Snoopy Jenkins

A critical interrogation of American popular culture. @snoopyjenkins

Category: Television

Superman is a White Boy

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

So here’s what you already know.

American superhero comics today present White male power fantasies in sequential art for meager and dwindling profits. When television production companies and feature film studios greenlight action dramas that feature mainstream superheroes, the visual narratives they offer display muscular Anglo-Saxon men upgraded with special abilities who oppose nefarious, off-kilter Eurotrash to preserve public safety. Token women and people of color bestow selfless assistance, and our protagonists foil their deranged nemeses’ dastardly plans. Roll credits. Stunt sequences that feature Anthony Mackie’s Falcon and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow will no doubt add amazing grace under assault rifle fire in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but Chris Evans’ brawny blond Captain America plays the Hero, the last best defense freedom deploys against global catastrophe.

Pretty standard, right?

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Jackie Robinson and the Mythic Black Superhero

Jackie Robinson, stealing home.

Jackie Robinson, stealing home.

Everything foul about the comic industry today already happened to Major League Baseball.

In the historical drama 42, there’s a touching scene where Brooklyn Dodger Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson, played by Chadwick Boseman, recuperates in the team locker room, lying on a low table on his stomach, as he receives needle and thread medical care from a balding team physician to repair a torn and bleeding calf. A gaggle of post-war sports reporters flash camera bulbs and pepper the injured first baseman with questions to tease out a damning and belligerent quote about racist White opponents in the Major Leagues.

Does Robinson believe he was intentionally spiked? Does he hold any ill will toward White baseball players who do not support his inclusion into America’s pastime? Robinson, incensed by his latest indignity at the hands of American prejudice, responds with trademark politeness before Branch Rickey, played by a lively Harrison Ford, barrels into the locker room, dispatches the prose vultures, and dismisses the team doctor. Rickey then relates a short story about a group of young White boys playing stickball in the street, spied on Rickey’s morning commute. The healthy, dirty, beautiful boys whoop and holler their gaiety, content in their athletic posturing, hitting the ball and running the bases while they announce their identification with their favorite Major Leaguers. Suddenly, one boy shouts, ‘I’m Jackie Robinson!’ and slides into home. A little White boy in America, 1947.

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The Walking Dead Recap: “Infected”, Season 4, Episode 2

Walking-Dead-Season-4-PosterThe Walking Dead, AMC’s smash-hit zombie apocalypse action-drama, owes much of its success to the general interest in and support for gore-infested violence by American audiences. This season’s premiere raked in 16.1 million viewers, and devoured more 18-49 year old view attention than this season’s N.F.L. games. Thanks to Jenn Reappropriate’s conference commitments, I watched and live-tweeted “Infected!”, last-night’s episode , and my perspective and mild spoilers follow.

Robert Kirkman’s dystopia appealed as a comic because, during most of its run, the narrative focus highlighted human survivors. Rick’s post-traumatic insanity, Sophia’s alternate mental universe, Carl’s sociopathic nihilism, and even Michonne’s clumsy sexuality all fell within what reader would recognize as human responses to the unreasonable events presented by The Walking Dead. One of the most useful moments in the comic happens somewhere in the Prison, when Rick, in a frenzied monologue, explains the nature of the new world no meek can inherit.

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The Sisko, Part One: Our Living Black Manhood

The Sisko.

The Sisko.

When I was a teenager, I liked to skip church.

My parents attended different Baptist churches in my hometown, vibrant, bright places of worship where suburban Blacks developed a respectful, life-affirming, joyous relationship with a living God. Each Sunday meant uptempo gospel music, dedicated Bible study, and hour-long sermons on the spiritual uplift offered through Christian precepts. This was the Black church: fine clothing, expensive hats, smiling children, gaunt deacons, relaxed tresses, choir robes, public praise, Negro spirituals, religious supplication, spiritual uplift. For my neighbors, for my mother, church was the emotional recharge, the soul cleansing needed before Monday morning’s journey into corporate White villainy. I don’t pretend the same of my father; I always found his belief an extension of his duty to family and country. Still personal, but reserved, stately, imperial.

My mother would sing in church. For years, she gave up her Sundays to care for an ancient grandmother and her elderly son; when the grandmother passed in a tragic hospital fire, my mother’s return to the church jumpstarted her perspective. She learned to smile again. Church meant community, friends, gossip for the jealous, and prayer for the troubled. For me, church was ostracism. I loved science fiction and comic books — Jean-Luc Picard and Jean-Paul Valley — and my irrepressible skepticism toward Biblical stories reaped disapproval from peers and adults alike. Church was high drama and high emotion; weighty secular concerns like systemic poverty and environmental racism did not, in my opinion, respond to the power of prayer. So I skipped, usually by taking so long to prepare myself on Sunday mornings that waiting for me risked tardiness, and watched new episodes of Star Trek.

That’s when I met Benjamin Sisko. On a Sunday.

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