Home Film & TV The American Society of Magical Negroes: Sharp Dialogue & Satire At Its Finest

The American Society of Magical Negroes: Sharp Dialogue & Satire At Its Finest

by Neil Bui

Initially the synopsis for The American Society of Magical Negroes had me assuming I’d be watching a Hogwarts-like film as I was expecting a satire about “a secret society of magical Black people who dedicate their lives to a cause of utmost importance: making white people’s lives easier.” Now while the film still delivered on not just the satire, but sharp writing that was just as witty and on the nose as it was piercingly real and relatable at times. All while also telling a romcom story that begins with a classic meet cute at a coffee shop.

Justice Smith stars as Aren, a new recruit to the American Society, who not only learns the rules for magic in this film and its titular Society members, but also learns about his natural fit into this society given his entire life of adjusting his own behavior in order to placate the white people around him. David Alan Grier plays Roger, Aren’s mentor of sorts who recruited him for society after rescuing him from a racist encounter. Roger highlights the importance of keeping white people happy as unhappy white people proceed bad things for the black community, as well as brings Aren’s attention to his lifelong tendencies of making himself uncomfortable to make other people more comfortable. Simply put, this could be described as an inferiority complex.

Aren’s first client from the society is a white male named Jason (played by Drew Tarver), who is a designer at MeetBox (a placeholder for real life social media/tech companies). Drew’s triggers involve feeling lesser than at work and Aren comes to recognize his job is to provide Drew with reassurance in the workplace and support for his climb up the corporate ladder (à la dumb problems of privilege).

The Society references a Venn diagram portraying the intersection of “being authentically black” and “making white people comfortable” as what the Society provides. This is shown throughout the film when Aren reassures Drew that he isn’t racist, that he is an ally, that he’s deserving of the opportunities he is granted at work.

At a certain point in the film, it becomes clear that Drew has lived his life with the blessed and privileged benefit of people around him assuming he would be successful and treating him as such before he even got there. Who needs to worry about faking it before you make it, when others are already doing that on your behalf? Aren makes it clear that he (as well as many of us) did not grow up with this type of environment, and when one grows up constantly worrying about how their behaviors are affecting the people around them, it results in an inferiority complex to say the least.

The dialogue is my favorite part about this film, from the writing by director Kobi Libii to the delivery by actor Justice Smith. I came home from the theater, feeling incredibly understood as the film was able to clearly articulate these thoughts I would often have as a student at Chapman University. The last time I consumed media which spoke to those feelings of mine was Dear White People, created by fellow alum Justin Simien, whose inspiration came from his feelings while attending the predominantly white Chapman University. For anyone who enjoyed Dear White People, I’d like to think that The American Society of Magical Negroes is able to stimulate similar conversations that need to continue being had.

Catch The American Society of Magical Negroes in theaters starting March 15th.

Where to watch The American Society of Magical Negroes

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