Indeed, says David Ehrenstein. For those new to this genre, the “Magic Negro” is a term used to describe an angelic black character who appears in movies to help a white hero in his time of trouble. Hollywood loves ’em: “The Green Mile,” “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” pretty much anything with Morgan Freeman. Sometimes they have supernatural powers, but not always; sometimes their wisdom is childlike, but not always. Their hallmark is their absolute goodness, untainted by any of the flaws that trouble actual (white) human beings.
It’s the racist stereotype of blacks as simple and spiritual repackaged in a “positive” way for modern audiences. Ehrenstein says it reminds him of someone.
Obama’s fame right now has little to do with his political record or what he’s written in his two (count ’em) books, or even what he’s actually said in those stem-winders. It’s the way he’s said it that counts the most. It’s his manner, which, as presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Biden ham-fistedly reminded us, is “articulate.” His tone is always genial, his voice warm and unthreatening, and he hasn’t called his opponents names (despite being baited by the media).
Like a comic-book superhero, Obama is there to help, out of the sheer goodness of a heart we need not know or understand. For as with all Magic Negroes, the less real he seems, the more desirable he becomes. If he were real, white America couldn’t project all its fantasies of curative black benevolence on him.
“But what about his admitted coke use?” you say. Ah, but that was a youthful transgression. Morgan Freeman’s character in “Shawshank” also committed a youthful transgression — murder, in fact — and that didn’t halt his beatification. So there’s a caveat: flaws are acceptable so long as they’re shed before maturity.
Kidding aside, Captain Ed is right to be irritated by the insinuation that whites who support Obama do so out of guilt and “positive” racism. I’d take him in a heartbeat over either Edwards or the Glacier, not because of his magical melanin-derived healing powers but because Edwards is a greasy jackass who panders to the left’s lowest common denominator and Hillary’s, well, Hillary. Ehrenstein would have been on firmer ground if he limited his critique to media coverage of Obama, where there’s some truth to what he says. The reason the “Magic Negro” meme has purchase in Hollywood has less to do with racism, I suspect, than sensitivity to the accusation of racism, for which they overcompensate by assigning the most cartoonishly noble and good-natured roles to black actors. That was part of the joke in having a black actor play God in that Sarah Silverman bit that got everyone so exercised. It’s not hard to imagine the media responding the same way, policing itself for unconscious racism so intently that it ends up here, with Obama seemingly capable of raising the dead if he just concentrated hard enough.