Dear Culture

Hollywood loves a white savior and a magical negro

Episode 40

Panama Jackson is joined by The King of Black Twitter and theGrio Daily host, Micahel Harriot to analyze some of Hollywood’s top money-making movies. They explore the relationship between white and Black characters who are meant to save each other. While it may make for a good story, is the concept of the white savior and magical nego actually hurting the culture?


Panama Jackson [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified.

Panama Jackson [00:00:08] What’s going on, everybody. And welcome to Dear Culture, the podcast at theGrio Black Podcast Network. That is for, by and about the culture. I’m your host, Panama Jackson, and I’m joined today by my colleague here at theGrio, one of the most famous Negroes on planet Earth. And I had to use the term Negro because what we’re going to talk about today, you know him, I know him. Please put your digital hands together for the one, the only Michael Harriot. What’s  going on, bro? How are you doing today?

Michael Harriot [00:00:35] I’m good, man. I’m good. You know, I’m always happy to be here. I’m a fan of Dear Culture more than I am, like a colleague of yours.

Panama Jackson [00:00:44] I appreciate that. I appreciate the love. We always have a good time when we do this. And that’s why I wanted you to be on here today, because you are one. A noted wypipologist. It’s in your bio. It’s probably, it must be on your Wikipedia page and know you have one. And what we’re going to talk about today is magical Negroes versus white saviors. And specifically I want to talk about films that kind of toe the line and have it make a definitive decision on whether these certain movies are more white savior movies or magical Negro movies. But it’s important to kind of lay the groundwork. So what is the magical Negro? I’m going to give a definition then I want to hear you talk a little bit about, like, magical Negroes, So magical Negro. This is the definition. I’m going to have to read this. It’s a trope in American cinema where a Black character comes to the support and aid of a white protagonist in a film, and he usually has some type of mystical or special insight, you know, some kind of special power, something that makes it so that they are helping the white protagonist in the film. So when I think of like magical Negroes, like two specific instances come to mind, Bagger Vance, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Will Smith loves a good, magical Negro film. Apparently,.

Legend of Bagger Vance [00:02:02] I can’t do this. Yes, you can. This isn’t your shot bag? No, it’s yours.

Panama Jackson [00:02:10] He and John Coffey like the coffee, like to drink, but spelled different, who was played by Michael Clarke Duncan in the Green Mile.

The Green Mile [00:02:18] John Coffey, you have been condemned to die in the electric chair by a jury of your peers sentence imposed by a judge in good standing in this state. Questions? Take my hand, boy, you’ll see for yourself.

Panama Jackson [00:02:33] Those, when I think of magical Negroes, those are the first two that immediately come to mind. So what is your thought about magical Negroes like break down magical Negroes for me?

Michael Harriot [00:02:42] So what are the things I’ve always thought that magical Negroes are is the subconscious. You know, if you think about the devil and the angel. That old trope of on people’s shoulder, there are white characters who can’t summon the angel because they don’t have the good part of their self. And so they have to have a Black person as the angel on their shoulders. It is the good part of a subconscious that has become good through just like being Black and suffering through all the suffering that Black people go through. Somehow that made them good.

Panama Jackson [00:03:21] Okay. You have any specific examples of magical Negroes that you particularly appreciate and enjoy?

Michael Harriot [00:03:28] Oh, man, there’s so many. John Coffey is a good one. He’s the classic one. Stephen King loves a good magical Negro in his stories, but I think my favorite one there used to be the show in the 1970s, or maybe it was the eighties, I don’t know. But it was about a white guy who was like going for a jog and he knocked over something at a swap meet and it was a bottle, so he had to pay for it and he paid for it. He let him take it home and in the bottle was a magical Negro genie. Seriously. And that’s what the show was about. This is like hip hop, magical Negro genie who would come out of the the bottle and save the day. It was like Negro bewitched. It was called Just Our Luck. Look it up. You will be amazed.

Just Our Luck [00:04:23] I thought if I ignored you, maybe you just might go away. Is it? It just my luck.

Michael Harriot [00:04:33] Because like in the theme song, there’s a song about how he became the magical Negro and his name was Shabu.

Panama Jackson [00:04:40] Shabu.

Michael Harriot [00:04:41] The magical Negro’s name was shabu.

