By Krakoa 0 Comments
About a year ago, a university professor teaching a course focused on historiography presented a documentary about the history of the portrayal of black characters in comics. The documentary White Scripts and Black Supermen is ostensibly about identity and the portrayal of black masculinity in the American comic book. The filmmaker aspires beyond this and seeks to do more than present a mere history of black superheroes in the medium of comic books. The focus is rather, an analysis of the process of creation. Mythology is a term often associated with ancient times and the age-old stories of heroes and gods told in antiquity, but they exist today and permeate our culture. Our gods wear gaudy costumes and provide escapist fare while simultaneously cementing our ideologies.
One of the first and most interesting points of the documentary was a notion of Shaft vs. Sidney Poitier in the characterization of black males in comic books. Both categories though possessing positive aspects are stereotypes and overall, have a limiting effect. As formidable as Shaft is, he is still a caricature of an angry black man and is confined to the urban sphere. Likewise, while in many ways the Sidney Poitier archetype is commendable, it portrays an inner strength and dignity that is a direct symbiotic function of an inherently white construction and yields too much; or as one commentator eloquently states, portrays, "dignity in the service of the existing white supremacist state."
Overall the film's narrative of creation myths is about creating a fictional character that fits the reality and perception of someone else. This often leads to putting undue emphasis on stereotypes. The overall process is reflected in the title of this documentary about the "white scripts" that originally defined "black supermen."