BRANDON MORSE: Hollywood Can’t Get It Through Its Head That Racism Doesn’t Sell.

If you didn’t hear about a movie being released called “The American Society of Magical Negroes” then you couldn’t be blamed. It’s not a movie that was given a ton of attention…or at least positive attention.

The movie is probably one of the most racist things that has ever been put to a silver screen. The summary is that the protagonist is a young black man who is welcomed into a secret society of magical black people whose entire existence is to make white people feel safe and cared about. Throughout the movie, the protagonist struggles with his new role and eventually falls in love with a girl. However, when the white person he’s charged with looking after also falls in love with the girl, he’s told he can no longer pursue her.

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And this racism is clearly not selling. According to Bounding Into Comics “The American Society of Magical Negroes” has officially bombed:

As per information collected by The Numbers, the Justice Smith-led film was barely able to pass the 1 million mark, making a total of $1,304,270 on opening weekend — debuting on 1,147 theaters across the United States. While the film’s production budget is being kept under wraps, these numbers are still abysmal.

To better illustrate, The American Society of Magical Negroes grossed a mere $524,695 on Friday, a measly $469,070 on Saturday, and an even more pathetic $310,505 on Sunday, seeing a 34% drop from opening day.

This is becoming a pattern with social justice-fueled plots and storylines. No matter what the medium, whether it’s movies, television, or video games, the push to bring “awareness” to the racism (or other social sins) of America just isn’t being bought.

And from this, we can actually deduce some things.

America isn’t the racist country it’s being sold as by the social justice left, and that’s not just because people aren’t lining up to see it generally. It’s because black people aren’t lining up to see it either. If that film resonated with the black community, there’d be a lot more fervor about it, not just from the black community itself but from the media.

It’s also a rebuke against bad cinema.

And it’s a rebuke against a theme that may be far too “inside baseball” for a film to be a hit at the box office. In March of 2007, the L.A. Times ran a column by David Ehrenstein headlined “Obama the ‘Magic Negro:’

As every carbon-based life form on this planet surely knows, Barack Obama, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois, is running for president. Since making his announcement, there has been no end of commentary about him in all quarters — musing over his charisma and the prospect he offers of being the first African American to be elected to the White House.

But it’s clear that Obama also is running for an equally important unelected office, in the province of the popular imagination — the “Magic Negro.”

The Magic Negro is a figure of postmodern folk culture, coined by snarky 20th century sociologists, to explain a cultural figure who emerged in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. “He has no past, he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist,” reads the description on Wikipedia .

He’s there to assuage white “guilt” (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history, while replacing stereotypes of a dangerous, highly sexualized black man with a benign figure for whom interracial sexual congress holds no interest.

As might be expected, this figure is chiefly cinematic — embodied by such noted performers as Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Scatman Crothers, Michael Clarke Duncan, Will Smith and, most recently, Don Cheadle. And that’s not to mention a certain basketball player whose very nickname is “Magic.”

Poitier really poured on the “magic” in “Lilies of the Field” (for which he won a best actor Oscar) and “To Sir, With Love” (which, along with “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” made him a No. 1 box-office attraction). In these films, Poitier triumphs through yeoman service to his white benefactors. “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” is particularly striking in this regard, as it posits miscegenation without evoking sex. (Talk about magic!)

After Ehrenstein’s column, in January of 2009, National Review noted:

Paul Shanklin, a parodist, saw the opportunity: He penned a song called “Barack the Magic Negro,” to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Shanklin is associated with Rush Limbaugh, and is a friend of Chip Saltsman. Saltsman is a politico running for chairman of the Republican National Committee. For Christmas, Saltsman sent to committee members a Shanklin CD, bearing 41 tracks—including the “Barack” song. A controversy ensued. The current RNC chairman, Mike Duncan, flipped out: “I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate as it clearly does not move us in the right direction.” One of Saltsman’s rivals for the position, Kenneth Blackwell, who is black, took no offense, speaking instead of “hypersensitivity.” He was right; the controversy is baloney.

As Morse writes today:

If you’re really going to make a movie that condemns racism and highlights the absurdity of it, then I’ll refer you to probably the best condemnation of racism Hollywood ever produced; “Blazing Saddles.”

“Blazing Saddles” was a hysterical movie with a great message behind it, delivered in such a way that left everyone laughing. More importantly, it left everyone laughing at racism.

While Blazing Saddles did indeed leave “everyone laughing at racism,” it was also a thorough demolition of a genre that until only a few years before Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor wrote their comedy, was ubiquitous since the dawn of both the American film industry and television: the western. At least prior to its long shutdown thanks to Covid, film was the last form of mass media left in the world – movies require large numbers of people to fill seats in theaters to be judged financially successful. And that requires mass audiences “getting” the theme of the movie. Perhaps deconstructing an otherwise little-known trope pushed by Spike Lee and Wikipedia almost a quarter of a century ago, and the L.A. Times and Rush Limbaugh over 15 years ago isn’t the best approach to put butts in seats.

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