Panama Jackson [00:04:44] You know that that is. This sounds terrible, but in the kind of way that only 1970s eighties TV could get away with kind of like white shadow type stuff, you know, like you can get away with some things back then. But naming him Shabu, that’s, uhh, okay. I’ve never seen the show, but I have to. I definitely want to see it now like you have. You’ve piqued my interest on on Just Our Luck. I’m going to go watch and see if I can see a magical Negro genie. So the other side of this is the white savior, which obviously the the while magical Negro does, isn’t as specific. White savior is very clear. Right? You get a a white character who typically takes underprivileged or disenfranchized, typically youth or people and helps them transcend their circumstances. So think of Luanne Johnson in Dangerous Minds. She she was so good at it. She ended up in the theme song, which was Gangsta’s Paradise that Coolio recorded. They had her all up in the video like she was a top notch white savior character.

Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio [00:05:54] Because I’ve been blasting and and laughing so long, that even my mama thinks that my mind is gone.

Panama Jackson [00:05:58] And one of my favorites, which is odd, but it’s Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino. Have you seen Gran Torino?

Michael Harriot [00:06:09] Yes. Yeah. I saw that. And he was a white savior.

Panama Jackson [00:06:14] He was a white savior. I mean, he literally saved the everybody. He literally saved the Hmong neighbors that he had. But he got off every single racial slur that you could possibly get off in a movie. In that movie. I think the only thing I didn’t hear was the N-word, and it probably was in there. I just don’t remember it. But I’ve never seen a movie that it seemed like Clint Eastwood wrote just so he could say every racial thing you ever wanted to say.

Michael Harriot [00:06:40] Yeah, I remember that movie. And, you know, he released that movie right around that time. Remember, he went to the Republican National Convention and talked to the empty chair.

Clint Eastwood [00:06:50] I thought maybe it’s an excuse. Oh, you’re What do you mean, shut up? Okay.

Michael Harriot [00:06:58] And basically lectured Negroes on like, how to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. So, like, Gran Torino is the embodiment of that Clint Eastwood speech.

Panama Jackson [00:07:12] Which was also funny because there’s a there’s a scene in Gran Torino where I think, like there’s a young white character that thinks played by his son who is like fronting like a Black dude, and he stops him, pulls a gun on him and tells him basically to stop acting Black. And I was like, you know what? I actually agree with this. Everything he said right here, I’m 100% on board with. It’s just wrapped around all the racial stereotypes and slurs that he could possibly use in the moment. He talks to the Black dudes that way, like he literally had, he gave no effort.

Clint Eastwood [00:07:44] Get off my lawn.

Panama Jackson [00:07:46] This was 100% He hates everybody. He is going to give you all this slur, all the slurs he had. But yeah, so typical white savior character. And in some of the movies that we’re going to do, obviously because it’s a white seat of ours, magical Negro, we’re going to hop into that. You hit me up yesterday, though. We were talking about this on text about like superheroes. Can you break down that theory that you had about, like, magical negroes and superheroes?

Michael Harriot [00:08:10] Yeah, my theory on Black superheroes is that most Black superheroes are actually magical Negroes, when you think about it, right? Like so you think about Superman. He just came from another planet and Iron Man, he had the technology to create a suit, and Spider-Man was bitten by a radioactive spider and Black Panther, he just comes from a magical place in Africa where they put the magic in flowers. And it makes him a superhero, Right? And you think about all of the superheroes, man. You think about Storm and. Right, like all of the X-Men are mutants. But Storm, if you look at how Bio, she’s an African priestess, like she’s a magical Negro. All of the Black superheroes or most of the Black superheroes or magical Negroes, if you if you want to be a superhero, if you’re white, you know, like you know this, you can have tragedy like Batman and do push ups in your basement and then start calling it a layer. Or you could just be Black and have the ancestors put some magic in your pocket. Right? And so one of the things that always, always I always laugh about with with superheroes is like, I wonder where he got his magic from.

Panama Jackson [00:09:30] Okay, I like that. And I think that that, you know, I didn’t think about that until you mentioned that to me. I was like, Yeah, I think you actually write. Like, I can’t pretend like I know all of the all of the, the, the Black superheroes. And as we get more like War Machine is basically Tony Stark, Black. Right. Like, it’s the kind of that kind of thing. But the ones that we know love and care about the most, I think you’re right. Like, there’s just a certain innate, magical ness about where they come from or who they are, like how they’re born, what they’re born into.

Michael Harriot [00:10:00] Like, even like you just think about this thing about Blade, right? Blade is a dude lives in a world of vampires, but he more magic than a vampire because he can walk in the daytime. He more magical than the other magical white people.

