Sorry To Bother You Again: The Black Futurist Playlist

Sorry To Bother You was such a deep movie, and it put me in a mood to digest more media like it. My review (despite its length) just barely scratches the surface and there was a lot of stuff I didn’t get to. So if you’re interested in doing the same, here are my recommendations.

WATCH

Atlanta (FX, 2016-present)- If you aren’t watching this show, you should be. It’s hard to describe but most episodes are kind of like a magical realism black Seinfeld. But then there are episodes that veer into very weird territory (especially in the second season).

Bamboozled (A Spike Lee Joint, 2000)- This isn’t science fiction, but it is a satire very much in this vein.

Dirty Computer (2018)- This 45 minute visual album is sci-fil all the way. The protagonist is a black queer woman whose identity is literally being erased by technology. The music shows her journey of self acceptance and rebellion against the status quo. 

Get Out (2017)- Also something you should have seen by now, but it’s still very much in the vein of STBY and I’d be remiss to leave it off. 

Lamborghini Angels/ITAL (Roses)/Audubon Ballroom (Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1, 2012)- There’s a lot packed into this 12 minute music video if you listen and watch closely. Interestingly, while this video was officially released it is no longer on Lupe Fiasco’s or his former record label’s official YouTube/Vevo page, even though all of his music videos push the envelope. I’d love to hear your conspiracy theories if you’ve got them. 

“Negrotown” (Key & Peele, 2015)- A comedy sketch that cuts so deep you have to laugh to keep from crying. 

READ 
“When Survival Equals Destruction- Let’s Talk About Sorry to Bother You” by TaLynn Kel

“Sorry To Bother You is Great Science Fiction, People” by Wired.com Culture Editor

“The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates- This longform essay is sci-fil only in the sense that reparations is seen as an impossible fantasy by most. Yet, Coates deftly rips apart the idea that slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, and the civil rights struggle are ancient history. It’s an idea that only benefits the system of white supremacist capitalism that America is built on. Germany paid reparations to Europe after WWII. When apartheid fell in in South Africa there was reparations and a restorative justice panel–why should the US be different? 

Futureland by Walter Mosley- This writer is best known for his noir detective novels starring the rakish, smooth, but troubled Easy Rawlins. Remember that Denzel Washington movie, “Devil in a Blue Dress”? That was based on the first book in the series. Mosley is also a very talented sci-fi writer and this collection of stories remains one of my favorite.

Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction in the African Diaspora”, edited by Sheree Thomas- Another great collection of black sci-fi, this one pulled from black authors across the ages, including W.E.B. DuBois. If you read nothing else, check out Derrick Bell’s story “The Space Traders”, which is even more interesting in light of the current administration.

LISTEN

Everybody (Logic, 2017)- I actually reviewed this album in a post last year. I’ll link it here so I won’t repeat myself, but the TL;DR of it all is that this is a conscious concept album that bangs. Give it a try. 

“If Your Love Cannot Be Moved” (Stevie Wonder ft. Kim Burrell, A Time to Love, 2006)- Stevie Wonder is best known for his love songs. This isn’t one of them. It’s a deep cut, not one of his singles, but the lyrics remind you that Stevie lived through segregation. He was born in 1950 (just like my parents!) and started his music career in 1961, just 7 years after Brown v. Board of Education integrated schools and another 3 years before the Civil Rights Act ended segreation altogether. When he says “You can’t say we shall and not fight through hell. . . You can’t shout out peace and then vanish in the crowd” or “You can’t free the slave to enslave them differently”, he means that shit. This is a revolution song, no doubt about it.

They Don’t Really Care About Us” (Michael Jackson, HISTORY, 1995)- The title says it all. But in case you forgot, they (whether that be the Republican Party, patriarchy, the 1%, or corporate interests) don’t care about anything but what they can get out of you. So get off your ass and VOTE in this election and everyone that follows. 

I want to live in Wakanda

Black Panther fed my spirit.

I’ve always enjoyed superhero stories. I love science fiction and fantasy, and comic books almost always contain a little bit of both. I’ll admit that before the movie came out, I didn’t know much about Black Panther other than the fact that he existed. I watched the miniseries back in 2010, but that was it.

