IN 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe first began with the release of Iron Man and has grown exponentially over the past nine years.
The most recent addition comes courtesy of Netflix, Luke Cage. Centred on the character that first appeared in another of Netflix sister series Jessica Jones, it stars Mike Colter as the titular character who is super-strong and quite literally bulletproof, thanks to an experiment gone wrong in his past.
However, Luke Cage’s super-powers come second to the show’s plot of ‘gangsters’ and political corruption. The premise initally involves club owner and arms dealer Cornell ‘Cottonmouth’ (Mahershala Ali) who wants to be the ‘king’ of Harlem with the help of his cousin councilwoman Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard). Cottonmouth’s illegal operations become dangerously entangled with Mariah’s politics and desire for Harlem to better itself as the show progresses. All the while, Luke Cage finds himself making an enemy of both Cottonmouth and Mariah as he becomes Harlem’s saving grace putting his friends and family in harm’s way.
Following ongoing controversy surrounding the lack of diversity in mainstream film and television, Luke Cage certainly serves as a smack in the face to whitewashed casting. Set in Harlem, an area deeply rooted with African American history, the acknowledgement of diversity is reflected in the cast, with Ali, Woodard and Colter adding to both the realness and power of the show.
Rather than pushing a progressive racial agenda, Luke Cage deals very effectively with relevant social issues, such as police brutality. No one needs to point out the irony of a black male being bulletproof.
In one poignant episode, a black police detective interrogates a black teenager. The boy’s mother condemns him, pointing out “you’re blue, which makes you just as white as anybody else,” voicing her disappointment that a shared blackness has done nothing to prevent police brutality. This complex rivalry between the police and ethnic minorities, as if the police themselves had become one race, was something I found interesting on the show.
In the end, it didn’t matter who was black or white or Latino; it was the status that people were seen to hold that determined who was at a disadvantage.
Along with its Marvel predecessors; Daredevil and Jessica Jones, the entire first season of Luke Cage is currently available to binge on Netflix- if you think you can handle it.