I started watching Luke Cage yesterday morning and immediately I found myself bombarded with the thinkiest of thoughts.
I have thoughts on respectability politics in the series, on Luke Cage’s old-fashioned everything, on Black womanhood, on the use of the word “nigga” inside our community.
And at the end of the day, I also have thoughts about how I am absolutely uninterested in any hot takes on the series that don’t come from Black women.
This isn’t me saying that non-black fans of Luke Cage can’t write commentary or that Black men aren’t capable of writing commentary worth listening to about the series, but that as someone who’s read critiques of other similarly Black show by non-black fans and Black men…
Well I’ve seen how badly things could go – have gone.
From the New York Times review that said that Luke Cage was better served as a minor/supporting character in Jessica Jones to the fact that the majority of the people I’ve seen talking about Black womanhood in the two series have been Black women. I’ve seen so many Black men online talk up things like Birth of a Nation and Atlanta while acting like shows like Queen Sugar and How to Get Away With Murder don’t matter because they’re not about a specific (and kind of toxic) kind of Black masculinity. And as always, as someone who is very active in multiple fandoms, I’ve seen non-black people talk about Black female characters in nerdy shows with the kind of racist vitriol that makes you cringe.
The thing is, that I don’t care if you like Luke Cage. (Like I’m serious when I say that I am already annoyed with the clear respectability politics at play from the first episode so I’m not going into this demanding that you like the show or even that you mention positive things about it in thinkpieces — except seriously…)
I do care that people who don’t have access to experiences that’d allow them to understand what the show is trying to do are out here getting paid to write thesis-length reviews where they dissect everything about the show but miss key elements due to their lack of Blackness or the internalized misogynoir that shutters their gaze.
And since I’ve had more misses than hits with non-black reviewers and Black men writing about Black shows, I’m not inclined to make myself read so-called hot takes that are barely smoldering. Not every Black woman thinks the same, not even amidst nerdy circles (see the Black Girl Nerds posts on Iris West that are just… terrible), but I’ve categorically had better luck finding nuanced explorations of shows that center on Blackness from Black women.
So I’m making an active choice to minimize (if not completely cut out) the amount of reviews and critical pieces on Luke Cage that I read from anyone that isn’t a Black woman.
I’m talking queer Black women, disabled Black women, all of the Black women who can bring nuance and necessary focuses on the presence of Black women in the MCU to the table.
Even if they’re wrong, even if I disagree with what they’re saying, I still want to read what they’re writing because their hot takes are damn near guaranteed to be more innovative than the five hundred “Luke Cage is problematic because there aren’t many white characters and also why can’t I say the n-word” and “wait, we’re supposed to care about Black women in this series” thinkpieces that are already floating around the internet as I type.