W-100: SUPERMAN

superman-the-movie 1White One Hundred: 100 Great Films Starring Only White People, #5 — Superman — Okay, I’ve barely gotten started on the White One Hundred project, and already people are emailing me, trying to dispute my entries. Apparently, in the extended cut of one of the Lord of the Rings movies, there may or may not be an extra who may or may not be a minority of some sort. In The Wizard of Oz, the Munchkins were played by little people, who are minorities, so that’s got to count for something. Right? Wrong! And I’ll tell you what else doesn’t count as far as the White One Hundred is concerned, and that’s the solitary minority extra, who may or may not have a single line of dialog, but still exists in an otherwise all-white world. Sound familiar? Here’s the all-time classic example: Superman. There is one character of color in the entire movie, a pimp, who sees Superman and proclaims, “Hey Jim, that’s a bad outfit!” Now, with all due respect to actor Bo Rucker, who played the pimp, this does not count in the war against oppression by omission. In fact, I think I can speak for most of the black kids who sat in the theater back in 1978 watching Superman, only to feel a twinge of unbearable shame and embarrassment when the ONLY black character in the movie turned out to be a jive-talking pimp…it’s better to have no black characters, if this is all you’re going to have.

bo rucker

Bo Rucker as the anonymous pimp in Superman.

The problem with Pimp, who is listed that way in the credits, and is pictured above, is that the character is merely an extension of the same racial ideologies that renders people of color largely invisible. This ideology says, in very simple terms, “There is no place for people of color in this world, unless they adhere to this narrow spectrum of images.” The result is we get an otherwise all-white world, populated by one black person, who is a pimp. I invite you to trade places with every black kid in America who watched that, and saw themselves reduced to a comedic aside that managed to pander to the most negative of stereotypes. Welcome to the world of Superman, where you will believe a man can fly, and that the only black person who fits into this reality is an anonymous pimp.

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