10 of Cinema’s Most Magical Magical Negros
Ever since the dawn of time, Magical Negroes have been helping troubled white characters out of jams. It’s one of the most overused tropes in cinema history, but whatever helps white people with their issues is okay with us.
The underlying message being, “If white people are okay, then the world is okay. That’s all that matters.”
The only purpose of the Magic Negro is to help the white character. Then he/she can be quickly dispatched and the white person can continue on to the end of the film, his/her destiny fulfilled thanks to the ever faithful Magic Negro.
There have been countless times I’ve had dilemmas in my life. Countless times I’ve had problems that need solving. There have been times I’ve wished for an elderly janitor or maid figure to give me some advice to put me over the top, preferably in a Southern accent just to make it sound a little homier.
Then I look at my skin and realize I’m not white.
Man, I wish I was white so a Magical Negro could dispense some platitudes. You white people have all the luck.
Since I can’t have a Magical Negro like you white people, at least I can see them onscreen and pretend that those saintly Magical Negros are helping me, even though I don’t have the right skin tone.
I’ve compiled a magical list of cinema’s most magical Magical Negros. No doubt, you’ve seen most of them. If you’re white no doubt you’ve been helped by them.
Grab a chair. Put your feet up. These Magical Negros have and will always be at your service when you need them.
Provided you’re white, of course.
1) Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) in The Shining
“Some places are like people: some shine and some don't.”
Are you a little white boy with a father that’s going homicidally mad while caretaking a hotel that’s being overrun by ghosts? Can you see ghosts and spirits and wiggle your finger to indicate that there’s something up with you as well? Do you need someone to explain it all to you, little white boy?
You need not fear, because that’s what Dick Hallorann is for. He’s there to tell you all about the Overlook, but mostly to explain to you what the Shining is. He’ll help you along the way until you don’t need him anymore.
Hallorann can see the future just like Danny can, but he can’t see an see an ax coming toward his head. Your usefulness has ended, Magical Negro.
2) John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) in The Green Mile
“I helped it. Didn't I help it? I just took it back, is all. Awful tired now, boss. Dog tired.”
Michael Clarke Duncan was nominated for an Oscar in yet another Stephen King adaptation with a Magical Negro. He’s so magical he can literally cure what ails, from Tom Hanks’ prostate to a stepped-on mouse. The JC allusion isn’t subtle, nor is it meant to be. But the point is that (spoiler) Coffey dies for all the white sins committed during the movie, and all the white people are grateful for it.
3) Chubbs Peterson (Carl Weathers) in Happy Gilmore
“It’s all in the Hips”
A man-child former hockey player Happy Gilmore (man-child Adam Sandler) needs to perfect his golf swing. Who else can help him besides a Magical Negro Chubbs, who just happened to have his arm eaten off by an alligator. You know everything will turn out okay because this is a 90s Adam Sander movie. Chubbs even rises from the dead. Magical indeed.
4) Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus) in The Matrix
“Neo, sooner or later you're going to realize just as I did that there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”
I realize when we watch the original halfway-decent Matrix and its inferior sequels, “character” isn’t something we’ve ever really paid attention to. All the Matrix characters are all so poorly written as they all thinly represent cardboard archetypes. No more than Fishburne’s Morpheus, whose only real purpose is to help Keanu Reeves’ Neo achieve his destiny. Every overwrought line of dialogue is spoken like it was underlined twice. But as long as white man becomes savior, none of it matters. What if I told you…it’s possible to write better characters.
5) Octavia Spencer (Minny Jackson) in The Help
“Fried chicken just tend to make you feel better about life.”
Octavia Spencer won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her Magical Negro portrayal of Minny, she of the magical food. Everything she cooks is heavenly, even her advice to enlightened white girl Skeeter (Emma Stone). Sure, the fecal pie is funny the first time, but the movie runs that joke into the ground right quick. Which begs the question if it was worth it to handle her own feces and bake it. Did her kitchen smell afterwards?
6) Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) in The Help
“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
I is kind. I is smart. I is important.
Yes. The Help has not one, but two Magical Negros helping our enlightened white girl Skeeter (Emma Stone). Aibileen’s magic power is taking care of white children, even if they’ve been sleeping in their own fecal matter (maybe Minny could have used that in future pies). Viola Davis got nominated for Best Actress but lost to a white woman (Meryl Streep). That does nothing to diminish her Magical Negro powers.
7) The Oracle (Gloria Foster and Mary Alice) in The Matrix
- “Because you didn't come here to make the choice, you've already made it. You're here to try to understand *why* you made it. I thought you'd have figured that out by now.”
The Oracle is so magical she doesn’t even have a proper name. She doesn’t need one since all she does is spout banalities while Neo nods his head. Kudos to the Matrix trilogy for having more than one Magical Negro. Opposite of kudos to the Matrix trilogy for having no good sequels. You don’t get a cookie.
8) Bubba Blue (Mykelti Williamson) in Forrest Gump
“I'm going to lean right back up against you and you'll right back up against me that way we don't have to sleep with our heads in the mud. You know why we're a good partnership? Because we'd be watching out for each other, like brothers and stuff.”
One of the worst Best Picture Winners ever (we’re just going to retroactively give it to Pulp Fiction) has the most shrimping-ly quotable Magical Negros in film history. You knew mentally challenged Forrest (Tom Hanks) was going to be A-Okay as soon as Bubba died, because sacrificing to save the white hero is one of the main purposes of the Magical Negro. You’ve certainly earned your pineapple shrimp, Magical Bubba.
9) God (Morgan Freeman) in Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty
“ I now issue a new commandment: Thou shalt do the dance.”
Granted, a good portion of Morgan Freeman’s career has been spent playing Magical Negros, but can you really be more magical than playing God? The films themselves aren’t very good and no amount of magic can make them so. But every time Freeman appears, he makes the movies seem relatively palatable with two of the whitest actors that ever lived (Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey). God grant me a way to help me delete Evan Almighty from my memory.
10) Bagger Vance (Will Smith) in The Legend of Bagger Vance
“ I hear you lost your swing. I guess we got to go find it.”.
Spike Lee called Bagger Vance a “Super-Duper Magical Negro” and who am I to disagree with Spike Lee? Bagger can help you with your golf swing with his homespun wisdom. He also helps white Matt Damon get white Charlize Theron with his homespun wisdom. Bagger serves no other purpose other than to help white Matt, whether it’s literally holding his bag, or having no identity except in service to the white protagonists. Super-duper indeed.
Final Magical Thoughts
10 Magical Negros who no doubt have helped you learn some life lessons. If you’re worthy, maybe you’ll find your own Magical Negro to help you on your path. They could be your barber, your custodian or really any member of the service industry.
Just so we’re clear, by “worthy” I mean white.