I, like everyone else, spent last weekend watching the Netflix’s series Luke Cage. Based on the 1972 Marvel comic, Luke Cage, Hero for Hire, the series sucked me in immediately and I kept watching until the Netflix servers to collapsed due to a stream overload for the first time this year. Blessing in disguise, as it gave me some time to process what I had just watched. You have to watch this series. No matter your prior familiarity with the comic or any of the creators involved in the series — it is a must see. Luke Cage provides such a nuanced, authentic and relatable picture of the Black American experience that it simply cannot be ignored.
Some background: Luke Cage is a wrongly convicted ex-con who after a prison experiment goes wrong gains super strength, agility and bullet-proof skin. Cage goes on to become a local superhero in Harlem defending it’s residents from evildoers including Mahershala Ali’s, Cottonmouth.
The show’s creator, Cheo Hodari Coker, former hip-hop journalist and author of a biography of the Notorious B.I.G., managed to form a world that is very similar to ours with the only difference being there is a black bulletproof, hoodie-wearing man on the streets. The timeliness of this series is uncanny as we are in the midst of battling American police brutality and biased media against Black Americans.
Coker calls his spin on the series the “Wu-Tang-ification of the Marvel universe” creating a script with a black character that has contradictory depth and fullness not seen often on the television screen before. The female lead characters (Detective Misty Knight played by Simone Missick, Dr. Claire Temple played by Rosario Dawson, and Councilwoman Mariah Dillard played by Alfre Woodard) are just that – characters; they have as much feeling, emotion and agency as their male counterparts not placed in the series to bolster the superhero lead or as an attractive prop.
The show is also deeply embedded in hip-hop culture due to Coker’s background with each episode being named after a Gang Starr song and even **spoiler alert** an appearance from Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man. Coker tells the New Yorker that “the main thing that [he] wanted to do with this show is make a sophisticated hip-hop show that could prove that hip-hop is just as educated as anything else out there.” With hip-hop artists become just as mainstream as their pop counterparts the culture and history behind the genre has been bastardized into some harmful stereotypes that are put to rest in Luke Cage. In fact there have been complaints about the show being too “black” and excluding a white audience which further solidifies it’s necessity.
Coker killed the myth of a black superhero and created something much dynamic, intersectional and best of all hopefully realistic. If you need more convincing check out the trailer below and if you have some time catch the series on Netflix.