By Dakota Cantwell
If anything can be learned from 2016, it is the fact that racism and cultural division still exists is it.
With the Black Lives Matter and the Blue Lives Matters groups constantly warring in the media, communication about the situation is becoming more and more necessary. Netflix’s new series “Luke Cage” is helping to do just that with a black superhero who predominantly wears hoodies while he’s saving Harlem.
“It’s a nod to Trayvon, no question,” Mike Colter, the actor who portrays Luke Cage, said in an interview with Huffington Post. “Trayvon Martin and people like him. People like Jordan Davis, a kid who was shot because of the perception that he was a danger.”
Student Troy Jones finished the series shortly after it was released and immediately saw the connection.
“I like it was a little symbolism in there for Trayvon Martin with the black hoodie” he said. “Originally when you look at it you don’t see it going that deep, but when you see him keep going through bullet hole hoodies and getting hit (you do).”
The show, which is set in current day Harlem, is taking a look at the everyday life of a black superhero, while also helping to show the issues of current day America.
“I like it. I really did. I thought it was a positive look,” Jones said. “It showed a lot of things that needed to be addressed in today’s culture and it did it on the slay. It’s not in your face.”
Chris Libby, associate professor of religions and philosophy, also enjoyed the show and the way it dealt with the issues.
“Yeah I like it. I mean of the marvel TV series I like this one far better than the other two. For different reasons. Each one has different issues that their dealing with, I guess I just found this one more engaging.”
The television series use a lot of cultural references to help set the scene of Harlem. One of their biggest tools was the music that was involved in the series such as the use of different neo- and retro-soul artists.
“I feel like neo-soul really hits with a lot of the topics” Jones said. “It’s more pushed towards the black culture so neo- soul (works).” He added, “Also it’s based in Harlem and that’s a classic place of soul music.”
Libby had a similar understanding of the music involved in the series.
“The thing that’s kind of cool about the series is the setting in Harlem and if those artists help somebody who might not be familiar with Harlem as sort of a cultural place and a historical place to enter into that space, I think that’s kind of an interesting way to bring people in.”
Harlem is a very historical place when it comes to black history and culture. Not only is it the birthplace for much of the early soul music, but it also has many statues and monuments to prominent black figures of history.
“One of the things that this show does that I find interesting is it makes sort of these passing allusions or references to important figures in or aspects of black culture that your younger viewer might not be familiar with,” Libby said. “You have the mention of Crispus Attucks. You have the barber shop as an important space. You have the conversations in the barber shop about writers and things like that that I think are an interesting way of setting the scene.”
Jones found this use of black history as a much needed attempt to inform the people watching the series.
“With mass incarceration in the 80s and 90s it’s taken a lot of figures from people,” he said. “So you don’t have figures that you can look up to and learn this information besides the school information that’s being told to you constantly. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, those are the same. But with Luke Cage it reached out a little bit. It went a little deeper into personal Harlem, but it’s also still the black community and that’s the information that needs to be pulled up.”
This is information that Jones feels a lot of people are misunderstanding or missing altogether.
Libby points out how this show makes an allusion to this very fact.
“The people who are the protagonists in this story seem to be those who have an understanding of this history and those who are the antagonists have sort of an amnesia of this history, at least to a degree” he said.
Whether the show is attempting to make this statement or not, Jones feels that this information is vital.
“Now it’s not bringing the issues to just white America of police brutality because, it doesn’t even need to have race on any of this, because at the end of the day, police brutality could happen to anybody. It’s an issue. Gangs in the inner city, it’s the issue” Jones said. “What I liked about it was it got back to the simple fact of, let’s inform the people. People are not informed anymore.” He added “That’s the information that needs to be pulled up if we’re going to go any farther.”
The last of the Netflix defenders series is set to come out next year, but “Luke Cage” will stand alone in it’s political attempt to shine light on the Black Lives Matter movement. Still Colter feels that the show is not afraid to stand with them.
He said “We wanted to pay homage to that — it’s not something we were shying away from.”