Subverting the "Magical Negro" Trope
August 31, 2013 1:15 PM   Subscribe

Can you name some instances, in literature and film, in which the magical negro trope is turned on its head?

The most recent instance of this would probably be "Django Unchained." What are other instances, especially in literature, in which the "magical negro" concept is introduced and then completely subverted?
posted by Miss T.Horn to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Go to the TV Tropes article on Main/Magical Negro, expand all folders, control-F "subver".

Or command-F if you're on a Mac.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:19 PM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Key and Peele.
posted by St. Sorryass at 2:27 PM on August 31, 2013 [5 favorites]

Are you looking for situations where it is specifically mentioned? If not necessarily, I think Community could work. Shirley's character is introduced in a way that makes you think she's going to be the group's spiritual advisor (she's a mother/maternal, a devout Christian), but as the show goes on, she turns out to be just as complicated and messed up as all the other characters. And according to the aforementioned TV Tropes, this trope is mentioned and mocked later in the show, but not in direct reference to Shirley.
posted by lunasol at 2:40 PM on August 31, 2013 [4 favorites]

I wrote a freshman college english paper about "Finding Forrester" being an inversion of the normal trope.
posted by thylacine at 2:44 PM on August 31, 2013

The Shining?
posted by dobie at 6:52 PM on August 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's addressed very explicitly in the pilot episode of "Community":
Jeff: "It shouldn't be too hard to fake a study group, right?"

Cafeteria employee: "Huh?"

Jeff: "Oh, jeez, I'm sorry, uh -- I was raised on TV and I was conditioned to believe that every black woman over 50 is a cosmic mentor."

Cafeteria employee: "Were you conditioned to pay for your damn tacos, Seinfeld?"
posted by Jacqueline at 2:19 AM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Does Ghost Dog work? I'm not sure I completely understand the trope.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:29 AM on September 1, 2013

I would have said in The Shining the trope is deployed completely straight, even though the guy dies. Same for Terminator 2. Django Unchained I haven't seen yet, so I can't say; but to subvert the trope is not at all the same thing as to have a black protagonist, or an ultimately triumphant underdog who also happens to be black.

Ha! Training Day. Maybe not so much subverted as inverted.
posted by glasseyes at 10:57 AM on September 1, 2013

Though I don't think it was the director's intention to subvert anything, The Matrix introduced an archetypal magical negro character, only to have it revealed later that "she" was a computer program.
posted by duffell at 7:57 AM on September 3, 2013

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