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Luke Cage (Netflix) discussion


I like the music a lot, but what impresses me most about Luke Cage is the array of black humanity on the show. The only show I’ve watched with more is The Wire, and that show has dozens of characters. I was surprised when you said it felt like black characters written by white people because that’s not what I got from it at all. I’m not black so I can’t speak with authority, but to me at least the characters feel real. I don’t see many stereotypes, though I do see characters who would be stereotypes on most other shows but are written with depth here. Even Connie–you could take her dialogue and give it to, say, a sub shop owner of any race and you’d only have to change the references to the style of the restaurant.

I think it’s obvious that black writers are the primary creative force behind this show. I don’t think it’s impossible for white writers to write good black characters, but this many? With this much diversity of personality and circumstance? And with the amount of black women, especially black women in positions of power, on the show? I don’t think many white writers could pull that off. (The only exception I can think of is The Wire.)


The showrunner is black, and the writing team is of various ethnicities


Ding ding ding! We have a winnah! One of the most interesting aspects of this show, especially for a Southern Black man man who has never left the South, is it’s acknowledgement of the broad variety of the black experience. The internet’s “activist” contingent tends towards an urban experience and mien that is dominant in media, but not in reality.

The tacit discussion of “respectability politics” is also tremendous. Because it acknowledges that class divisions and expectations have power, and a lot of “activists” have been bucking the idea, even though it’s something our forefathers have used to prove our humanity in far more hostile times. “Cage” wholeheartedly bucks the trend, presenting the formerly-respectable Cage lost in his current circumstances, Mariah, a pinnacle of respectability having hearts and minds; Cottonmouth, the crook with the respectable veneer; and then you have the pure crooks: Diamondback, Shades, Turk, Zip, Discount Obama.

Those are real people. Minus superpowers and super weapons, I’ve seen them, read about them. Funny, some people say Cage is too black or stereotypical and there are some people, especially “activists” (god I’m showing my age) who say it’s not black enough. They want more tropes. I will never say any tv show is above criticism, but I have to give Cage credit for using a broad black experience.

The black writing team on the show acknowledge that stereotypes come from somewhere, but they give depth to those people, the aren’t just those collections character quirks. Of course some of them, especially the thugs are used for much needed humor.

I also give this show credit for all its female characters, especially Mariah, Claire and the female cops. They all had me on the edge of my seat. Mariah may be the character who had the most impact for me. Her journey is the most stark.

I can rant about this forever. It’s just rare for me to get an entertainment experience where blackness isn’t rooted in an only an urban context and it’s not a Southern period piece. “Cage” the series doesn’t meditate on it. It’s just there. And it’s generating conversation. Some of it irks me, especially the “blacker than thou” crowd, but it’s happening and it’s cool that a comic book show has fomented it.

When I was little, Cage left me cold because I did not identify with him. Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau, was my id character: she was Southern, from a family with a Booker T. Washington style social and work ethic and she saved planets with the Avengers. Netflix actually created a Cage I can get behind and that’s impressive.


Mariah’s definitely my favourite character in the back half of the series. I feel that it’s as much her origin story as a villain as it is Cage’s origin as a superhero.

It’s for this reason I think some of the complaints about Diamondback are unfounded. He’s not the villain, he’s the catalyst whereby Mariah and Cage change


Hmmm, I was actually going to make a point of highlighting the fact I said ‘seems’ earlier when talking about the writing. For me it does seem contrived and stereotypical at times, especially, in my eyes when compared to the like of The Wire or Treme, but I’ll dip into it a little and hopefully be able to explain my thinking without seeming like an idiot or a jackass.

First off, this is a very interesting outlook Hank brings up…

…I have to agree with this, but I just think the writers failed at times or simply didn’t follow through enough. Hank’s following observation opens up part of what I saw as failures in this area.

I don’t think bumbling henchmen are the way to get comedy. Ever. It’s doubly annoying here because they are so stereotypical in other aspects, it’s cringeworthy. The same goes for the young characters who make mistakes… they are cut-outs with no depth. It’s true that some of the main characters have deeper nuances, but for thirteen episodes even they don’t really seem to break out of their stereotypes quite enough for me.

Now, it’s important to state that Hank is black and I am white, and I want to make it clear that this is specifically about the standard of writing and how I feel the ‘black’ aspects seem very underplayed in a white entertainment way and I am very interested in that because I write a wee series called Samurai City where I aim for the depth of character that The Wire has in all the characters no matter what colour. I’m not writing any of this from the perspective of some crazy white liberal.

