Negro: the racist cliche Hollywood won’t drop


One trope in filmmaking that is sure to draw scorn from culturally aware critics is the “Magical Negro” a black character whose sole purpose is to help the white protagonist.
From Whoopie Goldberg’s psychic Oda Mae Brown in “Ghost” (1990) to Chief Gus Mancuso, played by Laurence Fishburne, in 2016’s “Passengers,” it is a relatively new device with roots deep in the traditions of American storytelling.
The latest production to come under the spotlight is ABC’s forthcoming dramedy “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World,” which was previewed on Sunday as part of the summer press tour hosted by the Television Critics Association in Los Angeles.
Starring Jason Ritter, “Kevin” follows a self-absorbed loser who is given a chance at redemption by a celestial guide played by African American actress Kimberly Hebert Gregory.
Gregory (“Vice Principals”) was asked by journalists how the show would avoid her character becoming a “Magical Negro.”
“I understand that concept but the character is not an angel. She’s flawed, she’s not angelic. She doesn’t necessarily behave like an angel, she doesn’t use language that’s angelic,” Gregory said.
“She has a real purpose and her purpose is really bigger than just helping Kevin do what he needs to do.”
“Magical Negro” characters avail themselves, sometimes literally clad in the white garb of a Biblical angel, to offer folksy wisdom and, often, mystical powers in the service of the central white character.


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