Archived Discussion

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.


Indefatigable: There's a similar trope in commercials, but I can't find a separate entry for it, and I'm not sure if it's a subset of this one. The commercials feature a white guy who is verging on idiocy, and is helped by a smart, capable black guy who introduces him to the product being advertised. On the one hand this is subverting racism (it would look really awful if the black guy was the dumb one), but on the other hand is it a more mundane version of the Magical Negro? After all, the white guy is central in that the commercial is about what the product can do for him, and the black guy is the helper.

Agent Westmer: Unsure if Winston from Ghost Busters should be here simply on the basis. He's an active protagonist and a bit of a Dead Pan Snarker (If some asks you if you're a god...YOU SAY YES!). Yes, he deals witht the super natual from a religous standpoint, but really only in one seen. At not point does he abandon his proton pack for obscure mysticism. My understanding of the troupe is that the it refers to a character who has very little personality besides enabling the actions ofothers. Any objections to Winston's removal?

Agent Westmer: One week later, removing Winston
Khym Chanur: I thought that the Samaritans were treated badly in ancient Israel because of their religion, not because of their race.

savage: You have to realize that back then the line kinda blurred.
Citizen: Is it so wrong that I suddenly feel the urge to attach a picture of Mr. Popo to this trope? =/

Ununnilium: "Them" is a perfectly fine gender-neutral third-person-singular pronoun, I tell you!

Pepinson: This title is made of win, God, and the radioactive semen of Vin Diesel

Ununnilium: I dunno, that Coffey pic is hard to make out.

Seth: Its hard to find a good picture of him on Google.

Carabosse: I think the article is excessive in scope. A "magical negro" is specifically someone of an ethnic minority, not outcasts or people with disabilities. The latter fall into something more like "angels in disguise". To so thoroughly dilute the trope renders it virtually meaningless.

Ununnilium: I disagree. Same basic idea, IMHO; outcasts for a certain reason.

Ununnilium: Does the Doctor Who example really count? It just seems like a random, heroic black person to me.

Tanto: Deleted Morpheus; other than being black, he doesn't really fit the trope.

—- Sebastion The reference to Barack Obama should be deleted: neither he nor any of his supporters has done anything to promote the "Magical Negro" trope. The only conversation about it has been among right-wing shock jocks and their white audiences, the whole thing being mainstreamed by Rush Limbaugh.

Phartman: There are quite a few idiots on the left who unknowingly perpetuate the stereotype, believe it or not. Remember that lady who thought she wouldn't have to put gas in her car once Obama was elected? She didn't say the words "Magical Negro", but she has to assume that some magic will be involved when the President personally delivers her spankin' new, hope-powered Obamobile.

Seth: He has still been accused of drawing on the stereotype. It doesn't matter if he does, it is the accusation that is recorded.

HeartBurn Kid: I'm the one who added it, and while I agree with Sebastion that Obama doesn't really do anything like that (and, in fact, he's probably the best choice out of the current crop of candidates on either side), the accusation is there and should be noted.

Mads: Did anyone else see the Daily Show actually mention this trope by name?? Is someone on TV Tropes writing for the Daily Show, or is this a widely-known title off the website?

savage: It's a fairly well-known term for this trope, that predates the wiki.
MockFerret: I was wondering, where exactly does the cut off come between this trope and Wise Old Man types who are played by a black actor? God in Bruce Almighty, for instance, struck me as more of an eccentric Merlin type than this.

Fly: I really don't think either Charles or the Haitian are MagicalNegroes, so I'm deleting the Series.Heroes entry here. TheElusiveN: The Haitian currently, to a certain degree, doesn't fit the trope exactly, but he has certain qualities that have. And there have been <a href=",,20228188_4,00.html">references</a> in the media to both the Haitian and the new, nameless African character, debuted in the Season 3 Premiere, as a Magical Negro.

I too think that many of the examples being given are missing the actual point of the trope. The "Magical Negro" is almost an exact parallel to the "Noble Savage"; the difference is that instead of having access to great wisdom (and sometimes superpowers) because of a position entirely outside of "civilized society", the Magical Negro is portrayed as having these gifts because of a position on the underside of civilized society. Whoopi Goldberg's character in "Ghost" isn't "somewhat of a subversion as Goldberg spends most of the first half of the movie vehemently protesting her role as a Magical Negro"; it's not an example of the trope at all! Oda Mae is just a scam artist who doesn't even know she has any real powers to talk with the dead until Swayze's ghost talks to her, and when she does realize she has these powers, she doesn't even want them. There would have been no functional difference at all if the character had been white! How can she be an example of the "Magical Negro" trope except through the incorrect assumption that simply being of color and having some special ability is all that's involved?

Can we strip some of the examples out? It seems like people are jsut adding any examples of any minority who tells anyone anything, fills a mentor position or has magical powers, whereas my understanding was that the Magical Negro is supposed to be more of a mystic, Noble Savage type thing. Surely examples (like Shawshank and The Matrix) where the part was written and a black person happened to be cast in the mentor role while a white person happened to be cast in the mentee role (without the part having been written with that in mind) don't really belong, nor examples where the mentor/information-provider isn't Closer To Nature or mystical?