Panama Jackson [00:10:15] All right. I think. I think I’m convinced. I think you convince me about the about the nature of the magical Negro. The magical Negroness of our superheroes. Like this is. This is an entire, like, entire study in and of itself as well, to delve back into that at some point, because I think you might be on to something. And I feel like there’s a lot there’s a lot of like threads we can pull on that one. Time for a quick break. Stay with us. And we’re back. I want to get into some films, right? I want to talk about some films because I have these like I think most times it’s kind of clear whether a film is like a magical Negro film, which again, like the Green Mile with John Coffey, like the drink just spelled different, because he literally took he was I tried to take it back, but it was too late. Like he was able to take sickness from people and taken upon himself and it ended up getting him electrocuted. And he had an amazing speech at the end of that film where he talks about why he’s ready to die because of all the hate and stuff in the world and how he tried to make it better. But, you know, white people don’t want to listen, basically. You know what I mean? But there are some films that straddle that line. So we’re going to start with one of the most great straight out of the line films of all time. I got to be honest, I love this movie. Any time it’s on, I watch it and I’m talking about the iconic, the one and only the Blind Side. You see in the Blind Side?

Michael Harriot [00:11:29] Of course, I’ve seen the Blind Side.

Panama Jackson [00:11:31] Of Course.

Michael Harriot [00:11:31] Like you can’t have lived during that time and not see the blind side. The blind side is like, this is great. Like, first of all, Sandra Bullock, next to a big old Black dude is like, I wonder how they pitch their film. We’re going to have Sandra Bullock save a big ole Black two. And that’s the film.

Panama Jackson [00:11:51] And I kind of you know, it’s based on a true story because I feel like a lot of white savior type films are based on true stories, right? They go, fine, like this white person is better now, and they saved some people. So this is why it has this is like a textbook white savior film. So Sandra Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, who is the wife of Sean Tuohy, and they are very rich white people in Memphis. And their kids go to a very prominent private school, and they come across Michael Oher, who ends up becoming like an NFL player from Mississippi, from Ole Miss. But he is poor and homeless and walking around outside and eating popcorn in bleachers. And, you know, they discover him, Leigh Anne discovers him, takes her into his home, and they help him ascend. Right? They help him ascend into becoming the future NFL player that he is. He’s played by Quentin Aaron, this movie comes out in 2009. Again, based on a true story. I’m sure Michael Oher doesn’t love this telling of his story entirely. But anyway, so it’s a white savior film in that Leigh Anne Tuohy helps young Michael Oher. Pulls them up and pulls him out of poverty, gives him a place to live, famously, famously giving him a what? A bed. He never had one before. And she goes to cry. It’s like one of the greatest scenes in movie history, I swear.

The Blind Side [00:13:24] Never had one before. What a room to yourself? A bed.

Panama Jackson [00:13:37] But this is also a magical Negro film to me because he shows her her privilege so much so that she takes it to her other white friends and is like, Do y’all realize how privileged we are? Like, we we have things y’all. We are rich white people. And this young, poor Black boy has has shown me something about me. And he’s made me, he made me care. And and he took her to the hood. She got to see the projects for the first time. He got to see like Black Memphis. I mean, she got to see Black Memphis. You know, she just he genuinely opened up her world. He enlightened her. So I struggle with this one. Like, where do you stand on the Blind Side? Tell me about your Blind Side thoughts?

Michael Harriot [00:14:24] Yeah, the Blind Side is a white savior film and a magical Negro film because he basically is the blind side’s version of John Coffey, right? He takes the sickness out of Sandra Bullock, which is privilege. And he’s magical because not just him being so good, but then he has like a kind of super talent, which is big and big and Black and playing football. And so it’s both a white savior and a magical Negro film. And it contains, like you said, one of my favorite parts of all white savior movies is when they go to the hood and they pull up and it’s always rap music playing and Negroes standing outside because, you know, like Negroes be hanging outside on the corner.

Panama Jackson [00:15:16] And you can’t forget this part. Michael Oher actually saved SJ, who is Sean Tuhoy Jr’s life. They got in a car accident, but he put his arm out and he stopped the airbag from hitting SJ. SJ just had some scratches and they had that moment like, Ma’am, I don’t know what happened. Like impact like that typically would have had more damage. And then she sees his arm and he had put his arm. I tried to stop it. I tried to stop it. Boy, that boy is a magical Negro. He’s a superhero, too. So he this this, this fits into your superhero thing. Like, I really think Michael Oher in the Blind Side, as a superhero, if you had to pick whether this was more of a white savior film or magical Negro movie, which which way would you go?

Michael Harriot [00:15:59] I think it’s more of a white savior film because this movie isn’t even about the Black kid, right? It it’s really just about look at how we saved this Negro from definite doom. Like we are the heroes in this story and is definitely a white savior movie.

