Luke Cage started off as way for Marvel to cash in on blaxploitation movies of the 1970s. Luke's jargon, clothing, and even the problems that came his way were reminiscent of the kind of things we would see in the movies. The Luke Cage character has grown since then.
Luke may no longer be a stereotype, but Luke's morals and principles remained the same and boiled down to one thing: Help the people in the community. And while he was always called a hero, Luke didn't like the name. Netflix's Luke Cage has taken everything that was great about Luke in the 70s and the present, the culture from both eras, and problems that black/African American face in urban neighborhoods face. As a black male, Luke Cage gave me a lot of reasons to be proud of Marvel.
The one thing that has everyone talking is the music selection. The first thing that hits you is the jazzy music as the show goes on. It sets the tone and gives you the '70s vibe that the original Luke Cage comic book series had. And before the first season ends, we are graced with classic soul singer and former member of Tony! Toni! Toné, Raphael Saadiq — who performed "Good Man" — Faith Evans — who sang "Mesmerized" — and even Charles Bradley — who performed "Ain't It a Sin." There was even a guest appearance by hip-hop legend Method Man. Luke Cage show runner Cheo Hodari Coker actually talks about how comics and Hip Hop are connected. I also wrote a piece on the connection as well.
Music is one of the few things that has the ability to bring people to their happy places. The music raised nostalgia within me. Listening to jazz in the car with my uncle or with my parents when we used to go to their friend's houses or family functions. Just happy vibes, good food, and great people. Also, seeing artists from my childhood like Method Man, DJ D-Nice and Faith Evans was a great way to nod to the pioneers of black music.
The Barber Shop
The barber shop was one of the most important places growing up when you're a black male. It's one of the places where you could go and just be a guy. We'd talk basketball, football, politics, and everything else under the sun. Sure there were all sorts of ridiculous theories and you were made fun of if they made no sense. But this was all done out of fun. The barber shop toughened little boys up and prepared them for a world that was not going to just accept that their opinion was right. You had to really be confident and never back down if you felt you were right. A lesson every child needs to know for when they get older.
Pop's Barbershop was exactly everything that was right and true about the neighborhood barbershop. The barbershop was a safe haven for anyone. Even if there were fights, you got over it and it and moved on with your lives. No one was really hurt. Most importantly, it was also the place you could go for advice. Your barber sometimes knew you better than your parents did because there were things you couldn't talk about with your parents. Especially things like sex.
Pop's Barbershop was a perfect representation of all of that. Silly conversations, a father figure that everyone loved and owned the shop, and if the barber messed your cut up, you were in for a horrible couple of weeks. A bad haircut can make or break you in school.
It's easy to bring up and use historical black figures like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., Luke Cage used past figures like Crispus Attucks, Jackie Robinson, and Marcus Garvey. Jackie Robinson may be well known among people who play sports, but there is a whole world of youth who have no idea who the other two are. Using names like Crispus Attucks to name a building topped with Luke explaining who he is and what he means to him might intrigue the viewers to research the names of these influential and important black heroes of history.
Crispus Attucks was the perfect black figure to bring up in this series. Attucks was the first person killed in the Boston Massacre, and therefore widely regarded as the first person to die in the American Revolutionary War. Luke Cage said what Attucks means to him in the show after some young black kid called him a the N-word.
"Young man, I’ve had a long day. I’m tired. But I’m not tired enough to ever let nobody call me that word. You see a n**** standin’ in front of you? Across the street from a building named after one of our greatest heroes? [Attucks]"
He then went on to explain:
"You even know who Crispus Attucks was? A free black man. The first man to die for what became America. He could have acted scared when those Brits raised their guns. Blended in with the crowd, but he stepped up! He paid with his life. But he started something."
Current Black Issues
The writers, directors, and everyone else involved with the Luke Cage need to be applauded for their unapologetic approach towards the issues going on in the black community and urban area. This was the perfect platform to do it. Luke has always been conscious of the things going on in his community. So using Luke Cage as a way to enlighten people about issues that we face every day was an amazing idea.
Some people will read this and automatically assume that Luke was bashing the police or white people. This was far from the case. While Luke Cage did break down issues that predominantly affect black people in urban areas, but they also broke down issues that affect us all. Like the media and political corruption.
Politicians and the media have become a force used to instill fear and hatred in for agendas that they deem fit. When Mariah needed her way, she would work with her cousin Cottonmouth and use his drug and murder money to feed her agendas. And when she was cast out to pasture, she got ahead of stories and used the media to make herself look like the victim while making Luke Cage look like the criminal. It's things like this that leave good people looking like the villains. If you have the money and the power to make yourself look innocent, even when you're guilty, you have the edge. This leads to a prison full of poor innocent people in jail and names being ran through the mud that will never be clean again.
One thing that stands out above all else is the hoodie and what it represents. For years, black men in hoodies have been synonymous with being "thugs." A more recent case of profiling like this would be Trayvon Martin who was followed because he looked like something he was not. So Luke always making sure he wore a hoodie hit me right in the heart. Then seeing so many people wearing the hoodies in one of the episodes to show their solidarity for Luke Cage. Because of the bullet holes in Luke's hoodies, people were putting holes in their's as well and Luke was being called the "Hole-y Hero."
Luke Cage has proven again that he is a man of the people. He doesn't have the money or the fancy suit that Iron Man has, gamma radiation that gives him a seemingly unlimited amount of power and strength, or a magic hammer to control the weather. What Luke does have is a need to do the right thing. It may have taken a tragedy for him to get where he is, but that could be said for almost every hero in comic books.
Like in the comics, Luke Cage is a man of the people. As a black male, watching Luke Cage made me proud. He may be a fictional character, but the lessons of being true to yourself and doing the right thing are very real. Luke may not consider himself a hero or a leader, but he is certainly a hero kids can look up to. SWEET CHRISTMAS!
Thoughts? Let me know in the comments below?