Reading an article about “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?” I learned a new term…”Magic Negro”.
What Perry does is depict black Americans as people relating to other people – not as mere plot devices, and not as characters defined solely by how they relate to the white world.
In depicting African Americans, mainstream Hollywood still struggles to leave behind the “Magic Negro” paradigm – the idea, epitomized by “Driving Miss Daisy,” that black characters exist solely to teach valuable lessons to white characters. We still don’t get a lot of films in which black characters bestow their moral wisdom on one another. Even in “The Pursuit of Happyness,” Will Smith’s character was only secondarily a lesson-giver to his son; mostly, his role was to teach and uplift the audience.
There’s nothing wrong with a little inspiration. But African American moviegoers who want to see their own concerns and struggles – their own lives, even if rendered in broad outline – projected at the cineplex still aren’t getting much love from Hollywood.
I guess Will Smith has 2 “Magic Negro” movies…through “The Legend of Bagger Vance” in there. However, the Green Mile is the ultimate “Magic Negro” movie.