The American Society of Magical Negroes – A Satryrical Take on a Trope that Won’t Reach it’s Audience

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The American Society of Magical Negroes Review

With a name like The American Society of Magical Negroes, the Focus Features movie hitting theaters this weekend is already destined for an uphill battle. And if any of the online responses to the teasers and the trailers are to be believed – it’s going to have a rough time at the box office.

The movie is a satirical look at the “magical negro trope” or a black character inserted in a story to make life easier for the white main character and those in the story. We see it often in literature and portrayed on the screen. It’s used so often that it may not even register to most audiences that it’s happening. For example, think of John Coffee in The Green Mile. His life is literally on the line, and its magic and specialness help Tom Hanks’s character have a better life. It’s still a compelling story, but this trope persists and is used so often that sometimes it’s not as obvious to identify it being used in some of our favorite films.

But The American Society of Magical Negroes is taking that trope and putting it front and center. And while a lot of early criticism is that it’s using the movie to target white people – there are enough examples and even studies to show that white anger and fear is one of the number one causes of death and problems for Black people, especially men. This blunt look at race dynamics is something that needs to be examined, but the people who need that message aren’t going to be lining up to see a movie where their gut reaction to a 20-second clip is “it’s racist”.

The American Society of Magical Negores follows Aren (Justice Smith), a young fiber artist who’s just trying to get by in life. His quiet and apologetic nature is something he lives with, but doesn’t realize the root just yet. When he innocently is trying to help a drunk girl get her money from an ATM, things escalate quickly as her friends accuse him of trying to rob her, and worse – just because he’s black. The situation is thankfully diffused quickly as another man Roger (David Alan Grier) magically changes the situation and gets Aren out of danger.

Roger takes it a step further and brings Aren in to train to become a Magical Negro, or to tap into his abilities so he can help other black people out of bad situations. Fighting it at first, Aren eventually likes his newfound abilities and his assignment at a tech company. That is until he has to decide if he wants to keep his job or if he should follow his heart and pursue the woman he’s falling for.

The movie challenges you to think of movies and stories in another way. Are the characters there for a purpose or just to help one white character achieve their goal? It takes a more satyrical look at racism than say American Fiction does, but the message isn’t as loud or clear.

Overall, the movie has a good message and an unexpectedly cute story wrapping around it. But one of the most disappointing roles in the whole film was Nicole Byer, who is playing the head of the Society. Unlike her past roles and even her podcast, Byers is muted and even toned down. I’m not sure if this was intentional or if she just wanted something different. But the spark she normally has wasn’t there and she seems like more of a gag part than she should have.

Even with the messaging, which is honestly well-timed, the movie doesn’t seem to know who it wants to be made for. It doesn’t seem like a lot of black audiences are looking for a movie that will make fun of them, and audience members who need to hear the message won’t even give it a time of the day, while others may question if the movie is even one for them to enjoy. It’s going to be interesting to see how this movie does at the box office, but unfortunately, it’s probably going to be lost in the numbers when it’s coming out against bigger titles like Ghostbusters with a wider audience appeal.

The American Society of Magical Negroes will be in theaters everywhere on the 22nd.

Overall Rating:

Three and a Half Stars Review

About The American Society of Magical Negroes

The American Society of Magical Negroes

AMERICAN SOCIETY OF MAGICAL NEGROES is a fresh, hilarious comedy about a struggling young Black artist, Aren, who finds himself unexpectedly recruited into a magical secret society dedicated to a cause of utmost importance…making white people’s lives easier. At first skeptical of the mysterious organization, Aren soon embraces his newfound powers to embark on the most challenging and unexpected journey of his life.

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