the forefront of a series like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to move against the grain of the stereotypical archetype. While the studio has proved to be open to including a more diverse population in and around its productions, whether Marvel meant it to be or not, Luke Cage will be its most important property in terms of cultural relevance. At a time when our country seems to be so divided between appreciation for law enforcement and the African-American population, Luke Cage will prove that supporting both parties is not only an option but a viable one.
From what we know so far, Luke will make it his business to protect the local businesses of Harlem, and stopping several villains from creating a monopoly in the diversity-rich borough of New York. A law-enforcing African-American saving an assortment of citizens is exactly the image that consumers need to see in order to prove once and for all that Black and Blue lives are not mutually exclusive, as well as to grasp the change that needs to happen in this country: an increase in unity.
Much like promoting positive female role-models in characters like Black Widow and Scarlet Witch, Marvel has the responsibility to show that people of African-American descent can be superheroes, positive role-models, and in the most basic sense, the leading character of a mainstream and widely available television show.
The same wired article cited Luke Cage as being one of the shows in which “Netflix and Amazon… have proved that hit dramas could move beyond straight white men.” The article also explains that this “boundary-pushing television has created a more sophisticated audience, willing to watch characters that previous generations may have found alienating.” What a joy it will be to live in a world where people don’t think twice about an African-American superhero, and characters like Cage will help us move in that direction.
Not only will Luke be setting an example as an African-American that can do exactly what his Caucasian counterparts can do, but he’ll stand out from the typical black protagonist. In the same article, showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker’s friend and colleague John Singleton explained that “So many times, black protagonists have to be holier than thou, but [Luke’s] not an angelic figure.”
When the show is released, Luke Cage will not only be the hero of Harlem in his own series but likely also a hero for all of America, serving as a prime example that both Black and Blue lives matter and that an African-American man can save New York. John Singleton said it best when he explained “It’s the right time for this kind of hero. He’s so needed in the world.”