Panama Jackson [00:16:21] Yeah, I definitely lean towards white savior myself just because of the, I mean, it’s about Leigh Anne Tuohy, really. It’s really about her and her growth as a human and how she expanded her world. She put him in the Christmas pictures, right. Like she got, which was also a very funny scene because their uncle calls like, you know, I didn’t throwing a cup of cold was back. But you’re all aware there’s a colored boy in your in your car. Loved it. We’re going to take a quick break. When we come back, we’re going to delve into some more films that debate whether or not we’re talking magical Negroes or white saviors, some of the most classic movies of all time. Stay tuned right here on Dear Culture.

[00:16:57] All right. We’re back here on dear culture. We’re talking magical Negroes versus white savior films. We’re looking at some of the greatest white savior or magical Negro movies of all time. And there’s no discussion about magical negroes and white saviors without talking about one of the most controversial films of the last five years. I’m talking about none other than Green Book. And if you know this, if you know anything about this movie, you know that once it dropped, people were pissed about the fact that it was titled Green Book when I was such a small part of the film that the movie didn’t even center the Black dude, Dr. Don Shirley. It was really just about Tony Lip, and it made him look like it was more about him than it was Don Shirley with Don Shirley. It’s a it’s called Green Book. It should be a movie about traversing the South and what Black people had to go through. But now it’s really a movie about Tony Lip making life easier or helping out, Don Shirley. Came out in 2018 starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, and it made the Oscar rounds. Like everybody was talking about this film. What are your first Green Book thoughts before we get into Magical Negro versus white savior?

Michael Harriot [00:18:11] Well, first of all, I think Green Book did win the Oscar for best picture.

Panama Jackson [00:18:15] I think so.

Michael Harriot [00:18:16] I feel like they named it Green Book because white people had never heard of the Green Book and they knew that Black people would watch it because obviously it would be a movie about the Green book. But the Green book is one of the funny, to Black people it’s a comedy, because the whole premise of it is, hey, we are going to get one of the most talented people on earth to do it. But he needs like a regular medicore, like I don’t even know if you would call him mediocre, but like, he just needs a like a regular wife beater wearing white guy to save him. And that’s going to be the premise of the movie. Like, that’s one of my favorite things about this whole genre is that the whole movie can be summed up in one pitch in the logline like a white dude drives a Black guy through the South. Y’all want to buy it?

Speaker 3 [00:19:20] Why you break my balls? Because you can do better, Mr. Vallelonga.

Panama Jackson [00:19:25] Which is what you know. And it’s fair that this really upset everybody because one, the title Green Book was like it wasn’t about that. Right. It was really, if this movie had a different title, I think it’s better received. But you use like a very important facet of Black culture and Black history to name a movie and very, very rarely touched on it. Like it just wasn’t really the focal point. Two, it was supposed it was billed as like a movie about friendship between like a longstanding friendship between these two individuals that started here on this trip. But it really was a movie about the redemption arc of Tony Lip, like it was about his growth as a person. Don Shirley We’re just more surprised, like, dude, this guy, this out of touch. Like, we spent the whole it’s like they treated him like and he had to be saved all the time, right? He was out here, you know, he had to be rescued from the because he went on a date with somebody know it was a you know, he find out he’s gay and he like, they release it. They release it that way. There was some controversy about that with the family and all kind of stuff. So, you know, I, I like the movie just as a film, but I understood all the controversy around it. All the controversy was well earned. And poor Mahershala Ali, he actually won an Oscar for this as a supporting role. And, you know, he had to address that. He couldn’t fully appreciate because Black people was not having it. But let’s break down the magical Negro vs white savior. I’m going to start with the magical Negro. Here’s why I think this is why I think it’s a magical Negro film, Don Shirley. Not only cures the racism of Tony Lip, who opens the film racistly throwing glasses away, that the Black people who are there to fix something in his home, like he he threw those cups away because they drink out of them. They drink lemonade out of it. By the time Tony Lip returns back to New York after this whirlwind drive around the south, he is no longer racist, right? He or he. He’s not only no longer racist, he definitely loves Dr. Don Shirley, but he invites him to his home for Christmas dinner. And somehow this cures his family’s racism because this family was definitely not feeling Black people either. And all of a sudden they’re all like, Yeah, come on in, everybody. Bring this. Bring this wonderful, magical Negro to our table to eat. So he was magical. Curing racism is a really big deal. And I think if we had more people like him, then I think racism could be solved. Time for a quick break. Stay with us. And we’re back. But I think the white savior stuff is really strong here. He introduces Don Shirley to fried chicken.

The Green Book [00:21:54] I’ve got the muffins, so you could have some. I’ve never had fried chicken in my life. Who you.   Fried chicken, the grits. Collard greens. I love it, too.

Panama Jackson [00:22:06] I mean, he had this man eaten fried chicken in the back of a car and I don’t. A white man introduced the Black man to fried chicken. He was excited about that. That that’s that’s a really strong point for a white savior. He literally saved his life multiple times. But the most damning and important thing here that I think turns to a white the film, he introduces this Black man to Black juke joints in the South. Like. The Black dude don’t know nothing about this part of Black culture in the white guy is the one that introduces him to this stuff. So I’m going to have to lean on white savior here. What do you think?

Michael Harriot [00:22:42] Yeah, I think I’m going with magical Negro.

Panama Jackson [00:22:45] Okay.

Michael Harriot [00:22:46] Because the movie the movie was essentially about Don Shirley saving the white dude. Right. Like, he. It wasn’t that the white dude was doing him. Like, you know, he had a job. Right. Like, he essentially got done a favor. But Don Shirley, first of all, like, they framed the his musical ability as almost like a of magical power. Like a superpower. And then again, they had to your point, they had they do have the like the juke joint scene was the equivalent of rolling up in the hood with the rap music playing. So there was there was there was there.

The Green Book [00:23:34] He’s only the greatest piano player in the world. That right? You’re good. Don’t be shy. Tell her who you are. Show me.

Michael Harriot [00:23:45] But again, Don Shirley was John Coffey. He sucked the racism out of his him and his family. And so I think I got to go with magical Negro. And tell me this, though, Do you think that there is any way that when they were ready to make this movie and somebody said, what’s this? What’s this movie about? Do you think there’s any way that they didn’t say is like a reverse Driving Miss Daisy?

Panama Jackson [00:24:15] You know, if they.

Michael Harriot [00:24:16] They had to say that, right?

Panama Jackson [00:24:16] Oh, absolutely. If Driving Miss Daisy doesn’t come up while they’re talking about this film, then the people who made it are 100% unaware of anything going on like that. I can’t believe I didn’t even mention this in my opening. This is effectively, like you said, the reverse Driving Miss Daisy. One of the first things, every joke that we started lobbing on social media was it all started with Driving Miss Daisy. Right. Because Black people see this stuff immediately. Right. We look at this film and it’s like, Yo, they really just made Driving Miss Daisy and called the Green Book. So they just disrespected Black history. Call this thing the Green book, barely focused on that. So, yeah, I’m with you on that. I, you know. I’m with you on it being the magical Negro movie, but I’m still stuck on the fact that, I mean, he introduced this Black man to fried chicken.

Michael Harriot [00:25:07] Yeah.

Panama Jackson [00:25:08] Had to tell him how to eat the fried chicken. Introduced him to Black rock, to rock and roll. Remember, they’re in the car. He’s playing music. You don’t know this music. He introduced him to Black culture. Like the Black guy in the car who even says it’s like, I’m Blacker than you. I mean, and in no fight broke out because those should be fighting words, thoughts?

Michael Harriot [00:25:31] Yeah. I think, though, at the end of the movie, to me that the the judgment on whether it is a white savior or a magical Negro is at the end of the movie, who ends up better. And the white guy won, right. The white guy. He, you know, got his racism demons exercised out of his body. He got his family’s racism, demons exercised out of his body. He don’t have to throw away glasses anymore. He got a job. He got a friend out of the deal. And the Black guy, just essentially, what the Black guy got is what he was supposed to get out of the deal the whole time. He just want a ride. He just wanted somebody drive him. And, you know, he did get a bonus, though. He did get a white friend and he got to eat at white people’s house. So, I guess, you know, that’s about 50/50. But I still say the white guy won. It’s a magical Negro movie.

Panama Jackson [00:26:40] That’s a very fair breakdown. I actually really liked it as a metric because that makes this next movie, it throws that whole thing in flux. So now I got to see where you land on this, because at the end of this one, both the Black guy and the white guy win. Time for a quick break. Stay with us. And we’re back. So we’re going to talk about none other than 2005 movie Hitch, starring another magical Negro savant or the same one, Will Smith as Alex “Hitch” Hitchens. And Kevin James is Albert Brennaman. And this is a movie where Will Smith plays Hitch, who is effectively a high class matchmaker. Like he specializes in, I think, he says, helping people get out of their own way. Right. So his superpower is effectively helping really goofy, mediocre looking men be seen by really hot women to the point where they end up married, successfully married to these women that they probably would never have a chance with. Right. This is his superpower.

Hitch [00:27:43] By asking if it was diet, she took it as you trying to imply that you thought she was fat. Go get a red rose. Get a regular Coke. She’s everything you never knew you always wanted. Any problems, give me a call.

Panama Jackson [00:27:52] And he does this in the shadows, right? He’s effectively like the invisible man out here, making life. Making life and love connections. But. He doesn’t seem to love love. He’s doing it kind of out of spite, because years ago, his his boo, the woman he was in love with left him for somebody else. And he became, to kind of mask his heart, he turned into somebody who could help people find love. So his magical Negro and this is helping people get out of their own way, which is a very substantial thing. I mean, their entire therapy organizations do focus on this, right? Like getting out of your own way. I call this also a white savior film because Albert Brennaman helps Hitch realize what he’s been doing is that he’s not actively in it for the love. He’s in it for the sport. And that, in turn, creates a love. Like Alex Hitchens, Hitch rediscovers love. He discovers that he has love for somebody and he has to go out and get it. So they both help each other grow as human beings in a very comedic way. Now, Hitch teaches Albert how to dance somewhat, even though, but the caveat here is almost nothing that Hitch taught Albert was used in order to secure the love of Allegra Cole.

Hitch [00:29:08] You live right here. OK? This is home. There it is. I don’t want to see none of that.

Panama Jackson [00:29:15] Whereas I think the lessons that Albert taught, Hitch helped him discover who he was and go out and get his woman. What are your thoughts on Hitch?

Michael Harriot [00:29:24] Well, you know, the first thing I have to commend Hitch for is he found out a way how to monetize being a magical Negro, because that’s one of the problems with magical Negro movie, is that they can’t figure out how to monetize it. Maybe Bagger Vance, you know, his his caddy fees, he kind of monetize it, but he wasn’t making a big profit.

Panama Jackson [00:29:46] He only got $5.

Michael Harriot [00:29:47] Yeah. Like Hitch was. Hitch, you know, had a whole industry around his magical Negroness. And so we have to come in his entrepreneurial spirit.

Panama Jackson [00:29:58] Fair enough. So where do you land on this one? I mean, this kind of throws or who won at the end thing out the window. They both successfully landed the women that they were looking that they were in love with. But that’s how I’m looking at it. How do you. So to me, this is this is definitely more of a magical Negro movie just because of, like you said, you know, Hitch turned it into an industry and was out here. You know, he was he was changing lives like Albert Brennaman changed one life, but hits changed lives through New York City like he was out here getting it. So I tend to lean towards the magical Negro. But where do you lean on this film?

Michael Harriot [00:30:31] I agree with you. It’s magical Negro, right? It’s. It’s the old, magical Negro, what that the Negro The magical Negro was so dumb he didn’t realize the magic was inside him the whole time. So he he was a magical Negro who was more magical than even he realized.

Panama Jackson [00:30:52] Hmm. That’s good. You’re good at this, boy, I’m telling you. Good. You’re good at this one. Time for a quick break. Stay with us. And we’re back. All right. We’re going to quickly do one more film, because this is one that I realized late and I was like, you know, I never actually thought about this as a magical Negro vs white savior film, because I actually really like this movie and I don’t, like, laugh at it. I enjoy it as a film, but it has the tropes. So I’m talking about Finding Forrester, which came out in 2000, which stars Rob Brown as Jamal Wallace and Sean Connery as William Forrester, who is a legendary author who only wrote one book. But this one book is like one of the great literary books of all time. And they both live in the Bronx. Jamal meets he meets William Forrester. Because William because Forrester ends up like grading his essay. Like, I can’t remember exactly how the book bag ends up in his apartment, but he ends up grading his essay. And then Jamal keeps going back to his his he keeps going back to his apartment. And they establish a friendship. And in this friendship, Jamal ends up taking William out of the house, which is something he never does. So he’s basically an agoraphobic, Like he doesn’t leave. He never leaves his apartment. If he can help it. And he reintroduces William Forrester into the academy like like that, he brings them out into the literary world.

Finding Forrester [00:32:18] My name is William Forrester. I’m not going up there. They got some contests at school, this writing thing. You ever been to one of those? Once. Did you win? Of course I won. Like money or something? The Pulitzer.

Panama Jackson [00:32:34] In true white Savior fashion, though, William Forrester edits this man’s essays. He helps them become a greater writer, providing him the opportunity for greater success in life as a writer. And he’s not only that, he’s a he’s like a probably a five star basketball prospect. He’s going to go play D-1 ball and be an amazing writer at the same time, like he could get an academic scholarship. So I think William Forrester elevated his game as a writer while Jamal Wallace showed, he brought William Forrester back into the fold of humanity. So I don’t even know where I land on this one. What are your thoughts about finding Forrester.

