Sweet Christmas: A Look at Luke Cage

auto3On September 28th, Luke Cage arrived in Harlem. Two days later, Netflix released the series to a universally positive response. The new series is third in a line of Marvel Netflix shows orchestrated to lead seamlessly up the The Defenders; a team that consists of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and next year…Iron Fist (along with a few introductory characters such as The Punisher, Elektra, Misty Knight, and more…).

Falling in line with Marvel’s vow to generate a different “feel” around all of its releases, Luke Cage, while set in modern day Harlem, looks, sounds and feels like a 1970’s blacksploitation film. It does so in a manner that is not distracting or played for laughs like Black Dynamite, but in a dramatic homage akin to Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.

In fact, Tarantino had expressed interest in making a Luke Cage film after Reservoir Dogs, but opted to make Pulp Fiction instead…a decision that was almost certainly for the best.

Everything about Luke Cage fell into place within Netflix‘s Marvel Universe. After a few episodes, the viewer is hooked and the characters fleshed-out enough to get thoroughly invested.

Although the superhero drama tends to be predictable, and at times needlessly cheesy, Luke Cage avoids most (not all) of these pitfalls by feeling nuanced and original, largely thanks to the change in environment, cast, and overall tone.

This is Luke Cage‘s world, and there are no apologies. Heroes and Villains are black actors and actresses, there’s no divisive racial dynamic in a good vs evil way; but it exists in a persuasive cultural exploratory way that any viewer should be able to accept..from the bullet-ridden hoodie imagery conjuring up the Trayvon Martin shooting, to corrupt police dash-cam footage of Luke Cage fighting back. It’s all handled well, and within a context that is provocative without “playing it too safe.”

auto3Previously introduced in Netflix’s Jessica Jones, Luke Cage is given his own elaborate backstory, origin and opportunity to come alive in this series, showing two very opposite sides of Harlem–the Community and the Upper Class.

Because of the method of storytelling, Marvel is able to play with the characters in these series to an unprecedented level, creating two effective parallel environments with equally compelling characters in heroes and villains. No spoilers, but the “primary” villain of the story, Cottonmouth, was by far my favorite character. The introduction of the tertiary villain (or real primary villain, depending on how you look at it), Diamondback, seemed almost like an off-putting afterthought. And that would probably be my only major criticism.

auto3Luke Cage undeniably has a diverse team of writers and directors, which probably helps its case–aside from a few examples of slightly unpalatable dialogue choices. But it does go to show that diversity behind the scenes is much more significant than diversity on screen, unless you wrongly assume an all-black television series is any more or less diverse than an all-white one.

But, when it comes down to it, who really cares? Target audiences will love these shows. Some more than others. But that’s half the fun. Just like the comic books themselves, if you want a full story arc, you may have to pick up some issues that you may not have otherwise looked at, diversifying your reading experience.

Luke Cage was down and dirty, over-the-top, but also gritty and human. But anyone who followed Daredevil or Jessica Jones knows exactly what to expect. Except this time you get a pretty bad-ass hip hop soundtrack to go along with it.

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Welcome to “Atlanta”

itworksComedian and rapper, Donald Glover, has been working on the FX series Atlanta for several years (since 2013), and considering he grew up in the capital city, you could argue he’s been developing this series his entire life. Everything about the series feels real and lived-in. So real, in fact, that it becomes difficult to describe what type of show it is. Obviously, the critics have been going crazy about it–with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 100% based on an early 39 reviews. And the show’s been met with universal, slightly uncomfortable, praise everywhere else.

And it’s well deserved, the show maintains a dark sense of humor while being both turbulent and chill. Is “mood-coaster” a genre of television? I guess for the sake of argument we’ll call it a black comedy–complete with the double meaning.

Atlanta does something that many other black dramas and comedies fail to accomplish: being real and being funny. While popular, current shows like Empire suffer from being little-to-no better than the mid-weekday soap opera genre, but slightly more unbelievable, somehow. While black comedies, with the possible exception of The Carmichael Show suffer from being relatively inscrutable to a mainstream audience, and also largely over-the-top and slapstick.

While it’s near impossible to put my finger on exactly what makes Atlanta feel so original, funny, and non-forced while tackling issues like law enforcement and poverty in a predominantly black community its honesty is sure to earn the ire of people looking for a fainting couch on which to collapse.

Perhaps just as noteworthy as the writing and production of Donald Glover, himself is the look and feel of the series, which can only be attributed to the artistic direction of Hiro Murai. And that’s why this article contains only links to his work, and no trailer for the actual series. Trailers and reviews of Atlanta won’t spoil anything, but they aren’t very helpful to prove the relevant point that this show can’t just be watched, it has to be experienced.

Atlanta airs on FX every Tuesday @ 10PM.

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Talking Nerdy, Episode 123: Five White Guys Walk Into a Studio…

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After a week of tragedy and vicious remarks coming from every corner of every debate, the Talking Nerdy crew comes together and attempts to field various arguments from each side and come to a generic understanding. Spoiler Alert: It’s not black and white. Also, a rousing game of Jose CAN’T-Say So and Dan Explains #Supernatural Tweets from Girls on Twitter.

DOWNLOAD THE LATEST EPISODE HERE

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–Follow today’s crew @NerdyPodcast, @CVLwolf, @JoeyHaHas, @SuperDudeDavey, @Dan_SuperDPS

Special thanks to this week’s #Supernatural crew: