Intersection of Madness: Are Black people being rejected in popular culture?

Has there been a white-out in popular culture?

I’m working on a theory about over-saturation of Black people in sports (NBA and NFL) and the repudiation of Black people by those consuming other forms of entertainment (comics/graphic novels, movies and television, professional wrestling, video games, enjoying the outdoors, skiing, the beach, etc).

People are under the impression that sports equal a meritocracy (which it is not: just ask Peyton Hillis) and that the athletes in the NFL, NBA and at major colleges represent the best available. Though college athletes might not be best students — and could cost a coach his job for their academic failures — the perception that Blacks are the best athletes available require a toleration of their off-field antics.

Virtually every other form of entertainment — outside of music — amounts to a complete repudiation of Black people. Black comic books and characters have never sold to consumers and have failed to pick up an audience (the ultimate reason why so few Black super-villains exists); despite major pushes from promoters, wrestling fans rarely get behind Black professional wrestlers; movies are lily-white as ever, prompting some to believe that Hollywood discriminates against Black actors (sadly, it is movie-goers who discriminate against films with Black actors by not paying to see them); video games rarely have Black characters (unless it is a sports game and don’t get us started on Black zombies); and worse, television can’t keep a Black sitcom on air long enough for the narrative to take off (nor do people desire watching fantasy love shows with Black people cast in them).

This is one of the reasons why the uproar over Thor has upset a large segment of the population desiring the creation of a new Black phenomenon in pop culture.

Idris Elba — whose last film Obsessed was a huge hit among Black people — has been cast as Heimdall in the upcoming Marvel film Thor and he finds those who question a Nubian playing a Nordic God to be idiots:

“It’s so ridiculous,” Idris Elba says of Web sites that criticize his ability to play “the whitest of the gods.”

When Kenneth Branagh cast Idris Elba as Heimdall in the upcoming summer tentpole Thor, a furious debate erupted among fanboys, with some insisting it was wrong for a black man to play a Nordic god often described as “the whitest of the gods.”
Fumed one fan in an online foum: “This PC crap has gone too far! Norse deities are not of an African ethnicity! … It’s the principle of the matter. It’s about respecting the integrity of the source material, both comics and Norse mythologies.”

But the London-born actor (who starred as Stringer Bell in HBO’s The Wire; his 2009 film, Obsessed, grossed $68 million domestically) has no patience for the debate.

“It’s so ridiculous,” he said Feb. 24 at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J.

“We have a man [Thor] who has a flying hammer and wears horns on his head. And yet me being an actor of African descent playing a Norse god is unbelievable?” he went on. “I mean, Cleopatra was played by Elizabeth Taylor, and Gandhi was played by Ben Kingsley.”

Beyond that artistic defense, though, there is an even more basic reason black actors welcome colorblind casting: There is a ceiling on the amount of business black-themed movies can achieve, so the opportunities for black actors and actresses remain limited unless they can also claim parts in mainstream entertainment.

In the past decade, black actors have been losing ground. In the early 2000s, blacks played 15 percent of roles in film and TV. Today, it has fallen to 13 percent, according to Screen Actors Guild stats.

This past Academy Awards lacked any Black actors, actresses, directors, set designers, costume designers, composer’s, illustrators, etc., even nominated for an award.

 We have reached a point where white consumers of sports have been conditioned to believe the only legitimate sports are football and basketball — because Blacks excel at them — and sports lacking Black involvement are somehow tainted (see baseball).

Paradoxically, by every conceivable metric consumers spurn Black people in entertainment that doesn’t include NFL or NBA stars. Black musical acts might sell on iTunes and zoom up the Billboard charts, but concert goers seem infatuated with white acts.  

Don’t get us started on books, especially those written by Nicholas Sparks.

You have to laugh that the only way to get a Black actor into a comic book is to hypocritically cast him as the “whitest of the Gods.”

I’m sure Hollywood expected no one to notice the casting of a Black guy as a Nordic God, but they did. That people laugh when Afro-centrists claim that Cleopatra was Black — sorry to burst your bubble Elba, but she wasn’t — is upsetting to Black people desirous of creating myths that are inherently unbelievable.

That the only positive images of Black people come from sports is interesting especially when you realize consumers of popular culture, entertainment, and the activities they seek out for fun and recreation have insignificant and only token Black representation.

Does the over-saturation of Black people in sports make consumers uninterested in watching movies and television shows with Black actors and actresses? Why don’t consumers of comics books read Black books? Why don’t Black wrestlers attract support in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)? White guys tolerate rap and hip-hop because white girls like to dance to it, and this fad will ultimately pass. Then again, why is Journey so popular?



Stuff Black People Don't Like (formerly has moved to!
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