Michael Harriot [00:33:13] Man? This is like the A.P. white savior, magical Negro final exam. Like once you beat all the other white savior with the magical Negro beat out of the white saviors, that you got to get to Finding Forrester. Finding Forrester, first of all, is great in that the Black dude’s name is Jamal. Let’s just start there. Right. Then it contains another one of my favorite, favorite white savior tropes is even going back to Clint Eastwood and Gran Torino, the ornery white dude that meets the young, brash Black dude. Right. I love like when ornery white dudes find themselves in somebody who’s their exact opposite because, you know, we’re not so different after all. But yeah, I love this movie. It’s like the height of white savior movies. And magical Negro movies.

Panama Jackson [00:34:17] So where do you lean? If you had to pick one, what side do you lean on?

Michael Harriot [00:34:24] I’m telling you, man, I’m so nervous about this because this is a hard one, man.

Panama Jackson [00:34:28] I agree.

Michael Harriot [00:34:28] But I have to. But I think I got to lean toward magical Negro. Here’s why.

Panama Jackson [00:34:38] Okay.

Michael Harriot [00:34:40] If Jamal was white, it would not be amazing. Like, it wouldn’t even be a movie that a white dude can write. Like, his magical power in this movie was that he was just a smart dude. So that is a magical Negro in and of itself. He was James Bond’s conscience. Right. And here is the thing, right? This is why it is a magical Negro to me. Because you got to ask who got the most out of the relationship, right? Sean Connery. You know, he cat came out of the house. He, you know, restarted his career. He he got the respect that he deserves from his peers and from the literary world. And Jamal was going to be a great writer anyway. Like a Sean Connery gets too much credit in his movie for, like, teaching this talented writer how to be what? A talented writer. So the magical Negro gave more to the white savior than the white savior gave to the magical Negro. So the magical Negro only kind of gets what they were going to get anyway. Right. In the Green Book, the guy was still a talented musician at the end, like he was in the beginning. He got his ride. So I think. I think we have to go with magical Negro for Finding Forrester because he was the magical, most magical Negro. He’s like Negro, Rudolph the Negro Reindeer. He had a very shiny nose, which was his writing career.

Panama Jackson [00:36:20] You know, I got to say, that is a compelling case. You just made the whole they were going to get what they were going to get anyway. Now they might have got it in a more succinct fashion or, you know, they but they got where they were going to get. You know, in in speaking of Finding Forrester, I mean, Jamal, by going to the school and he helped William Forester, one of that teacher who, you know, was trying to was was trying to clown Jamal in the first place. But he basically let him show up, become the man. He shows up at the at the writing competition and everybody’s like, that’s William Forrester. Wow. And then he reads the piece and everybody’s like, This is amazing. That’s actually Jamal’s, sucker. You know, you suckers got serve, you know what I’m saying? And they get to, like, walk off into the sunset. So you’re right. I mean, Jamal was just doing his thing. And William Forrester got to have the glory.

Michael Harriot [00:37:09] Finding Forrester as the You Got Served of writing. First of all, that’s a brilliant analogy that, you know, because I know when I be in writing competitions, I never think of it like that, right? So like he was in a writing bee. This is one of the great conceptions of this movie.

Panama Jackson [00:37:30] That’s what happened. That’s effectively what happened at the end of this movie. Like, you know, he got served. They played him. They played this one particular teacher who was causing all these issues. And and, you know, William showed up for Jamal because he liked him as a person, because the magical Negro showed him love and care and all that. And he’s so you’re right. You’re right, bro. Like, you know, you’ve made very compelling cases about all this stuff. Like, I’m literally I had to take notes. I’m over here taking actual notes just based on the things you said. The Black dude always get what they were just going to get in the first place. The white guys always come out on top. The white people always like, far exceed where they were ever going to be in life by the virtue of the magical Negroes showing up.

Michael Harriot [00:38:13] And I really have to study hard when I know I’m going to be on Dear Culture, because I know like you are the movie nerd. So I got it. I got to study hard. So I really had to do look into finding Forest and pull out everything that I knew about it.

