It’s fair to say that Jessica Jones raised the bar for Marvel’s small-screen endeavors back in November. It also introduced us to Luke Cage, who’s going to be getting his own show later this year. The character, whose powers make him impervious to bullets, debuted shortly after Malcolm X and MLK were shot, and as I mentioned when we got our first look at him, he’s just as relevant today given the current state of things. It seems like the people behind Marvel’s Netflix universe agree, because my oh my, are these some loaded first images.
Avoid clicking through if you’re spoiler-weary, but this is something that’s going to be brought up on social media soon enough. Marvel comics have done some interesting things when they’ve decided get political (don’t forget the cover that kicked off the Marvel universe), but this might be the first time any of their live action properties have approached a current topic to this degree. In the images, we see an unarmed Luke Cage clad in a grey hoodie, his hands raised as he’s being held at gunpoint by the NYPD. It also seems like he eventually fights back. Gunshot wounds show up in the scene, one on his chest and several on his back, and it appears to end with him reclaiming authority by putting on one of the officer’s jackets!
From what I've been able to find out, a couple of corrupt cops have been tailing Cage for some time. I don't know what finally leads them to confront him, but there’s some very interesting imagery at play, and it’s going to grab people’s attention. First of call, Cage is wearing a grey hoodie, which is something that people immediately associate with Trayvon Martin. It isn’t the colour he was wearing when he died, but an image of Martin in a grey hoodie went viral and eventually became the image he was recognized by. It was used on protest signs all across America, and people even wore similar hoodies to Black Lives Matter rallies. In short, it became a symbol of injustice, as ubiquitous during the protests as chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot” or “I can’t breathe,” and the choice doesn’t seem accidental. With the NYPD’s history of killing unarmed black people (American law enforcement in general, really), there’s little chance the show will end up skirting around the issue since its protagonist is a big black dude from Harlem.
I’ve been on the receiving end of the NYPD’s nastiness when it comes to people of colour, though as you can probably tell I was one of the lucky ones, but I can’t say I’ve seen too many shows really deal with the issue in any meaningful way. Scandal and Law & Order: SVU come to mind, and the movement got a shout out on Empire, but I’m hoping for Luke Cage to address it the way Jessica Jones addressed sexual assault and male entitlement. Imagine that, mainstream entertainment’s premier shared universe dealing with America’s police brutality head-on, bringing the conversation up with a global audience. Wouldn’t that be something?