I did my best to remain objective while I watched CW’s Black Lightning. After hearing Greg Berlanti, Mara Brock Akil and Sam Akil were involved I wasn’t expecting much. However, CW’s Black Lightning managed to surprise me. Their adaptation of Black Lightning was more of an SJW shit show than I could ever imagine.
As I watched the pilot episode I rolled my eyes. I thought I was watching an old episode of M.A.N.T.I.S, not a 2018 adaptation of a DC Superhero. It’s a shame that Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil and Greg Berlanti haven’t seen all the progress Black fantasy has made in the last 25 years. Because if they did they’d see that Black fantasy is a lot richer than what they presented in this shit show.
Black Lightning opens with a voice over from one of his daughters, when a show opens with a supporting character telling us about things it’s a BAD sign. A good show SHOWS us the main character, it doesn’t have someone TELL us who he is or about his life. In that voice over we’re told all about how bad things are in Black Lightning’s part of town. The drugs, the crime. All a result of the street gang known as the 100.
Stuff I saw done better in M.A.N.T.I.S’s two-hour pilot back in 1994.
Damn. Just Damn. Can’t Black heroes fight against anyone other than a street gang?
I’d like to think Black fantasy could move past these tired old ghetto tropes. But Salim Akil’s imagination is very limited and it showed in this screenplay.
Shades of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, the Black police commissioner says he can’t get a handle on it. In one of the protests against the police, Black Lightning’s oldest daughter Anissa a natural haired medical student and aspiring SJW has been arrested. And Principal Jefferson Pierce has come to pick her up at the precinct. On the way home, he’s racially profiled by two racist white cops who bring him over to an Asian store owner to ask if he robbed the liquor store.
Good Gravy. Bring on the stereotypes. The police commissioner tells Jefferson they're not "his" cops. A blatant SJW attempt to deflect responsibility and emasculate a Black male in an authority position. If they collect a paycheck from the city and you're in charge of them, whose cops are they?
The next day after being racially profiled Princapal Jefferson Pierce is honored at his high school by the State Senator. Meanwhile in the bathroom his weave wearing hoodrat in training daughter Jennifer has decided to sneak out of an event honoring his father and head to Club 100, a known gang spot to hang out with Pookie. As Jennifer gets caught up with the 100 gang members, she’s taken into an office complete with a Cottonmouth wannabe in an 80s jogging suit we get a scene ripped straight from Luke Cage. Hearing his daughter is at this club Jefferson goes down to the club to save his daughter from being pimped by the thugs she decided to involve herself with.
After Jefferson goes to save his daughter from the gang members he runs into more racist White Cops who he shocks and blows up their car.
Damn. Just Damn. Is every white person in this show a racist?
Pretty much. As Jefferson goes to get help with injuries he sustained in the fight at the club, he’s tended to by an old White Tailor who knew him when he was younger. And the old White man talks about him making a difference in his community. Unfortunately, the paternalistic way he talks to him comes across like the slave master talking to his house slave.
Good Gravy. Why is every White character on this show is a racist? Why does every White man appear to have negative character traits in order for the Black man to be a hero?
Oh wait, this is an SJW show. So there is no such thing as balance or depth of character. White males are all EVIL.
Gimme a Break.
As the episode progresses we get scenes of CottonMouth Lite punishing his son with a gun. Jefferson’s daughters get kidnapped by the 100 who talk about pimping them out as hoes. As Jefferson goes to take on the 100, he gets the blessing of the old White tailor who crafts him a new costume. And Shawn gets sick to his stomach.
Yeah, Black Lightning is back. And he’s gonna clean up the streets of the hood. Unfortunately, he can’t do that unless he gets the approval of The Man. The thinly veiled message of this show between the lines is that a Black man can’t do anything without a White man signing off on it.
Fuck You Berlanti. Fuck You.
That’s a total contradiction to what a real Black hero is all about. If a Black hero wants to clean up his community he should do that on his own without the approval of any White person.
Luke Cage this Ain’t. At Least Luke Cage showed us a Black man could act on his own and do things for himself. He was his own man and did things on his own terms.
My big problem with Black Lightning is that it wasn’t a show about people. It was a show about what a White person thinks Black people are like. Black Lightning tries to be a Black superhero show for White people instead of a show about a Black superhero. And because it tries to be a Black superhero show for White people we don’t get a show about the content of Jefferson Pierce’s character we get a show that revolves around what White people think Black people are like. Every character is a representation of a group of people and their ideals, not an individual character with their own personality and their own “voice.” No one talks to each other, they make speeches. And over the course of an hour all those speeches get annoying.
My other big problem with Black Lightning was how little imagination was presented onscreen. In an age where we have Iron Man flying, Thor throwing his hammer, Wonder Woman twirling her magic lasso I’d like to think we could do something more original than the same old black guy with powers taking on a street gang. In the nine years I’ve been writing I rarely have my characters fighting a street gang or thugs. John Haynes has fought Lucifer and God Katious, a Despot with a Gem of Omnipotence. Isis has been too busy taking on Nubian Queens, Greek Gods, Vampires, stalkers, Cybergoddeses, demons, kung-fu killers and Dracula himself. And E’steem has taken on Morgan Le Fay, and all sorts of demons and monsters. If I could imagine a story where Black characters can take on challenges outside of the street gang, I’d like to think we could get some fantasy concepts presented onscreen with a bit more originality and creativity.
I wanted to like Black Lightning There are some nice ideas here like the Black father trying to protect his family. But the big problem with Black Lightning is the execution of the concept. It all feels like some White person’s idea of a Black person, not what a Black person truly is. In between the flat characters, speeches talking at you, outdated special effects and by the numbers bad guys and it all comes together to make for a mediocre show. There’s not much content to Black Lightning’s character outside of the color of his skin. In 20l8 I believe viewers deserve better than just a Black superhero, they deserve a GREAT fantasy experience featuring a Black character.
Good God, I wish I could produce a John Haynes series on film or TV. It’d blow the doors off Black Lightning.