Cage and Culture
The impact of Luke Cage, the newest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe which debuted on Netflix September 30th, gives us a glimpse of the huge potential for liberation politics in pop culture.
Like The Root and many other publications have already noted, Luke Cage is “unapologetically black.” Here is a show about a bulletproof Black man in a hoodie, a show that offers a majority-Black cast in a historically Black setting without sinking to the level of cardboard cut-outs and stereotypes. The characters populating this world are rounded people; the plot grapples with gentrification, racism and police violence not as add-ons but organically. Most significantly, Luke as a character pushes past the generic narrative of superheroes as saviors from above. His moral need to be accountable to the people of Harlem – who play a real role in the story in two of the season’s most memorable scenes – portrays him as a kind of one-man workers’ militia, a force for justice standing outside the capitalist state without standing above society, as Batman or Iron Man do.
Culture matters. There’s a possibility in pop culture of showing the working class and oppressed people a vision of society, an aspiration, that’s better than the world as it currently exists. No doubt there are many leftists today whose socialist aspirations were initially stirred (at least in part) by Star Trek, just as a previous generation of radicals was moved by Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. This kind of programming will always be limited when delivered by the profit system. But if socialist ideas are going to become a mass force again, the left should acknowledge fiction’s role in shaping consciousness. We should imagine a vibrant, united movement with the resources, along with a culture of intellectual and artistic freedom, to articulate that socialist vision.
– Gabriel Pierre
1 Response to 10 Responses
This is a response to Jules Gleeson’s recent listicle “Let’s Try Communism: 10 Responses to ‘Queerness and Precarity’”. Let’s keep this short and focus on the two worst parts of a mostly decent article.
I don’t like to use these terms unironically but, in my humble opinion, I found there to be quite a surprising display of ultraleftism and utopianism in this short article. I almost wonder if I’m missing a joke here when Jules calls for the abolition of heterosexuality. Surely you can’t be serious? Good luck organizing around that ‘principle’. Communists shouldn’t be in the business of determining the sexual orientation of humanity. Let people fuck the way they want as long as they aren’t hurting others (non-consensually). It’s ridiculous that I even need to say this but, then again, perhaps I’m missing some grander political strategy at play here.
Now onto this ‘revolutionary crèche’ idea (ah, needless French, the sign of a true academic), it’s absurd for communists to propose this-or-that structure to replace the family (or any historically obsolete socio-economic formation). Communists should be showing the way to win proletarian political power so that, once free from class-based and general oppression, humanity can organize freely however it wishes, crèches or not. Prescribing this-or-that organizational form as the one true form is wholly pointless and totally useless to any communist serious about organizing. None of this is to say that communists shouldn’t speculate about communism, but there is a difference between saying “Things may be this way based on this evidence…” and “This is how things will definitely be.”
– Lovely Susie