This I do get completely, but as a writer I’m looking at those minor, card board characters and not feeling that the writers have made me feel they are real enough to get past those stereotypes they are based on. The Wire literally starts with a scene that puts black, street thug, stereotypes into human context using a very minor character. Luke Cage would have struggled to do that for even some of the main characters without the flashback scenes (which were written brilliantly), never mind the minor characters.

Now, secondly, you could argue that my standards are too high, but as a writer I just can’t help it. I know it can be difficult to provide a well rounded world and characters within a story like this (the first part of Sam City struggles to provide the depth that comes as the story continues, as do most shows and issues and chapters of anything), but when you have thirteen episodes you should be able to use some of that time to push a little more into the human aspect of the minor characters and not just have them be plot devices and comedy relief. So to me it seems like the writers simply either didn’t have enough knowledge to do that or were holding back. Based on Locan’s post I guess it’s the latter. In my eyes the flashback scenes alone, are too good to make me think the writers weren’t talented enough.

So anyway, hope that clears up my thoughts. Obviously there’s no right or wrong here, I’m a man who thinks the film 2012 was great, but I just wanted to make myself a little clearer in my opinion.


Cool, thanks for expanding on your thoughts, Patrick. I see where you’re coming from though I respectfully disagree. And you don’t come off like a jackass. :slight_smile:

Unrelated: Does anybody else adore Cottonmouth’s laugh?


Well, there’s a first time for everything :wink::slight_smile:


Yes, but because it’s so clear that the actor is using it to show the man’s insecurity and repressed violence. Every time he laughs you just know something has really got to him, one way or another.

He’s a very scary man caught between forces that are at least as dangerous as he is, and often worse. He’s the prince who wants to be king, but isn’t quite at that level.

I’ve had a few days away from the show but I’ll finish it in the next couple of days. I like all the characters so far, I’m glad I stuck with the show after the rocky first episode.


Yeah, I have to say I enjoy just…enjoying this world more than the other two series. The plot has it issues but the pacing isn’t anywhere near the problem for me as it has been with DD and JJ because I think Cage is just so fun to watch (and listen to).


I’m not sure - I finished it a while ago.

I think, with this series, it took me the longest to watch - not because I was not enjoying it, but because I wasn’t hanging onto Luke’s stories at the end of each episode.

I thought the music was absolutely the best thing about it, but I was really annoyed with the colour palette - the yellow / cyan theme that is dominant in most scenes became a little too much for me.

I think the acting was pretty good – I wasn’t at all concerned with stereotypes, but the characters weren’t anywhere near as nuanced as they were, in, say The Wire.

I thought the three villains were actually the least interesting of the Marvel Netflix series. Maybe that honour should go to Nobu, but, I found Diamondback to be really boring and not believable. Cottonmouth, and Black Mariah, on the other hand, were really well developed and in Episode 6 When Cottonmouth is killed I was absolutely keyed up for the series. I think that remains it’s best moment.

All in all, it was a good adaptation of Luke Cage, and I loved seeing him and Misty on screen. I also loved the Harlem setting, and the music, but if they do another series than there are two things I want: less yellow/cyan, and a villain who is as compelling as Fisk/Killgrave.


I also wonder if the metal was originally scripted as Vibranium…?


Yeah, considering how the world of Marvel is becoming more authoritarian in their responses to terrorism ala Civil War, you’d have troops and War Machine showing up if someone fired a rocket launcher in Manhattan.


That wasn’t my problem with it.

I can let a lot of things slide, but that’s what I’m doing. It feels really odd sometimes, when a story like this steps off the path it’s set itself.

A rocket launcher seemed… out of character.


Would a car bomb or similar have worked better, do you think? The rocket launcher did feel somewhat out of place, even with Cottonmouth being an arms dealer


The cut to him using it was really abrupt, too. And the scope shot looked really corny. If they had set it up a bit more and lost the scope I think it would have worked a lot better.


[spoiler]Arms dealing on the streets, even in this show, felt like hand guns and assault rifles.

Yes, something equally explosive but more in line with organised crime (who have used car bombs in real life)[/spoiler] would have been a better fit.


I think Cottonmouth did mention to Domingo that he had rocket launchers too in the first episode, though. But I agree, a bomb would’ve probably been better.


I don’t like being a moaner about spoilers, but if we’re getting into specifics of certain bits then would it be ok to tag the more detailed stuff? I’m still only one episode in. :grimacing:


It’s too easy to forget that.


No worries, it’s easily done. To be honest at this rate I’ll probably have forgotten everything said in this thread by the time I get around to watching more!