A REVIEW: “The Perfect Date” with the Magical Negro

Without vision we succumb to the average and what I want is the extraordinary.

-The Perfect Date

And all I want is for (young adult) movies with White protagonist to stop using  Black people to give them the therapy they should be giving to themselves.  I guess that’s not just extraordinary that’s a goddamn miracle.

I  just wanted to sit down, relax with a dumb little romance movie, but no. Perhaps its my fault, I too often employ critical thought and find it hard to ignore mediocre tropes. It’s almost like the movie was warning me right before I got started, “Hey…ummm this is gonna be basura. Like Sesame street,  Grouch level.”

Sure, someone could bring to my attention that this little movie is just that, a movie—far removed from living breathing reality. But the problem is that it isn’t

Introducing Noah Centineo’s character Brooks Rattigan. He’s a high school senior that inhales the words of Steve Jobs and Eolon Musk in his free time, when he’s not pining for material representations of wealth like a BMW i8. When he’s not hammering away at an admissions essay for Yale—because public schools are for underachievers—he’s hanging out with his best friend, Murph. Murph likes to engage his intellect by making apps in his free time. This quirk becomes convenient when Rattigan decides that securing the bag for Yale would be a lot easier if he could monetize his charm and good looks by becoming an escort (without the sex of course).

You can’t change the world alone. Every Jobs needs a Watts, every Jordan has a Pipen…

-The Perfect Date

Screen Shot 2019-04-14 at 12.52.17 PM

And every lone White protagonist needs a Magical Negro to make it all come together.

This is Murph. He is begotten by Rattigan (see image left).



But wait—what? What is a Magical Negro you ask?

Think Morgan Freeman in 80% of his movies. Think Raffiki in Lion King. Think all the characters of color who were not Dakota Fanning in The Secret Life of Bees.  Think the ghettoized beauties of Halle Berry and Natalie Desselle’s characters in B.A.P.S.   Or if you need something more literal and honestly hilarious, watch this Key & Peele sketch.

You need to find your own troubled white boy.

Look familiar?

The Magical Negro is a trope that has been a fixture in American films since Hollywood. The character exists for nothing other than to give some external moral wisdom, wonderment, and even closure to White characters. And guess what? if the Magical Negro disappeared, little is affected structurally within the reality of plot–their purpose is situational. Makes one wonder whether the character actually existed at all.  I mean for all I know Murph could have been a figment of of Rattigan’s imagination for most of the plot. I only say this because as a viewer I never once saw Murph with his parents.

Why is that important? because the introduction of family and friends roots a character in existence.

I know Rattigan exists because he has a father, there’s a backstory as to why its a single-parent household. I have seen his best friend (Murph) and their relationship. I am more than attune to his romantic inclinations. For godsake, I know the sort of relationship Rattigan has with his high school guidance counselor.

The only factoids I know about Murph is he’s Black, gay, he engineered from a money-making app for his pal Rattigand from scratch, he is emotionally capable of having romantic crushes and being hurt by his best friend.  Oh yeah, that happens a lot too. Magical Negros often become the emotional collateral damage of White protagonists. Closure for the Magical Negro only exists within the bounds of the personal growth of the White protagonist—which tends to be little to none.

It gives moving picture and color to the idea that Black and Brown bodies, hearts, and minds exist at the expense of a White person learning some common sense and life lessons. 

You see, our friend Rattigan here lacks self-awareness. This creates a bit of problem when he tries to write a personal essay to Yale because he doesn’t really know who he is as a person. Aside from performing well academically and I guess reading about Steve Jobs and Eolon Musk …oh, and his fractured home life, theres not much to draw from I suppose. This also creates issues with his personal relationships because being a chameleon only gets you so far, but you know what keeps him from descending into unforgivable narcism?  Murph? No not this time.  Murph just creates the technical framework for Rattigand to earn and save money for Yale.

Screen Shot 2019-04-14 at 12.47.48 PM

This time its a random older Black woman that request’s Rattigand’s services, which is even better because whens she disappears into the ether no one has to account for that. She was just an older Black woman with a knack for giving wisdom for some of life’s hardest questions. Isn’t that what we all deserve?

This sparks Rattigand’s quest to right his wrongs and question what he thought he truly wanted in life:  Ivy League. A girl that lacked a sense of humor but was pretty and rich. A BMW i8.

Swap hot girl for quirky, pixie-dream rich girl, Ivy-League for public university, and self-interest for  selective empathy. From there, all the loose ends are tied (as these things often are with actors and actresses that starred on Disney Channel at one point or another). There’s a grand romantic gesture, a sacrifice (no more pseudo-gigolo app), a dance, flashing lights… perhaps an apology for, Murph, our Magical Negro, a cut of the earnings maybe?

No, I mean, our protagonist is self-aware, but his emotional availability and accountability is limited to romantic themes. Murph gets a romantic interest in the end, applauds his best friends luck, and offers to be his roommate because next year they’ll attend the same university. Talk about equality, right?

So what’s all this hullabaloo about? It’s the fact that as a viewer I am supposed to find the protagonists lack of self-reflection, awareness, accountability, and pure usury of his “best friend” endearing. Sure, someone could bring to my attention that this little movie is just that, a movie—far removed from living breathing reality. But the problem is that it isn’t.

