The American Society of Magical Negroes (2024)
March 24, 2024 3:31 PM - Subscribe

A young man, Aren, is recruited into a secret society of magical Black people who dedicate their lives to a cause of utmost importance: making white people's lives easier.

The American Society of Magical Negroes is a fresh, satirical comedy inspired by the "magical negro" cinematic trope popularized in American cinema and television throughout the 20th Century and first named and criticized by filmmaker Spike Lee. Flipping the trope on its head, The American Society of Magical Negroes follows a young man, Aren, who is recruited into a secret society of magical Black people who dedicate their lives to a cause of utmost importance: making white people more comfortable. Although initially enamored with his new powers, Aren begins to question the value of using supernatural means to do the very thing he's felt obligated to do his whole life.

Carla Hay: It should come as no surprise that “The American Society of Magical Negroes” makes Jason a racist who doesn’t think that he’s racist. You can do a countdown to the “big racial confrontation” scene where someone goes on a rant about racism, as white people in the room get uncomfortable and try to deny racism. This scene falls flat, because Aren still ends up being sheepish and apologetic.

“The American Society of Magical Negroes” then goes off the rails into fantasy with teleporting scenes, as it seems to forget all about the movie’s original concept, and then takes a silly detour into wrapping up the conflicts over the love triangle. The performances in the movie aren’t terrible, but they aren’t impressive either, mainly because the writing and directing are so substandard. A “twist” at the end is an underwhelming commentary on sexist stereotypes. “The American Society of Magical Negroes” wants to tell some hard truths about racism, but the movie’s approach is woefully inadequate and lacking in credibility.

Abbie Bernstein: While not the main feature of THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF MAGICAL NEGROES, the relationship between Aren and Lizzie is delightful. They talk to each other like people, not like wary spies from different countries (as is the case in too many rom-coms). This also provides Aren and the audience with a basis for comparison to his relationship with Jason.

A wrong step this way or that and THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF MAGICAL NEGROES could be cringe-worthy. However, filmmaker Libii knows exactly how to strike the right notes at every turn. We recognize what we’re seeing, from life, but we never feel like we’re being hectored.

Aisha Harris: The movie has at least two crucial factors working against it. For one, the Magical Negro trope isn't anywhere near as pervasive in Hollywood as it was when Spike Lee coined the term more than two decades ago. So despite being set in the present day, Libii's social commentary brings with it no new enlightenment on the dominant stereotypes Black people face now, despite a nearly two-hour runtime.

Second, it has no Black characters. To be clear, there are real Black performers playing these roles on screen. But one would think fully human, complexly written roles ought to exist in a movie where the goal is combatting multiple centuries' worth of one-dimensional representation. Here, they decidedly do not.

posted by Carillon (1 comment total)
I thought it was pretty good all things considered. It felt very rooted in Aren's character and point of view,, like he is pretty self-effacing, so of course his journey to realization is going to be softer like this. And I think we are supposed to disagreed with the societies tactics, I read some folks who assumed the movie was supporting that engagement, and I didn't get that reading.
posted by Carillon at 3:33 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]

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