I Will Be Seated for ‘The American Society of Magical Negroes’
Darksided Black girl magic.
On November 15, Focus Features released a teaser trailer for The American Society of Magical Negroes. And even though I’m salty they only shared it on TikTok and X (formerly Twitter) but not YouTube, I have not been the same since.
Directed by writer/actor Kobi Libii (Doubt, Madam Secretary), the satirical fantasy film looks to turn the storytelling trope of the Magical Negro on its head and into a fantastical adventure. As a refresher, the trope occurs when a fictional work uses its primary Black character to serve the interests of its white character. They have little to no importance to the plot and exist as a tool to help the white characters on their journey. Unfortunately, this is not a trope of a bygone era. In 2019, the Oscars awarded Green Book, a movie that turned an important Black American composer, Don Shirley, into a Magical Negro. Even into the 2020s, the trope has reappeared in popular media like The Queen’s Gambit and The Strand. You can learn more about the trope in former TMS writer Princess Weekes’s video on Magical Negros in Stephen King’s work.
The American Society of Magical Negroes stars Justice Smith (Detective Pikachu, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves) as Aren. After a secret society of magical Black people recruits Aren to help join their cause, his life changes forever. What’s their cause? Making white people’s lives easier. The teaser trailer shows iconic performer-with-too-many-credits-to-choose-from David Alan Grier delivering this message to Aren. The film also features An-Li Bogan (The Unsettling), Drew Tarver (The Other Two), Michaela Watkins (The Unicorn), Rupert Friend (Homeland), and Nicole Byer (Nailed It!).
While satirizing this trope is not new, it’s newer to film and that’s really exciting. In 2012, Key & Peele gave us an episode with a “Magical Negro Fight.” In 2019, Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show explored this via their “Magical Negro Rehab” skit. Still, no film has confronted this legacy through a central topic like The American Society of Magical Negroes appears to be. In an interview with IONCINEMA, Libii shared his hopes for the film.
“I think people will feel energized and lifted by [The American Society of Magical Negroes] at the end. But it’s also a racial satire with some real teeth to it. So, it’s not afraid to bite while at the same time it will pour something nice on the wound before you leave.”
The American Society of Magical Negroes premieres in theaters on March 22, 2024.
(featured image: Focus Features)
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