It seems television and Hollywood would emphasize that behind every tortured White soul there is a person of color as support, medium, and guide (literally Ghost). And that Brown and Black bodies are the bridging step between that White protagonist and their ability to love someone, repent, or even just take a moment and think about their actions. It gives moving picture and color to the idea that Black and Brown bodies, hearts, and minds exist at the expense of White person learning some common sense and life lessons. 

We all deserve better.

When Campus Feminism Isn’t Good Enough & Neither is the Campus Times

So recently, I dared to  extend my writing abilities to the Campus Times, and wrote a club profile for their features section. There had been talk that they were in  need of interesting and meaningful features, and I figured I had the story that fit those parameters. I had been lending my eyes and ears to the Womanist Club for some time, and I felt that their journey to club recognition was empowering.

The Womanist Club has been making their debut through their Womanist Week programming that touches on topics like  black women in stem, the hijab, the Latinx identity, the Asian patriarchy, and violence against trans woc. If you can, support intersectional feminism and attend!

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 8.18.15 PM
Click on it and say you’re going!

I felt compelled to write this profile  because given the climate of diversity at this school, clubs that advocate for social awareness more often than not tend to take on one voice—one that isn’t very colorful to say the least.  In the case of campus feminism, there hadn’t been a group that had said, ” Hey guys, here is another way to practice or further explore feminism.” The Womanist Club is the pioneer of that approach.

Many times these questions and concerns weren’t addressed to us women of color, but to reach out to College Feminists […] asking for their permission essentially to exist as a group.

-Taylar Mouton, Womanist Club President

I encourage you to read the Campus Times article yourself…

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 8.44.45 PM
Excerpt from CT article, click to read more


However, understand that the article has been doctored by the Campus Times and because of the disposition of some their staff, their process, and my ensuing graduation, I will most likely never be writing for them again. Alright lets break down the receipts.

judge judy facepalm GIF by Agent M Loves Gifs-source

DISCLAIMER: if you’re a member of the CT and none of what I’m about to disclose applies to you, then feel free to chill out 🙂

Long story short, some people in the CT who dedicate the extra moments of their lives to communicatory practice, don’t actually know how to communicate.

I was diligent to present my pictures, my rough draft on time, and respond to edits. Despite being told that my feature would be placed in the print edition, alas, Monday comes and  it was nowhere to be seen. One of my sources asked if it would print next week, in hopes that she would see her name or face in the paper. I had to explain that due to the dates in they story, printing it late wouldn’t do. After doing some reflecting, I had a bit of forgiveness because I figured that the online edition was better than nothing.  After all, climate change…save the trees…

However, I looked throughout the day and its wasn’t there.  I contacted a member of the CT staff the next day to ask for a confirmation of the article upload. I am given a mix of responses along the lines of “Its not in my control,” “There’s a lot going on,” and “I don’t have time for this.” Most of all, I was met with a lack of transparency.

F U  F A C T: If you are not a columnist, Campus Times will not allow you to view the final edits of your work.  Which means that what you see online or in print may include content changes that you didn’t authorize.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for grammar, clarity changes, and making things concise. In my first draft I didn’t define the word “misogynoir.” The CT, rightfully so, added a hyphen and attempted to define the term in the article.

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 11.17.19 PM

The correct definition of misogynoir simply means misogyny against black women. Hence the suffix “-noir.”  That’s it.

I later learned, without conferring with me as a writer, the CT added this:

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 11.10.12 PM

I never reached out to Alex Guerrero, but the CT felt the need to write on my behalf, ironically for the sake of seeming fair and transparent. If the quote that my sources provided was not false, what is the reason for giving a quote that simply confirms what that source already said? further more, why wasn’t I simply asked about providing a corroboration of the quote?

There were other edits that were made without my input. Many of them just resulted in a few clunky sentences here and there.

Why can’t the editing process be a full collaboration between the writers and editors?

After discussing this all with a journalism professor he failed to see how it was a quality journalistic practice. When I asked a member of the CT why this rule existed, they couldn’t give me answer. Those that staff the CT should be able to amply defend the practices they abide by. Being unable to do so creates contingencies that affect the general credibility of the CT.  So maybe the next work assignment for the CT should be actually finding the logic behind their “practices”, because clearly this isn’t what transparency in a newsroom is supposed to look like. The above practice reinforces a heavy hierarchy that shouldn’t exist, and allows too much leeway for people who may not have special knowledge of social issues to fudge up the details of a story when they have no reason to do so.

Revolutionary acts look like defending the relevancy of your club to complete strangers over and over again. Submitting a feature piece to the CT shouldn’t be a revolutionary act. It shouldn’t have to be appealing to a dismissive panel of editors in hopes that they won’t mishandle a story you wrote. A contributor shouldn’t have to suffer inconsistencies and lack of follow through that allows for their story to slip the cracks. Respect and collaborative editing shouldn’t be reserved to columnists. Internal conflicts of a newsroom shouldn’t impact a contributor’s work or the overall due process of a small university newspaper.

Advice to Campus Times: Try actually listening to all your writers because without  writers you wouldn’t have a paper print.

Thank you to those of CT who do the best they can to offer transparency and quality communication. You know who you are. Keep doing what you’re doing.