How good does a Netflix Original Series have to be to crash its home site? As good as a Black man who can’t be killed by a whole squadron of police officers, apparently. When Luke Cage premiered on September 30th, the demand for the newest Netflix-Marvel collaboration was so high that Netflix crashed for two hours in the US and UK. Can a show about a little-known comic book vigilante even cause that big of a traffic surge? It can if that character challenges everything we know about systemic racism.
Luke Cage is a classic Marvel character that first made his debut in 1972. However, despite his comic’s ahead-of-his-time social commentary, he was lost in the shadow of Marvel’s more popular superheroes, which gave rise to the ridiculously successful Avengers/MCU franchise.
But not today. With more people investing themselves in comic-related media than ever before, the internet was buzzing with anticipation for the newest Marvel series. That, combined with the zeitgeist and social justice heating up with Black Lives Matter and police brutality becoming two of the biggest hot-button topics of the year, has created a fervent viewer base waiting to see what the first Black-led superhero series would bring to the table.
Viewers were floored at the show’s use of the “N-word”, not only because it’s the first Marvel show to use it, but because of the calculated and deliberate use of it in certain situations. Luke, himself, refuses to use that word and to be defined by it due to its historical connotation and the mixed connotation it holds today, but Mike Colter (who plays Cage in the series) says that it would be “disingenuous” to leave it out of the show completely. The way that it is used in the series plays well with the way Black American culture is reclaiming the vocabulary surrounding it today.
Many were also upset about the lack of racial diversity among the cast - the cast is nearly entirely Black, another huge first in the Marvel lineup. Of course, those who are upset about this are by and large, White viewers, who can’t seem to grasp that the offense they feel over this show is exactly what Black and other minority groups have been forced to feel with nearly every other TV show in existence. The difference here is that these minorities are expected to be satisfied when a show throws in a “token ___ friend” so they’re represented in the most miniscule ways imaginable. Spoiler alert: If you recognize Harlem, where the show is set, to be a “Black community”, you’re not allowed to be upset when the characters who live in that community are Black.
More than anything, though, viewers were overjoyed at the social commentary the show makes about POC and police brutality. Following the deaths of Terence Crutcher, Keith Lamont Scott, and so many others at the hands of the authorities, Luke Cage is the superhero every young child who grows up hearing he has to do exactly what the cops say or be killed needs to see. He is the valiant hero of Harlem and can’t be destroyed by the bullets that target him. Just as Captain America was the hero American kids needed to boost national pride during the bleak outlook of World War 2, Luke Cage is the emblem for Black America today. He is so sorely needed and the next season cannot come fast enough.