Bright’s entire premise is weak and so’s its reliance on an allegory for racism that fuels its major plot points. In Los Angeles, Orcs are at the bottom of the metaphorical food chain, with many members of the species ostracized and subjugated by humans and elves alike. (While there are other supernatural beings around in one-off scenes, they largely don’t figure into Bright’s black and white worldbuilding.) Orcs in LA, who are largely coded as analogous to Black people via clothing, imagery, and behavior, are collectively being punished for choosing the wrong side in a war two thousand years before the film began. Other characters—such as Ike Barinholtz’s Pollard—use the fact that their ancestors slaughtered and were slaughtered by Orcs in Europe during that war as an excuse for their anger.
At no point does Bright actually combat the racism inherent in the assumption that a race deserves to be oppressed for the “crimes” of its past members. In Los Angeles at least, as mentioned above (we only know about the treatment of Orcs there and in Miami, apparently the only places writer Max Landis has ever heard of), Orcs are second-class citizens who live in poor neighborhoods away from humans. Relationships—of any kind—between humans and Orcs are viewed as offensive, and Will Smith’s Daryl Ward is harassed by (white) police officers whom he worked with over having an Orc as his partner (even though Ward has never asked for a partner and other humans refused to work with Ward for reasons that aren’t explained).
Look, I’m not saying that I’m an urban fantasy expert or anything like that, but I know quality work in the genre when I see them. And Bright isn’t one. Bright takes some of the worst tropes in the buddy cop and urban fantasy genres, adds a stinking heap of a racism allegory, and then serves it up as an attempt at being subversive and cool. (Also, Max Landis is a mediocre writer at best and Bright is not his best. Also also: I hate him.)
If you like my Urban Fantasy 101 article series, check out my review of Bright: a film that basically doesn’t do many things (anything?) right at all. Urban fantasy is one of my favorite genres because of the sheer potential present in the genre. You can do anything within it. So why did Bright choose to regurgitate tired tropes and muddle the message of its own worldbuilding?
After eight years, fourteen feature-length films, and four separate television series, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has finally managed to place a Black man front and center in his own narrative. Luke Cage, a character previously seen as a supporting character in the first season of the Netflix-exclusive series Marvel’s Jessica Jones, is the first Black character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to star in their own series rather than remain a poorly-fleshed out sidekick to a white character.
Marvel’s Luke Cage is one of the only series out on television today that provides a close and realistic look at what it means to be a Black person in a world of superheroes. The series’ significant focus on agency, trauma, power, and personhood as they relate to Black bodies—as well as its portrayal of powerful, multi-faceted Black women like Mariah Stokes, Misty Knight, and Claire Temple—puts it above and beyond the very white superhero television and film franchises that dominate the media.
I wrote this piece on Marvel’s Luke Cage series for Strange Horizons and I’m really proud of it!
I got to talk a lot about the role power and agency play in the series, how Jessica Jones really had issues with antiblackness, and how Luke Cage matters as significant representation both to us in the real world and within the MCU.
I’m really grateful that Strange Horizons gave me the chance to write this piece and I think that if you read nothing else from me, that you should read this because a lot of work went into it and I feel that it comprehensively covers the things that Luke Cage did right and how important the show is.
Warning for: spoilers for the series, brief discussions of biphobia, consent, and date rape.
I am officially old.
Because I watched Degrassi: Next Class on Netflix and spent more time worrying about those teenagers than anything else. Maybe it’s because I worked in high schools for like a year and a half. Maybe it’s because some of my nieces and nephews are the same age as the characters onscreen. I’m not sure. Either way, it was a little hilarious to realize that I was finally and officially, no longer part of the core demographic for Degrassi.
However, I watched all ten episodes anyway, because I feel strongly about shows like Degrassi and Skins that look at serious issues that affect teenagers these days. Mind you, I completely think that Degrassi: Next Class did a much better job of tackling relatable issues than Skins did in much of its run and was infinitely more diverse with regard to race and sexuality.