Writer’s Glossary: Magical Negro

Today on the Writer’s Glossary

Magical Negro

The magical negro is a trope, in which a black character sits on the sidelines imparting mystical wisdom to the white

Neo wished these magical negroes wouldn’t always speak in kooky riddles.

lead. The magical negro has no story of their own, they are simply there to support the white protagonist.

This trope has its roots in the ‘noble savage’, giving the magical negro access to an ancient wisdom, which they then use to help the white hero for some unknown reason. Not content with one magical negro, the Matrix films rely on both Morpheus and The Oracle to help Keanu Reeves’s character along his heroic path.

Note that any non-Caucasian culture can be victim of this trope. Native Americans, Chinese, Japanese and Australian Aboriginal people all receive the magical negro treatment on a regular basis and often have literal magical powers, but not always.

Avoid it by giving your non-white characters a purpose beyond their relationship to the white main character. What do they want for themselves? As film director Spike Lee said, “How is it that black people have these powers, but they use them for the benefit of white people?”

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6 thoughts on “Writer’s Glossary: Magical Negro

  1. Pingback: 9 Black Character Stereotypes to Avoid in Your Writing | Writers Anon - Taunton's Writing Group

  2. It’s also a get-out for writers who can’t be bothered to deal with a sticky problem. Got a puzzle you need to solve? Can’t be arsed to think of a good solution for it? Bring in the native mystic with mysterious or arcane knowledge and ‘splain away! In as much obsucre allegory as you care to infuse, of course!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello. “ancient wisdom”? My question along side Spike Lee’s would be, “what do we have to show for having this “ancient wisdom”? Where’s the pay off?

    Thanks for the moderation.

    Like

    • Thanks for stopping by, zobop republic. Yeah, I just took one very small part of a whole lecture Spike Lee did on this issue. I thought it was a pithy quote that sums up the central problem – black characters with power are only there to serve the white central character.

      Like

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