I was walking down the street one day when I passed a guy in a black leather coat and Oakley-style sunshades. He was black, and his particular choice of clothing, I think, was supposed to evoke Blade, the only African-American comic book character to be depicted in three movies (And the first such character, out of about three attempts, to make it to a second film.). As far as any movie franchise goes, the fact that two are very watchable is a pretty big accomplishment — one that extends to someone wanting to look like the franchise’s main character.
The guy was probably about twenty years old, and his mannerisms – taking short, unsure looks at passersby — didn’t scream confidence. But I had to hand it to him: in a world full of heroes that didn’t look like him, he wasn’t taking the traditional route. He didn’t go with trying to be like the kind of rappers whom tend to be the easy role models in predominantly black, poor areas—rappers whose odes to their egos and ids have an instant appeal for people whom haven’t seen themselves, or reflections of themselves, around much else.
It’s never great that people need escapism into a world that’s more than they can get out of than the actual one, but that’s the one that most of us live in. And the stuff that gets produced to that effect rarely takes into account someone who looks like Wesley Snipes. There are many minorities devoted to worlds that, if they even contain anyone whom looks like them, have them as nothing more than one-dimensional peripherals. And I get it. Ideally, there’s no such thing as a minority; there’s just people who could be described as one. And one would miss out on a lot of worthwhile reading and viewing if one weren’t able to get lost in majority-driven worlds that have come to be a default. But that’s a little hard to reconcile with the idea of a healthy view of someone’s own naturally non-default looks.
What I mean is, take away Blade, and where would that guy in the Oakley’s be?
As portrayed in the movies, the Blade character (born Eric Brooks) is a human-vampire hybrid. A vampire attacked his mother while she was pregnant with him, subsequently giving the future Blade most of a vampire’s strengths and keeping him somewhat human. He’s stoic, a tad bit arrogant, and his devotion to hunting vampires has made him their version of a scary myth. Also being partly made by creatures of the horror genre makes him part-monster. To Guillermo Del Toro, the director of the second Blade film, this can apparently be a heroic quality. Del Toro once said on a panel that “he prefers the monsters of horror because ‘monsters are a living, breathing f*** you’ to the f***ed-up valuation of perfection in our society. (Via Collider)” – Except the actual statement was a bit less asterisk-stricken.
I guess that’s why I liked seeing the guy who would be Blade that day, even though I know that other people, especially the ones in their own various costumes, may look down on the guy. Hopefully he toned it down a little, and hopefully future iterations of Blade will continue to make him feel like he wouldn’t have to be that different to have a place at the table where people make a difference. And who knows? Maybe he won’t need that quite so much.
It also has to be noted that the first Blade movie also has a really kick-ass, intelligent black, female protagonist. And the second one has an interesting, (but slightly less, kick-ass, it has to be said) Hispanic one.