List of Magical Negro occurrences in fiction
The Magical Negro is a somewhat mystical supporting stock character in fiction who, by use of special insight or powers, helps the white protagonist get out of trouble. African-American filmmaker Spike Lee popularized the term, deriding the archetype of the "super-duper magical negro" in 2001 while discussing films with students at Washington State University and at Yale University.
The Magical Negro is a subset of the more generic numinous Negro, a term coined by Richard Brookhiser in National Review. The latter term refers to saintly, respected, or heroic black protagonists or mentors.
The following list represents examples of the archetype that have been proposed or discussed in various reliable media sources.
Film and television
1980s and earlier
- Uncle Remus (James Baskett) in Song of the South (1946)
- Noah Cullen (Sidney Poitier) in The Defiant Ones (1958)
- Super Soul (Cleavon Little) in Vanishing Point (1971)
- Grover Muldoon (Richard Pryor) in Silver Streak (1976)
- Big Jim Slade (Manny Perry) in The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
- Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) in The Shining (1980)
- Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg) in Ghost (1990)
- Azeem (Morgan Freeman) in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
- Benjamin Buford "Bubba" Blue (Mykelti Williamson) in Forrest Gump (1994)
- Moses (Bill Cobbs) in The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
- Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman) in The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
- Chubbs (Carl Weathers) in Happy Gilmore (1996)
- Lamont (Guy Torry) in the film American History X (1998)
- Rastaman (Amiri Baraka) in Bulworth (1998)
- G (Eddie Murphy) in Holy Man (1998)
- Rufus (Chris Rock) in Dogma (1999)
- John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) in The Green Mile (1999)
- Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and the Oracle (Gloria Foster / Mary Alice) in The Matrix (1999) and its sequels
- Elliot's cellmate/God (Gabriel Casseus) in Bedazzled (2000)
- Cash (Don Cheadle) in The Family Man (2000)
- The mortician William Bludworth (Tony Todd) in Final Destination (2000), Final Destination 2 (2003) and Final Destination 5 (2011)
- Bagger Vance (Will Smith) in The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
- "The Blind Seer" (Lee Weaver) in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
- Jezelle Gay Hartman (Patricia Belcher), a clairvoyant who sacrifices herself to warn and protect two young, white, twentysomething siblings in Jeepers Creepers (2001)
- The Wise Janitor (Mr. T) in Not Another Teen Movie (2001) directly parodies the concept
- Abou Fatma (Djimon Hounsou) in The Four Feathers (2002)
- Mateo (Djimon Hounsou) in In America (2002)
- Gabriel (Delroy Lindo) in The Simpsons episode "Brawl in the Family" (2002) which spoofs the trope, Homer first believing him to be an angel
- God (Morgan Freeman) in the films Bruce Almighty (2003) and Evan Almighty (2007)
- Alex "Hitch" Hitchens (Will Smith) in Hitch (2004)
- Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris (Morgan Freeman) in Million Dollar Baby (2004)
- Sam (Morgan Freeman) in Unleashed (2005)
- Papa Midnight (Djimon Hounsou) in Constantine (2005)
- Charles (Afemo Omilami) in Hounddog (2007)
- Solo (Souléymane Sy Savané) in Goodbye Solo (2008), in which a chance meeting motivates a pure-hearted Senagalese immigrant to guide a bitter white man through his late-life emotional baggage.
- August (Queen Latifah), May (Sophie Okonedo) and June (Alicia Keys) in The Secret Life of Bees (2008)
- Louise (Jennifer Hudson) in Sex and the City (2008), where Carrie Bradshaw's emotional recuperation depends entirely on the labor of her plucky black personal assistant, who is disengaged from the storyline as soon as Carrie starts to feel better.
- Brother Sam (Mos Def/Yasiin Bey), a character who appears in five episodes of the sixth season of Dexter (2011)
- The janitor (Jordan Peele) and the copier repair man (Keegan-Michael Key) in a "magic negro" skit on Key & Peele (2012)
- Jim in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- A recurring archetype in Stephen King's novels as well as some adaptations of his work:
- Dick Hallorann in The Shining (1977) novel, the 1980 film adaptation (Scatman Crothers), and the 1997 TV miniseries (Melvin Van Peebles)
- Mother Abagail in The Stand (1978) novel and the 1994 TV adaptation (Ruby Dee)
- Lester "Speedy" Parker in The Talisman (1984).
- John Coffey in The Green Mile (1996) novel and its 1999 film adaptation (played by Michael Clarke Duncan)
- Okorafor-Mbachu, Nnedi (2004-10-25). "Stephen King's Super-Duper Magical Negroes". Strange Horizons. Retrieved 2006-12-03.
- Susan Gonzalez (2001-03-02). "Director Spike Lee slams 'same old' black stereotypes in today's films". Yale Bulletin & Calendar (Yale University). Retrieved 2008-12-29. "Lee cited four recent films in which there is a "magical, mystical Negro" character: The Family Man, What Dreams May Come, The Legend of Bagger Vance, and The Green Mile. In the latter film, Lee noted, a black inmate cures a prison guard of disease simply by touching him; in The Legend of Bagger Vance, a black man "with all these powers," teaches a young white male (played by actor Matt Damon), how to golf like a champion."