Novium: I agree. Also, as to the Green Mile example, I have my doubts. The character is a messianic figure, which I am not sure fits this trope. On later, and further reading of this trope, my doubts have only intensified. Of the examples I remember well, I really don't think they fit the trope, other than in the definition-creep way of "a minority figure who is show as wise or having supernatural powers. So instead of adding natter to the main page, I just cut and pasted the section here, with comments inside.
  • Stephen King seems to have, shall we say, issues on this subject; many of his writings and their film adaptations include examples of this trope:
    • The Green Mile: John Coffey, the gentle black man who calmly dies so as not to cause a fuss while using his powers to help those who guarded his cell.
      • Who is and was meant as a Messianic figure. "as not to cause a fuss" isn't accurate at all.
    • The Shining: Dick Hallorann, elderly black man with psychic powers.
    • The Stand: Mother Abagail, elderly and black; Nick Andros, deaf-mute; Tom Cullen, mentally disabled.
    • * I don't remember all of these particularly well, but wasn't the first supposed to be, well, Moses?
    • Dreamcatcher: Dudditz, saintly brain-damaged kid.
    • The Shawshank Redemption: The film version of Red Redding, Andy's mentor, the wisest character and the only one to admit his guilt. In the original, his characterization and role are exactly the same...but he's white.
      • He's also arguably the main character of both. It's a story about his redemption.
    • The Talisman (and to a lesser extent the sequel Black House): Young, white hero Jack Sawyer is guided along his way by aging blues-man Lester "Speedy" Parker and his Territories twinner, Parkus.

grendelkhan: Removed the following; it's just a straight-up aversion, as far as I can see. If there's something left out of the example, please put it back in.
  • Subverted in Knights of the Old Republic with Jolee Bindo, who initially has no interest in helping the protagonist whatsoever & is just along for the ride.

savage: I'm just going to comment on this, just so no one decides to put it back. Bindo preaches at you a bit for your actions (whether you go dark -or- light, as far as I can tell) and offers a few words of wisdom, but no, just because a character is black and helps the hero that does not automatically make them a Magical Negro.

pawsplay: I don't know my Stephen King well enough to help with that cleanup, but it has been a constant battle for months now to keep people from adding every sagely mentor of color to this trope. Even the front page mutated while I was away for a few weeks, and even after explicitly stating the problem with some of the examples, they keep appearing. Maybe I should add a dire warning about bad examples?

pawsplay: Yet more example cleanup. Partial examples, ambiguous examples, unnoteworthy cast members, characters who happen to be black, and minority characters who are not presented as being especially wise.

Nornagest: Cut —

* Nyarlathotep from H.P Lovecraft's writings often appears to humans in the form of a dark skinned man who is described as "looking like a pharaoh". Being a cosmic horror wearing the form of man he probably counts as magical too. Notably in "Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath", near the end he plays the role typical to the Magical Negro: He appears to the protagonists and gives him advice, telling him that he has to talk to the gods of Dreamland and convince them to return to Mt. Kadath. He then gives the protagonist a giant bird that will take him to the gods. However this turns out to be a subversion, as the protagonist finds out he has no control over the bird and it's flying him straight to the demon sultan Azathoth (Nyarlathotep's master and a really big cosmic horror). In the end Nyarlathotep just transports the gods back to Kadath with no effort at all.

As much as I like Lovecraft's work, 'Tep doesn't fit this trope at all. Nor is he a Scary Black Man. He's simply a Cosmic Horror wearing the shape of a man, who happens to be dark-skinned and scary.

Tzintzuntzan: Okay, I know there's been a cleanup lately, but I contest one example being pulled. Why was BLT from Degrassi High removed? He never has a single plot or storyline that doesn't revolve around getting his white girlfriend to become more enlightened, which seems to be the definition of Magical Negro. (An all-wise minority member who, instead of using their wisdom for themselves, uses it to benefit the main white cast member.)Until he suddenly leaves her near the end.

pawsplay: I axed a lot of examples because it just wasn't a clear example to me, and that might have been one of them. If someone wants to add it back with enough information for a non Degrassi High person to kind of understand it, that would be cool. Right off the bat, anyone with a white girlfriend is already suspect, because that sounds almost like a character who is allowed to have an independent existence. He just sounds like a "too sensitive for his own good" kind of romantic interest character. Helping someone you are dating is not especially self-sacrificing because a) you benefit, and b) helping is not the same as subsuming your talents or sacrificing your life for someone else that may not have precisely earned it, however much they might need it.
Fast Eddie: Moving this in for discussion.
  • Non-minority example from Three Wishes (the 1995 film, not the Reality TV show): Jack McCloud (who's played by the very white Patrick Swayze), a wandering tramp, is taken in by a kind family when he breaks his leg. The daughter thinks there is something different about him, and when he is fully accepted into the family, he offers her Three Wishes in return for her family's kindness.
    • Tramps are not a minority ???

... I'd agree that there isn't any direct relationship between minorities and tramps. 'Tramp' not being an ethnicity.

Phartman: I had to point out that the character was played by Patrick Swayze, who I'm pretty sure isn't a negro, so I'm fine with the example being removed.

Lina: Removing Djaq from Robin Hood. She doesn't have any of the traits associated with this trope; though she might be a Closer to Earth Twofer Token Minority, she's just as much a part of the group as the non-Robin white guys, she gets credit for her actions to the same extent they do, she's shown as having a life of her own, etc.

Jordan: Not to mention that the Muslim and/or black character is a Canon Immigrant to the Robin Hood "verse"

Shrikesnest: Removed the following:

  • From Iron Man: First Yinsen (who is actually an Afghan, but close enough) saves Tony Stark's life by performing heart surgery on him and hooking him up to a car battery. Then he dispenses home-spun wisdom about the importance of family and the need for Tony to re-think what his legacy should be. In the end, he sacrifices his life to save Tony, and with his dying breath he urges him not to waste his life. So touching! They justify it by having Yinsen imply with his last breaths that he's planned to die during the escape from the start, so he can be with his family in the afterlife.

I know, right? Minorities in the middle east. What will those wacky filmmakers think up next?