As you can see, the production value is decidedly subpar. But the story was good and the voice talent (Djimon Hounsou, Jill Scott, Kerry Washington, Alfre Woodard) was great. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but promptly forgot it existed as I had no real expectation of ever seeing  a live action version. I watched Blade but never really got into it. Halle Berry as Storm in the X-Men movies was a disappointment, Halle Berry as Catwoman was an even bigger disappointment. Don Cheadle was good as War Machine but he was still a sidekick. It was a feel good moment, but not one that made me run to theater.

Then Chadwick Boseman showed up as Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, and Marvel announced a Black Panther movie and I was excited. As casting news kept trickling out, I got even more hyped up. My brother (an OG comics nerd) has watched all the #BlackPantherSoLit and #InWakanda feverishness with a detached skepticism. I’m a skeptic too, but I couldn’t suppress my inner child on this one.  We went from a low budget cartoon on BET to this:

I GLADLY bought my opening weekend movie ticket almost two months beforehand.

*******SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON********

Black Panther was EVERYTHING. It felt so good to watch a movie where black people and black problems and black culture were the focus, and not an afterthought. The production was loving and thorough, as each Wakandan tribe incorporated references to actual African cultural clothing, hairstyles, and rituals.

Best of all, the women were the black women I know in my own life–fierce, sexy, competent, multifaceted. Wakanda’s elite fighting force is all female. They rock bald heads and armor but still retain their femininity. Their general had a black male lover who respected her. T’Challa was in love with a covert operative who wants to serve not only Wakanda, but disenfranchised people all over the world–and we catch her in the middle of a mission to save African women from being sold into the sex trade. And all four of the women featured in the main cast are brown to dark skinned. It just felt so good to see women of my complexion being both objects of affection and trusted advisors to royalty.

T’Challa flanked by his love interest Nakia, on the left, and general Okoye, on the right.

So often the token black person in media is lightskinned; recently, more and more often they also look mixed and/or racially ambiguous. Kill all the diversity birds with one stone, as it were. But Black Panther is different. Because Wakanda is an African country untouched by colonizers, the Wakandans are overwhelmingly dark skinned–with natural hair! I’ve honestly never seen this in a movie that wasn’t about slavery. Wakanda is the Africa that exists in every black American’s mind, a myth of what could have been if slavery had never happened.

Lupe Fiasco captured this feeling in the track “All Black Everything” on his Lasers album. It’s one of my favorite songs of his, but it makes me feel so emotional that I can’t just listen to it at any old time. The first time I heard it, I felt chills down my spine and tears pricked my eyes. I’m an African American descendant of slaves; I’ve actually seen my ancestor’s burial grounds and the record that reduces his life to a mark on a tally sheet and a  comment  in the margins that “He was a good slave”. I am also descended from the Muscogee/Creek Indian tribe, a tribe whose remnants exist mostly on a reservation in Oklahoma.

But Black Panther takes us a step beyond the color blind utopia that Lupe imagined, into a world where Blackness is, at least in one corner of the world, undefeated. It’s supreme, even, and because the Wakandans were  more concerned with pursuing excellence than being conquerors, no one else had to be oppressed in order for them to thrive. However, their choice to remain isolated means that the rest of history still unfolded as we know it. Could a small but technologically advanced country have defeated colonization on the African continent, creating a unity of nations so powerful that it stopped slavery long before the Civil War? We don’t know. But Erik Killmonger’s (righteous) anger at Wakanda stems from a feeling of abandonment, that Wakanda was strong enough to help its brothers and sisters in the diaspora and chose to turn away instead.

Killmonger was a powerful villain because in him, I recognized the same anger I feel whenever another black person is gunned down by the police, or gets a sentence three times harsher than the one given to the white person who committed the same crime. I feel that anger when I hear rhetoric about welfare queens and entitlement mentalities. To keep it 100% real, I felt that anger when I heard Africans complaining about black people wearing kente cloth and dashikis to the movie theater. My roots are lost to me. Ancestry.com can tell me I’m from Nigeria and most likely of the Yoruba tribe. But I don’t have a cousin whose house I can stay at. I don’t know what village I’m from. And anti-American sentiments are widespread enough in Africa that I wouldn’t necessarily be welcomed if I went exploring to find out.

