Jason McCall

Spotlight: When You Choose Thor: The Dark World Over 12 Years a Slave

[creative nonfiction]

Tap into your Southern blood and blame Obama: A black president. A black nerd president. Anything is possible. These days, alien-space-Vikings seem as unreal as the Middle Passage.

Be the black man the radio hosts swear you are, take it out on your girlfriend. You can’t deal with her spending Friday night guilty about her freedom, starting every other sentence with “I know I can’t relate to them, but…”. Apologize for not having a girl who’s “down” when you tell the story to your friends back home. Forget that it takes a “down” girl to sit through two hours of Loki one-liners and thirteen minutes of closing credits so that you can spend the rest of the night giddy over a 30-second after-credits scene that won’t matter until 2017.

Look straight ahead as every other black face turns left while you walk down one more door. Tell yourself it’s no different than getting a classics degree or cheering for the Buffalo Bills. Ready your rebuttals. You paid money to see Pootie Tang. You share articles from The Root. Sometimes, you wake up early enough to watch the last segment of Melissa Harris-Perry.

Forgive the premise of a blond god protecting the earth from eternal blackness. Feel good when Idris Elba shows up in the movie. Everyone loves Idris Elba. Think of who wouldn’t want to support Idris Elba and start to feel more comfortable in your seat. Watch Idris Elba kill dark-alien-space-elves and remember Paul Mooney’s line in Hollywood Shuffle about how black actors won’t be Rambo until they stop playing Sambo. Idris Elba isn’t Rambo, but he’s Thor’s best black friend. Even the dark-alien-space-elf leader has a black best friend. The black dark elf is just evil; be proud he’s not wearing gold chains and dealing dark elf drugs in the space-Viking inner cities. Call that progress.

Think about black dark elves. Are they redundant? Are they extra evil? Do white dark elves let black dark elves play in the elvish basketball league, but start locking their doors when two black dark elves move into the neighborhood?

Remember that racial lines disappear in the Batman vs. Superman debate. Remind yourself that Blade saved this genre. Consider the $10 ticket an offering to Wesley Snipes.

Lie. Say you wanted a surprise. 12 Years a Slave won’t throw you a curveball and end up being 17 Years a Slave. You know that story. You know the story when your co-workers mistake you for a customer. You keep your credentials close. You make sure everyone knows you belong. You heard the stories of grandfather being called a boy for half his life. You deserve to be here, in this seat, wondering what’s so great about Natalie Portman, wondering how many white faces are in the theater next door.

Tell yourself you thought about going, just like your friends thought about giving blood or joining the service. Tell yourself you’ll go next weekend. Blame America when you go to the movies next weekend and find out they stopped showing 12 Years a Slave to make room for The Hunger Games. Make a Lenny Kravitz joke and go home.

Jason McCallJason McCall is the author of Dear Hero, (winner of the 2012 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize), Silver (Main Street Rag), I Can Explain (Finishing Line Press), and Mother, Less Child (winner of the 2013 Paper Nautilus Vella Chapbook Prize). He is from the great state of Alabama, where he currently teaches at the University of Alabama. He holds an MFA from the University of Miami, and his work has been featured in Cimarron Review, The Los Angeles Review, New Letters, The Rumpus, and other journals.