- Brookhiser, Richard (20 August 2001). "The Numinous Negro: His importance in our lives; why he is fading". National Review. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
- Steven Hyden, Sean O'Neal (writer), Tasha Robinson, and Scott Tobias (March 4, 2007). "13 Movies featuring magical black men". AV Club. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
- "Movies, Briefly: The Vanishing Point (1971) on The Rumpus
- Gabbard, Krin (2004). Black Magic: White Hollywood and African American Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. p. 154. ISBN 0-8135-3383-X. OCLC 53215708.
- "AV Club http://www.avclub.com/articles/box-of-robin-hood-prince-of-thieves-tiein-breakfas,26456/".
- Owen Gleiberman (2008-10-24). "The Secret Life of Bees". Entertainment Weekly. "Over the years, we've all seen too many anachronistic magic Negroes in movies like Forrest Gump and The Green Mile. The saintly African-American matriarchy of The Secret Life of Bees may appear benign by comparison"
- Matt Zoller Seitz (September 14, 2010). "The offensive movie cliche that that won't die". Salon.com. Retrieved 2011-05-18. "through the clock-keeper played by Bill Cobbs in "The Hudsucker Proxy""
- Matthew W. Hughey (2009). "Cinethetic Racism: White Redemption and Black Stereotypes in "Magical Negro" Films". Retrieved 2008-10-20.
- Stephen Hunter (October 30, 1998). "'History X': Hate With a Passion". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-05-18. "It must be said that Guy Torry, who plays Lamont, Derek's savior, fills the role brilliantly. But the part is just a lie from start to finish; it reflects a secret bigotry that sees black people only in terms of what they can do for white people, but has no other interest in them. And once Lamont has performed his miracle of healing, he disappears from the movie without a whisper."
- Biskind, Peter (2010). Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. p. 508. ISBN 978-0-7432-4658-3. "I also think you have to cop to the fact that the Baraka character is the magic negro."
- Wilmore, Larry (2010-01-19). "The First 364 Days 23 Hours". Retrieved 2011-02-24. "Larry Wilmore also compares Obama's pre-election image to that of other notable magic negro archetypes in fiction, such as Bagger Vance and John Coffey. ..."
- Colombe, Audrey (October 2002). "White Hollywood's new Black boogeyman". Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media (45). Retrieved 2006-12-03. "What’s remarkable about the recent magical figure ... In The Matrix, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) helps Neo ... In The Family Man, Jack Campbell (Nicholas Cage) is shown the right path by ... (Don Cheadle). In The Green Mile, John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) ... In The Legend of Bagger Vance, Bagger (Will Smith) plays a caddie who helps Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) ... Unbreakable presents Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson) ..."
- Matthew W. Hughey (2009). "Cinethetic Racism: White Redemption and Black Stereotypes in "Magical Negro" Films". Social Problems. Retrieved 3009-02-07.
- Christopher John Farley (2000-05-27). "That Old Black Magic". Time. Retrieved 2007-02-03. "In The Legend of Bagger Vance, one of the more embarrassing movies in recent history, Will Smith plays a magical black caddie who helps Matt Damon win a golf tournament and the heart of Charlize Theron. ... The first is the Magical African-American Friend. Along with Bagger Vance, MAAFs appear in such films as , the upcoming Family Man (co-starring Don Cheadle) and last year's prison drama The Green Mile."
- "Magical Negro". TV Tropes. 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-06.
- "Some quick thoughts on Jeepers Creepers (2001)". 4 October 2010. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
- "Pop Matters".
- David Plotz (2007-06-22). "Just Say Noah". Slate. Retrieved 2007-06-22. "By far the funniest moment in Evan Almighty occurs when God (Morgan Freeman, in full-on magical Negro mode) appears to the wife of Evan Baxter, a congressman turned reluctant ark builder."
- "What If Dakota Fanning Got Raped And Nobody Cared?". Laist.com. January 24, 2007. Retrieved 2010-10-26. "Then there's Hounddog's Magic Negro -- less a character and more a plot device -- which is so thematically ill conceived that it makes Driving Miss Daisy look like Malcolm X."
- Stevens, Dana. "Driving Mr. Crazy". Retrieved 2011-05-26. Calling the film "utterly new and beautiful", Slate move critic Dana Stevens said that director Ramin Bahrani avoids the "magical negro" only by giving both principal characters "their complexity, their contradictions, and ultimately, their privacy." Critic Charles Bowen (Bowen's Cinematic) is less charitable, saying Bahrani is "only a stone’s skip off from the dreaded magic negro.” (See http://www.bowens-cinematic.com/?p=1191.).
- Mazur, Matt. "Precious and Lee Daniels: State of the Race" on Pop Matters
- Alston, Joshua. "Just Let Go". The Onion (A.V. Club).
- Heisler, Steve. "Key & Peele: Episode 5". The Onion (A.V. Club).