‘Luke Cage:’ The Tone, The Visuals, And Using The N-Word In Marvel

luke-cage

With less than 24 hours before Luke Cage starts streaming on Netflix and pretty much consumes our lives this weekend, the production crew behind the upcoming Marvel TV show recently had the chance to sit down and discuss the upcoming show. Luke Cage himself (Mike Colter), showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker, and Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb talked about the upcoming show.

When talking about the tone and visual look of the show, Jeph Loeb talks about maintaining true to the characters, as well as the city they fight crime in. When discussing all of the Defenders, Loeb comments that the fifth defender is actually New York City. In Luke Cage, that part of the city in Harlen, NY, which is a distinct character as well.

“Luke Cage always has had a very distinct look to it. Specifically in terms of some of the things we talked about, we moved the story up into Harlem.”

When discussing the character of Luke Cage, Coker talks about him being a reluctant hero. Here is a guy who is indestructible, yet the people around him aren’t and that’s where he has to step up and be a hero. Coker drew his inspiration from spending time with rapper Notorious B.I.G. when he was a hip-hop journalist. He describes that Chris Wallace (Biggie’s real name) had to reconcile being both Notorious B.I.G. and Christopher Wallace. The same thing goes for Luke Cage reconciling being just a regular guy as well as a hero.

“That’s the thing with Luke. He didn’t ask for this powers or responsibilities. The people that he cares about end up dead. And so, part of what the arc of the first season really is about is, how does one reconcile being a hero, and how does one accept it and try to find their identity in it, particularly because he doesn’t have a mask and isn’t hiding. If we get a Season 2, it’s going to explore more of how a hero evolves, when most heroes have a mask or are able to hide certain aspects of themselves, but Luke is out there.”

“But when I think about identity and I think about Luke, that’s definitely an influence. Identity and the acceptance of responsibility is what drives him, as a person. What it allows the character to explore is evolution of a man, which is the best thing you can ask for on a series where you’re going to do this, over and over, in different ways.”

Coker has also described Luke Cage as a modern-day Western as well. When discussing the titular character he’s as much Shane as he is Shaft, in which he’s the “man with no name” who ends up a reluctant hero. Colter describes Luk’s Pathos.

“This hero steps into this other gear and becomes what we know he is, even though he’s reluctant to show us that side of himself. That’s what’s always appealing, when you know a person is a bad-ass and you know he can f*ck them all up, but he’s just holding back, and they keep on poking the bear until they get what they want. He doesn’t feel proud that he’s done this, but what are you going to do?”

One thing that will truly stand out in Luke Cage is that this will be a uniquely black show. Most of the principal cast consist of African-Americans, so the topic race will be on full display during the show. One thing that will be a first for the family-friendly Marvel Cinematic Universe will be the use of the dreaded n-word. It’s quite surprising that Marvel even went ahead with the show using such a charged word. For example, there is a line between bad guys Cottonmouth and his cousin Mariah where the word gets tossed around.

“But when the smoke clears, it’s n*ggas like me that let you hold on to what you got,”
“You know I despise that word.”
“I know. It’s easy to underestimate a n*gga. They never see you coming.”

When discussing approaching Marvel about the use of the word, there were some issues by the Disney-owned company as per Coker. He wanted the show to be authentic in the language that was used.

“They had some trepidation, I’m not gonna front. But my whole thing was that, in using this word, I didn’t want it to be comfortable. I wanted [it to be] that, every single time that it’s heard, you think about it.”

“I also really wanted the show to kind of live on its own terms of, This is what it’s like when you eavesdrop on black people talking to each other. That word, at times, will come up in certain ways.”

Jeph Loeb of course as the head guy would have a say in regards to the use of the word.

“When we first got the script in, we had a very honest conversation about how this was a world that was going to be grounded in reality, and that that’s a word that gets used. We were very comfortable in the fact that we have an African American writer and, in many cases, African American actors who were using that word. That’s the only thing we’re very careful about.”

“Would I say that that’s the language of the world of Jessica Jones, or is that the language of the world of Daredevil? No. It’s not.”

For the complete interview, check out Collider.

Luke Cage starts streaming on Netflix September 30th at 12:00 AM PST (3:00 AM EST)

Sources: Collider and Vulture

Khalil Johnson

Khalil Johnson

Khalil is a ride or die fanboy who was bitten by a radioactive blogger. Now, he uses his superpowers for online entertainment journalism. ...

  • Bruce Norris

    Does this mean little Billy can’t watch?

