This week The Unenthusiastic Critic is eyeballin' Taylor Hackford's 1982 military melodrama An Officer and a Gentleman, starring Richard Gere, Debra Winger, Lisa Blount, David Keith, Lisa Eilbacher, and Louis Gossett, Jr.
First—and with all due respect to Gossett's Oscar-winning performance in An Officer and a Gentleman—we're talking about one of Hollywood's favorite troubling tropes, the "Magical Negro": the person of color who exists in the story only to help, advance, or redeem the white protagonist. We're talking about the problems with this trope, and tracing some of its variations, from Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind, through Dooley Wilson in Casablanca, to the many, many magical faces of Morgan Freeman.
Then, we're sitting down for Nakea's first viewing of An Officer and a Gentleman, to discuss Gossett's tough drill-sergeant with a heart of gold, the ethics of husband-trapping, and how the great Debra Winger deserved much, much better than an emotionally stunted asshole in an ice-cream suit.
0:00: Prologue: from An Officer and a Gentleman
1:16: Preliminary Conversation: Magical Negroes
22:11: Interlude: from Key and Peele's "Magical Negro Fight"
22:30: Cultural Osmosis: Pre-Viewing Discussion
33:22: Interlude: Original Trailer
35:30: The Verdict: Post-Viewing Discussion
1:20:13: Outro and Next Week's Movie
Notes and Links
—Movie Reviewed: An Officer and a Gentleman (dir. Taylor Hackford, Paramount, 1982)
—Videos Quoted: "Magical Negro Rehab," Astronomy Club; "Magical Negro Fight," Key and Peele.
—Links and Resources: "Stephen King's Super-Duper Magical Negroes," Nnedi Okorafor, Strange Horizons; "Why We Need to Stop Talking About the 'Magical Negro,'" James Braxton Peterson, Perception Institute; Roger Ebert's review, rogerebert.com; Richard Shickel's review, Time; Pauline Kael's review, The New Yorker; "Does Debra Winger Still Have Legs?" Holly Millea, New York; "Debra Winger Interview: 'Lots of People Don't Like Me,'" Jane Mulkerrins, Telegraph; "On Her Own Terms: The Work of Debra Winger," Max O'Connell, rogerebert.com; "Debra Winger: The Return of a Class Act," The Independent; "Debra Winger Drops Back In," Mark Harris, New York Times.
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