Panama Jackson [00:38:27] Well, I appreciate that. I appreciate that. So we’re gonna take one final break here, a dear culture. And we come back. We’re going to we’re going to we’re going to come back with a Blackmendation. I don’t think we’re going to force Michael Harriot to give us another Blackfession. He has given us so many. I don’t even know if he has any left. But we definitely got to get a Blackmendation. So stay tuned right here on Dear Culture. All right. We’re back here on Dear Culture, and I’m still joined by Michael Harriot, the homie, colleague, one of the one of the noted Black thinkers that we have at this time. And we just got finished talking about magic Negroes vs white saviors and in true form, he’s literally changed the way I think about some of these films altogether, and I’m appreciative of that. Now, typically here at Dear Culture, when we end an episode, we ask about a Blackfession. But Michael Harriot has been here so many times, I can’t ask this man for a Blackfession every time. But I do want a Blackmendation, something that you’re into right now, looking at something you’re personally working on, whatever you think that other Black folks need to be up on. So do you have a Blackmendation? For me.

Michael Harriot [00:39:29] My Blackmendation is a Showtime series that just aired. It’s, you know, you can watch the entire series, You can binge it. It’s called Let the Right One In. And it’s based on like a Swedish film. And then they made an American movie. But it also has a white savior and a magical Negro in it. And you don’t have to watch it because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but Let The Right One In that Showtime series. Not the movie, not the American movie, but watch Let The Right One In.

Panama Jackson [00:40:07] But you just put me up on game. I’ve never even heard of it, so I definitely checked it out. I love me a good white savior, Magic Negro, anything. And it’s a series I’m on, and I’ll definitely check that out. Michael, we appreciate you here at Dear Culture. Obviously one of our more fun guests. Any time you’re around, we’ve had some fun doing these things. Please tell the people where they can find you, what you got going on and where they could check out anything you have happening. The floor is yours, sir.

Michael Harriot [00:40:32] You can find me on theGrio Daly, Same place you’re watching this. Wherever you’re listening to this, you can watch or listen to theGrio daily. And we it’s kind of like Dear Culture, but we talk more about race and politics and social issues. So it’s like it’s like Dear Black People and not Dear Culture. But you can check us out there and of course, Black AF History, which will be released on September 19th. So look out for that.

Panama Jackson [00:41:06] Oh, we got it. We got a release date. We got it. That’s the first I’m hearing about that. We’ve got a release date. That’s awesome. I mean, I cannot wait for this book. I’m I’m so excited for your book to come out, brother. I’m so proud of you. Excited for it. Can’t wait to get a copy of our reading it. Yeah, definitely. Check out theGrio Daily. Michael, your ability to, like, do these deep dives into cultural issues and just ideas and all that bar none. You know this, but bar none. I always enjoy those. I genuinely love your podcast. All I listen to, I always learn something and that’s like the best part about it, right? You always the opportunity to learn something. You never stop learning. So thank you for joining us here at Dear Culture. Thank you everybody for listening. Make sure you check out all the other shows on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Aside from Dear Culture, including theGrio Daily, the Blackest Questions, Writing Black with Maiysha Kai. So, you know, thank you for listening. My name is Panama Jackson for theGrio, Black Podcast Network and Dear Culture have a Black one.

Panama Jackson [00:42:17] TheGrio. Black Podcast Network Presents Dear Culture True’ish Black Stories.

Dr. Christina Greer [00:42:25] When you think of sheer artistry, sheer creativity, the ability for someone to bring Black people together in the most fundamental ways. It’s, you know, I would say of my four, Randy Watson’s my number one.

Michael Harriot [00:42:39] When the news about Ricky first broke, what I heard about it is the thing you hear about, you know, every time somebody Black dies that it was gang related. That means the police don’t know what happened. So they just said probably the gangs, probably, you know, the other Black dudes.

Damon Young [00:42:55] When I think of Akeelah, you know, I think about I think about how impressionable white people can be. I think about how, you know, if you watch that movie again, you know, he should’ve lost like three times.

Panama Jackson [00:43:08] Where were you when you heard the story about them suckers getting served by waves, dance crew?

Shamira Ibrahim [00:43:14] You know, it’s crazy that you mention this. So as a New Yorker, right, Everyone knows where they were on 9/11. Right. You know, couple of years later, right. It’s 2003, everyone hears about this crazy moment in a boxing ring. Because that’s where dancers duke it out, right, in boxing rings.

Panama Jackson [00:43:31] If you could say something to Ricky right now, what would you say to him?

Monique Judge [00:43:35] Ricky, you should’ve never got that girl pregnant. You knew I had a crush on you. You should have got with me instead.

Panama Jackson [00:43:40] Moments in Black culture examined like never before. Join us as we dive into the Black moments that changed us. That changed the world. Make sure to subscribe to Dear Culture so you never miss an episode.