- “The Luke Cage Syllabus: A Breakdown of all the Black Literature Featured in Netflix’s Luke Cage” by Tara Betts via Black Nerd Problems
Marvel/Netflix’s Luke Cage has a lot of people talking a mere week and a half after being uploaded to Netflix’s servers, and for good reason. While ostensibly linked to the more popular popcorn faire that is the “superhero genre” of films created by Fox, Sony, Warner Bros., and Marvel over the last sixteen years, Netflix has done more to push the genre forward and upward with its four seasons of shows than has really been done since The Dark Knight. Luke Cage alone has elevated the discourse in our popular culture to the point where the greater populace can not only talk about blackness in America, but it’s getting white America to listen to conversations about blackness in America. The last time a live-action superhero production instigated a larger conversation about deep-seated issues in America was not this summer’s Captain America: Civil War, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, nor X-Men: Apocalypse, but last year’s Jessica Jones––a Marvel/Netflix (Martflix?) show. Like Jessica Jones before it, Luke Cage approaches its issues in a variety of incredibly subtle, as well as not so subtle, ways, but the fact that it’s approaching them at all––and giving these issues narrative prominence––sets it apart from most other entries in the genre.
Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m an English teacher (albeit not one of Literature, but of Composition and Rhetoric), but I noticed right away how many books dominated the show (at least in the front half––I’m not quite done with the season yet as of this writing) and how diverse Cage’s tastes were––in terms of race, sure, but also in terms of genre.
Dr. Tara Betts briefly discusses the books given center stage in the show, but expands that view into a full reading list that addends and complements the show. Some are a bit jokey (the Where’s Waldo? choice), others are referential (picking a Geoffrey Canada book since the writer was referenced by Cottonmouth at one point), and others are thoughtful on a pedagogical level (Acres of Skin, Cutting Along the Color Line), all of which could be used to describe the show itself.
Like I did for the “Worth a Look” about Stranger Things, I’m featuring this article even though I didn’t read it yet because it boldly sports a spoiler warning, and I––wishing to hold onto some aspect of nerd integrity––want to watch the rest of Luke Cage clean.
Evan Narcisse’s article is presented as a dialogue between four writers discussing the major cultural issues as presented and challenged in Luke Cage. In fairness, many articles have been written about this aspect of the show, but this gathering of different points of view on the same subject is an attractive and important approach. Especially as a white dude from the coast of California––and as a teacher––it’s these discussions that I need to find and listen to.