    • SAMURAI36

      I guess it depends on what you allow your kids to watch.

  • Axxell

    That’s for the next time someone says Marvel doesn’t take risks.

  • SAMURAI36

    I didn’t plan to see this before, but I’m definitely boycotting it now. There are plenty of Black TV shows that are of a “racy” nature (such as Empire), that don’t use the N-Word.
    Shame on Marvel for taking this route.

    • Axxell

      Shame on your hypocrisy…if they avoided it, we all know what you’d be doing here…

  • Dan McCarney

    Three episodes in and it’s not gratuitous at all. Like all of Netflix’s stuff, it’s basically a PG-13/R rated movie, similar to something you’d see on HBO, so it’s got that tone minus the nudity. And if you’re going to focus on that instead of how they’ve presented an exceptionally dignified and honorable black man as the hero of his own show, you’re either biased or stupid. Probably both.

    • SAMURAI36

      Three episodes in and it’s not gratuitous at all. Like all of Netflix’s stuff, it’s basically a PG-13/R rated movie, similar to something you’d see on HBO, so it’s got that tone minus the nudity. And if you’re going to focus on that instead of how they’ve presented an exceptionally dignified and honorable black man as the hero of his own show, you’re either biased or stupid. Probably both.

      Clearly this is in reference to me. I’ve never found LC to be a “hero” (especially since he’s originally a “hero for hire”). Beyond that, I find him to be quite contradictory. This is the same character in the comics, that chided Storm for not being a “true Black woman” because she had blue eyes and blonde hair, BUT he then ends up with this weird, manic depressive white girl that he turd burgles on their very first intimate encounter.

      I don’t think that Marvel handles Black issues particularly well. It always seems hamfisted, and/or one sided. Luke Cage is no exception. Also, I don’t find the “hood” story to be particularly appealing. “Superheroes in the Hood” even less so, and throwing old school Hip-Hop over urban stereotypes doesn’t make it any more so appealing.

      Also, using the N-Word one time, is one time too many for me. I don’t use the word at all, and I find it highly offensive when others (black or white) do. ANd just because it’s something’s on HBO, doesn’t make it an excuse to be offensive for drama’s sake. They could never use the word at all, and I’m sure it wouldn’t affect the quality of the show whatsoever. I’m sure fans of the character would never miss it.

      If you like it, good for you. But I have my REASONS for not liking it, and whether you agree with them or not, they are neither biased nor stupid.

      • Axxell

        We all know your reasons for criticizing anything from Marvel…

      • Dan McCarney

        Those are the comics, which definitely have cringe-worthy roots. This is different.

        Also, lets be totally frank — if this was a DC property you’d be losing your sh*t over it. Which is fine, we all have our preferences, but don’t pretend like you’re coming at this from an honest position. Even in an ocean of fanboys, you stand out from the crowd.

        As for the n-word, it’s so ubiquitous in pop culture that singling this show out is ridiculous — unless, as noted, we know why you want to crap on it in the first place. If you like, say, hip-hop, the use here isn’t anything different than anything you’ve heard on a thousand different albums. Indeed, in a couple of instances, it’s used specifically so Cage can tell the offender not to call him that, because he’s not one. Ham-handed, to be sure, but it’s not like a Tarantino movie or something ridiculous like that. Not even close.

        If you watched it, and gave it an honest chance, and you still didn’t like it (personally, I’d give it a B-minus at best, and that’s being generous) then that would be one thing. But to pull the “shame on Marvel” card is absolutely biased and stupid.

        • SAMURAI36

          Those are the comics, which definitely have cringe-worthy roots. This is different.

          How so? Please explain. Does he not turd-burgle the white chick? Oh, that’s right.. He did, in the Jessica Jones TV show. So how are they different from the comics, exactly?

          Besides, I saw the ad, where he’s in the Barber Shop, and the Black woman slides him her phone number. But that’s not who he ends up with. I don’t like those portrayals of fake Black Power guys, who are nothing but walking contradictions.

          Also, lets be totally frank — if this was a DC property you’d be losing your sh*t over it. Which is fine, we all have our preferences, but don’t pretend like you’re coming at this from an honest position. Even in an ocean of fanboys, you stand out from the crowd.

          If this was a DC property, they wouldn’t be throwing around the N-Word, and trying to pretend like it’s some sort of artistic portrayal. We’ve seen numerous Blacks in DC multimedia, and thus far, none of them have been portrayed in any such stereotypical way.

