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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Magical Negro

We all know the trope of the "magical negro." It is the wise old black guy, usually played by Morgan Freeman, who will help out the white protagonist of the film.

We know the judge will be a black woman, or an old ugly quirky, cranky, white guy, in a television series in which everyone else is an attractive 30 or 40 something ("The Good Wife"), and mostly white. You get to have it both ways: the protagonists are the attractive white people, but the authority figures are represented in politically correct, ethnically balanced way.

We all know that anti-racism (anti-ageism, etc...) takes these racist forms.

(The misogynist still loves his mother and his sisters, his nieces.)

Walt Whitman, for Lorca, can serve as the magical gay predecessor. He can condemn the gay men he sees in New York, because Whitman.

I am not immune from it. I will condemn my idiot colleagues who give a bad name to all humanists.


The backhanded compliment. In Spain I have gotten this: oh, you are not like the other American Hispanists who come to Spain to do research and don't know anything. Thanks a lot. (Your wife is an elegant woman, not like those other American women...)

I used this joke with a (white) American professor of English I met tonight. "Your English is so good!" It would be like saying, "for a white person, you are very articulate."


At the faculty senate, an outspoken colleague began by complimenting me. I knew it was a set-up from the very beginning. I said: "Thanks for those kind words, I knew it was a set-up... for the difficult question you would ask." I got a laugh out of that.


We teach our students the difference between two prepositions, por and para, both of which are translated as for. One use of para is in comparisons. Big for his age.T That is comparison against expectations. For an American Hispanist, you speak Spanish well / know what you're talking about. "You are tall for a basketball player" makes no sense.

1 comment:

Andrew Shields said...

"You are tall for a basketball player" may not make sense, but it's very funny!


Your opening point about "the magical negro" reminds me of the point I read somewhere about "Interstellar": in real interstellar space travel, there will be no men, only women and frozen sperm.