The conflict between Killmonger and T’Challa is one that every African-American descendant of slaves faces. Do we fight and live  solely to protect ourselves and our families from the dangerous forces of white supremacy? Or do we share our resources in order to preserve Blackness across the country and across the world? It’s a hard choice, especially so because white supremacy is so vicious and the resources that we have are not nearly as much or as organized as Wakanda. We don’t have vibranium weapons to ship to the hood, or a superpowered king who can bring in allies from the United Nations. We all we got.

Even though Black Panther grappled with some heavy questions, I left the theater feeling lighter spiritually. For a couple of hours, I was in Wakanda; and there at least, black people would get a happy ending.

WAKANDA FOREVER.

My Top 5 Favorite Terrible Movies

Growing up, I didn’t have cable. This was partially because my parents objected to us watching too much brain-rotting television (my siblings and I all have graduate degrees so I guess it worked!), and partially because we couldn’t afford it. My husband grew up with cable and loves watching movies. Between him and the fact that I’m making up for 18 lost years of pop culture exposure, I watch a lot of random sh*t.  Some movies are just so bad, that they’re good. So I’m cataloging a few of my favorite hidden gems.

  1. SAVAGES

You guys. THIS IS MY FAVORITE BAD MOVIE OF ALL TIME.  I first saw this movie with Tex and Teddy McBright. It has a gratuitous threesome in the first 5 minutes, and the ending is completely insane. On top of that, Benicio del Toro and Salma Hayek utter each line of this cheesy script as if it were a Shakespeare play. You can’t look away. It’s magnificent.

2. HOMEFRONT

This is a close second with Savages because it’s just as foolish. Jason Statham is my guilty pleasure that I don’t feel guilty about. I discovered him in The Transporter wayyyy back in ’02 and he’s been bae ever since. Anyway, he’s starring in this opposite James Franco as a meth king in the Louisiana bayou. I sh*t you now. Tex’s uncle and aunt who always host Thanksgiving are retired, and unc has all the time in the world to go down the Netflix rabbit hole. This was the after dinner movie for 2014. I think I was the only person who genuinely enjoyed it, and I have no shame. I laughed. I gasped. I yelled at the tv. It. was. everything!

 

 

3. THE FAMILY

A Luc Besson film that was given a scandalous 29% on Rotten Tomatoes, this movie is a diamond in the rough. It’s like Home Alone, except instead of a little boy setting booby traps for robbers it’s a formerly connected family setting booby traps for  the mob. Totally worth it just to see old man DeNiro scowl while trying to act like a regular, suburban American dad…in France. Tommy Lee Jones is more deadpan than usual as their humorless FBI case officer. Honestly, this might be the most quality film on this list.

 

4. THE PRINCE

What do you get if you mix Taken with John Wick and add Bruce Willis? A hit, ladies and gentlemen, that’s what! This was the 2015 after Thanksgiving movie. It didn’t quite live up to the splendor that was Homefront, but it was pretty good nonetheless. Bruce Willis stars as Bruce Willis and John Cusack stars as an unconvincing bad guy. There are gunfights and explosions and Rain is criminally underutilized for him to be pictured on the movie poster.

 

 

5. LAWLESS

The story of the Bondurant brothers is predictable. We know it won’t end well and that the women are just going to get them caught up. The accents are offensive at worst and merely bad at best (I swear some of these folks just swagger-jacked Cletus the slack-jawed yokel).  But the scenery and the costumes are gorgeous, and the actors make this entertaining. I came for Shia LaBeouf (don’t judge me!), but I stayed for Tom Hardy. That man can act his way out of a paper bag.

So that’s my top 5 bad movies. Have you seen any of these? Do you plan to watch them? Any bad movie recommendations? Let me know in the comments!