          I’m willing to bet you, that when Black Lightning comes out from DC on FOX, they won’t use the N-Word a single time.

          And so now, my not liking the N-Word isn’t an “honest opinion”??? I find the word offensive. I already explained this. Just because you don’t find the word to be offensive, doesn’t mean that it’s not.

          You’re trying to use my position as a DC Enthusiast as some sort of pole position in this “discussion”. You won’t win with that. Just because I prefer DC over Marvel, that precludes me from somehow being able to provide a valid reason for doing so.

          If you like Marvel, good for you. That doesn’t mean that everyone else has to.

          As for the n-word, it’s so ubiquitous in pop culture that singling this show out is ridiculous — unless, as noted, we know why you want to crap on it in the first place. If you like, say, hip-hop, the use here isn’t anything different than anything you’d here on a thousand different albums.

          So, it being “ubiquitous in pop culture”, somehow makes it less offensive? But I love how you think you’re going to tell me what I should and should not be offended by.

          And even if Hip-Hop using the N-Word was somehow an exception for me (which it’s NOT), not all Hip-Hop artists use that word. So what’s your point, exactly?

          Indeed, in a couple of instances, it’s used specifically so Cage can tell the offender not to call him that, because he’s not one. Ham-handed, to be sure, but it’s not like a Tarantino movie or something ridiculous like that. Not even close.

          Good for them. Let me know when I’m supposed to care. And LMAO at you trying to make some sort of Tarantino comparison, as if that somehow excuses it.

          If you watched it, and gave it an honest chance, and you still didn’t like it (personally, I’d give it a B-minus at best, and that’s being generous) then that would be one thing.

          First off, I don’t have Netflix, and I’m d&mn sure not going to sign up for it, to watch this POS show.

          Second, I choose not to watch all sorts of stuff all the time; reality TV, Fox News, BET, Marvel, College sports, religious TV, etc.

          And I’ve watched/read enough of Marvel, to know that I don’t like Marvel, so there goes whatever bogus point you were trying to make.

          But to pull the “shame on Marvel” card is absolutely biased and stupid.

          Your continuing to say it, will perhaps one day make it true. But not today.

          • Dan McCarney

            It’s different in that this Luke Cage is not the ridiculous jive-talking, blaxploitation-inspired “hero for hire” Luke Cage that was the foundation for the character. And he’s definitely not a “fake black power guy,” whatever the F that is.

            There’s nothing special about it, to be frank, so it’s definitely not different in that sense. But he’s got your basic motivation — wanting to help people, no strings attached — that most other superheroes do. So when you say “I’ve never found LC to be a ‘hero'” that is certainly not the case for this iteration.

            As for the rest, I’m not going to play any ridiculous games with you. The single, solitary reason you’re crapping on this is because it’s Marvel. Which, again, isn’t the issue. If you’d said “I’ve watched/read enough of Marvel, to know that I don’t like Marvel” and just left it at that, fine. I’m in the same position with DC. To each their own.

            But when you start to add the moral component on top of that, you’re not fooling anybody, regardless of how many pearls you clutch to your chest. Again, no game playing, so the ensuing denials mean jack squat. But I can guarantee you that, at some point in your life, you’ve enjoyed something, be it a movie or music or whatever, that’s featured the n-word in it and you’ve still enjoyed it, delicate sensibilities be damned.

            Because, yeah, unless you’re Bill Cosby, and what a cruel joke that would be, there’s a world of difference between me walking up to a neighbor and calling him a n***** and, say, the Wu-Tang Clan titling a song “Shame On A N****. I’m not even going to bother explaining or debating this because I don’t believe for a single second that you think otherwise.

            So keep on keeping on, I guess, just know that it’s pretty easy to see that you’re completely full of sh*t.

          • SAMURAI36

            It’s different in that this Luke Cage is not the ridiculous jive-talking, blaxploitation-inspired “hero for hire” Luke Cage that was the foundation for the character. And he’s definitely not a “fake black power guy,” whatever the F that is.

            Blaxploitation evolves over the years. It could be said that Lil Wayne is the modern day version of Blaxploitation. Just because they updated the show for modern times, doesn’t mean they don’t have negative stereotypes that people can find offensive.

            There’s nothing special about it, to be frank, so it’s definitely not different in that sense. But he’s got your basic motivation — wanting to help people, no strings attached — that most other superheroes do. So when you say “I’ve never found LC to be a ‘hero'” that is certainly not the case for this iteration.

