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A recent trend in films I see is what I call the "Infallible Negro," where they paint Black people living lives without any problems; or rather, without any complexity. I see it more in white-starring films, with Black co-stars, and it feels like a kind of appeasement for Black viewers ("well, at least you're not Thug #3"). I think it's problematic; it ignores the fluidity of Black people lives, where white people can almost pat themselves on the back for making us like this. What do you think?
I call that the “flat positive” or “one dimensionally positive” character. I resent that as well. It’s a knee jerk creation that sits in juxtaposition to controlling images in media. So instead of the “buck,” the “thug,” the “magical Negro,” the “mammy,” the “Jezebel” and the “Sapphire,” these “positive” characters are created with little depth, little nuance and mostly exist as a bland creation to be juxtaposed to the White character that of course gets to be fully human.
It honestly is the same thing as the negative controlling image characters because it does not portray the full complexity and humanity of a Black person. No, we are not 100% perfect “role models” without flaws or life experiences grinning like ridiculous asshats to everything someone White says. We are also not these one-dimensional controlling images that are simply negative projections of Blackness from the White imagination.
Often times some Black people crave these flat positive characters who must “uplift” Black people through “perfection” that does not exist in real life. The irony is this “perfection” is usually a shining example of oppression, especially when that character is female. It usually means her existence must adhere to the politics of respectability, colourism, thin privilege, theism, patriarchy and be heterosexual in a way approved in the cishet Black male gaze. It often replicates existing oppression and is simply a Black character (which then ends up meaning an actual Black person) most likely to be deemed “worthy” in the White Gaze.
This is a dangerous space in media because it is not reflective of our actual humanity. We need real people. People who resemble what we ourselves are like and can be like. Real beings with goals and dreams, people who do good and bad things, people who make great choices and poor choices, people who hurt people and are hurt; human beings. Black human beings…on screen.
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