            You’re doing a p!ss-poor job of selling this show, I hope you know. Really couldn’t care less.

            As for the rest, I’m not going to play any ridiculous games with you. The single, solitary reason you’re crapping on this is because it’s Marvel. Which, again, isn’t the issue. If you’d said “I’ve watched/read enough of Marvel, to know that I don’t like Marvel” and just left it at that, fine. I’m in the same position with DC. To each their own.

            You keep repeating the same nonsense over and over, as if it’s gonna win you a trophy of some sort. You sound like a fool. Not sure why it matters to you so much, that I don’t like this show. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

            And I’d already stated in my very first response, that I wasn’t gonna be watching this show in the first place, so what kind of “gotcha” moment do you think you are catching me in at this point?

            But when you start to add the moral component on top of that, you’re not fooling anybody, regardless of how many pearls you clutch to your chest. Again, no game playing, so the ensuing denials mean jack squat. But I can guarantee you that, at some point in your life, you’ve enjoyed something, be it a movie or music or whatever, that’s featured the n-word in it and you’ve still enjoyed it, delicate sensibilities be damned.

            Never said I didn’t. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to load up on an offensive term. But I think it’s crass to put it some comic book based TV show, in which the word doesn’t originally appear. They’re doing it for shock value, and that’s not something I appreciate nor condone.

            Because, yeah, unless you’re Bill Cosby, and what a cruel joke that would be, there’s a world of difference between me walking up to a neighbor and calling him a n***** and, say, the Wu-Tang Clan titling a song “Shame On A N****. I’m not even going to bother explaining or debating this because I don’t believe for a single second that you think otherwise.

            You’re not gonna bother, because you CAN’T. And as much as I liked Wu-Tang BACK IN THE DAY, I don’t care for their music anymore. It’s called GROWTH. You should try it sometime.

            And I have to be Bill Cosby, to not appreciate using the N-Word? You sound like a complete idiot. I could use this moment to educate you, with links and videos from Black comedians, professors, activists, actors, athletes and even rappers, who have sworn off the N-Word, but why bother? You’re too busy trying to paint me as “biased and stupid Marvel hater” to learn anything at this point.

            And ah yes, the “a” vs the “er” argument. Because that somehow makes it less offensive.

            So keep on keeping on, I guess, just know that it’s pretty easy to see that you’re completely full of sh*t.

            I tell you what…. Let’s find a way to exchange personal info. Feel free to come where I am, and go ahead and refer to me as the N-Word, and see how I respond. Then we’ll see how FOS I am.

          • Dan McCarney

            LOLOLOL…you just challenged me to a fight over the Internet.

            I’d never, ever, ever use that word to insult another human being, so no worries there slugger.

            But as for the rest, that you want anyone to believe that you’re legit offended by this, or would pretend otherwise if this was a DC property?

            Yeah, absolutely full of sh*t.

          • SAMURAI36

            Annnnnd, There’s my cue to hit the block button. Toodles, &$$-clown.

    • SAMURAI36

      Three episodes in and it’s not gratuitous at all. Like all of Netflix’s stuff, it’s basically a PG-13/R rated movie, similar to something you’d see on HBO, so it’s got that tone minus the nudity. And if you’re going to focus on that instead of how they’ve presented an exceptionally dignified and honorable black man as the hero of his own show, you’re either biased or stupid. Probably both.

      Clearly this is in reference to me. I’ve never found LC to be a “hero” (especially since he’s originally a “hero for hire”). Beyond that, I find him to be quite contradictory. This is the same character in the comics, that chided Storm for not being a “true Black woman” because she had blue eyes and blonde hair, BUT he then ends up with this weird, manic depressive white girl that he turd burgles on their very first intimate encounter.

      I don’t think that Marvel handles Black issues particularly well. It always seems hamfisted, and/or one sided. Luke Cage is no exception. Also, I don’t find the “hood” story to be particularly appealing. “Superheroes in the Hood” even less so, and throwing old school Hip-Hop over urban stereotypes doesn’t make it any more so appealing.

      Also, using the N-Word one time, is one time too many for me. I don’t use the word at all, and I find it highly offensive when others (black or white) do. ANd just because it’s something’s on HBO, doesn’t make it an excuse to be offensive for drama’s sake. They could never use the word at all, and I’m sure it wouldn’t affect the quality of the show whatsoever. I’m sure fans of the character would never miss it.

      If you like it, good for you. But I have my REASONS for not liking it, and whether you agree with them or not, they are neither biased nor stupid.