Sunday, 23 November 2014

Movie Critic Article: The Black SuperHero

"There are heroes... there are superheroes... and then there's Hancock"

Article by: Elham Abdelkhalig*

The new thing about the movie Hancok (2008) is that it presents a black superhero which is a rare event if we look back into Hollywood's history where the typical image is that of a white, wealthy, kind, lovable and superstrong superhero. But does this movie present an
ideal black superhero? That is what I am going to work on.
The three characters I will engage with are, John Hancock the superhero, Ray Embrey a public relations man, and Mary who is Ray's wife.
John Hancock (Will Smith) is a black man, who is presented in this movie as a superhero with super- strength. He is immortal. He can fly and he has a natural bullet shield yet he is a homeless alcoholic who is vulgar, filthy and unshaved. He swears and some times he harasses women. Hancock's ethnic identity as a man of color categorizes him with radicalized groups. Being homeless and with no family implies that he belongs to the low socio-economic class and so he is fit to be a member of a marginalized group. He is a young, superstrong man who is supposed to save the city and fight crime, but still one cannot see the reflections of his physical abilities on his social status.

The second character is Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) who is a white, middle aged male; a father of one son and a husband. He is a public relations consultant who lives in a decent house in a suburban part of the city. As it is indicated, he belongs to the dominant social group and the fact that he works in a decent job and lives in a nice house in a quiet neighbourhood shows that he is a member of the middle class.

The third character is Mary (Charlize Theron). She is a white house wife who is young and pretty. She is the stepmother of Ray's son .The movie shows that she used to be a superwoman in the distant past but chose to hide her super strength and preferred to live  a quiet life as a house wife. Mary seems to be quite happy with the gender roles that characterize the social setting. Not only this but further more she traded her life as a superwoman for a normal life of a middle class white woman. I guess she acknowledges division of labor as she seems so integrated with her role.

Despite the fact that Hancock is a superhero who fights crime and arrests criminals, people seldom appreciate what he does, unlike what it used to be with other heroes like Superman. Even children insult him and call him an (a.. hole).
The fact that Hancock is being presented as a homeless alcoholic assaulter and law breaker categorizes him in the outcast social entity. People are ready to appreciate the typical superhero to supposedly be white, middle class, handsome and a family man. The movie presents Hancock as indifferent towards his super power. It tries to attribute this indifference to his ignorance of his own identity because he suffers from some sort of

I should mention that the movie does not address racial issues at any point but the fact that Hancock is a black man makes it clear that there are ethnic issues here. This disoriented black superhero needed a white man to help educate and polish him and hence present him to the society. Ray Embrey has influence on Hancock which I could say is a representation of the white man's supremacy and domination over the black man; a representation of the power of the educated white man over the ignorant black man; of the middle class white man over the homeless black man. More over, we will discover that Mary (Ray's wife) was Hancock's wife thousands of years before and that she abandoned Hancock and chose to live a normal life next to a white man who is able to provide her a quiet and good life! Mary had decided that she did not need the superpower which she had. What she really needed was to live with a lovable, able middle class white man, in a typical family structure. This presents Mary as a woman who appreciates and commits to the social construction of gender that denies women's super power and does not recognize women outside of the assigned social roles.

Hancock's ability to make decisions on his own life is very limited if not completely absent. Most of the fateful decisions on his life are taken by Ray, the public relations consultant. When Hancock accepts Ray's offer to improve his social image, this defines him as helpless and unable to figure his way out and that strips him of his own free will. When Hancock agrees to go to jail to compensate for some of the destruction he had caused to public property during his missions, this critical decision is taken on behalf of him. Being jailed means being criminalized and hence needs to be corrected because he is not fitting into the proper social image. The movie presents Hancock as a man without will power which is symbolic of his social identification as a man of color; of low socioeconomic class and as a criminal. Hancock experiences so many barriers and obstructions to social access that make him a marginalized person.
Ray in most of the movie is the decision maker. He has full control over his life; he has a wife, a son, a house, and a good job. He is almost never in a situation that forces him to give up something, except when the logo he presented to his boss at work is rejected, which indicates that the position he occupies is lower than the position occupied by the decision makers in his job. When Ray decides that Hancock should change to fit in the superhero's social image, and succeeds to make this change, he does this because of his education and career which is dominant over Hancock's limited mental and intellectual abilities. He does not only have "agency" on his own life but also on other people's lives such as Hancock's. Ray's "agency" is also reflected by the fact that he is married to Mary who used to be Hancock's wife! This defines Ray as the privileged man who can get what he wants including..other people's wives! He is supported by culture, class and race. He is socially accepted and that is why Mary accepted him and refused Hancock.


On the other hand, Mary who wanted a quiet and normal life could not have it until she gave up her super powers. That means having the life she is looking for was conditioned by giving up something which is part of her nature, so she is not free in this decision. This could be connected directly to the embedded social roles of women, which has nothing to do with being a super mother with extraordinary physical powers!
Hancock is generally presented as a violent superhero who has no control over his massive physical strength. In every rescue mission he does, he causes huge destruction to the surroundings. Even when he saved Ray's life, he caused death to another man.  He is also presented as sexually violent in the sex scene where you can see a condensed violent behavior. More over, the woman he was having sex with was just a little girl which implies that he is an assaulter.  Hancock is presented as deviant from social norms and as a man with no identity (he suffers from amnesia, which makes him mad at the whole city) so he does not care what destruction he makes. Being homeless and lonely makes him ethically insensitive, irresponsible and violent towards the whole social structure.
Ray on the other hand, is far from any kind of violence. He is a quiet man who always stays away from trouble, so we see no violence connected to him except when he defends Hancock and kills the criminal who wanted to kill Hancock. Ray, as a white middle class and family man, lives a perfect life. There is nothing that can get him into trouble.
Mary who traded her super powers for an ordinary family life, needs only be violent with Hancock. This is the only moment she experiences violence. The metaphor is used here to ascertain the stereotypical assumption that white women need to face black man's sexuality with violence. Other than this Mary is happy and satisfied with her life in a stable middle class home with Ray.

Hancock is a movie that reinforces stereotypes related to different kinds of oppression. Hancock, the protagonist, is almost the only black superhero who has a tremendous amount of physical abilities like Spiderman and Superman, yet fails to win people's appreciation. The character is imprisoned in the embedded biased conception of black people by the dominant culture.
Hancock is a movie devoted to alienate otherized, profiled black people; is a promotion of stereotypes. Ray is the typical white supremacist, the source of knowledge, the man who has power on others. Mary's is the typical gender role designed by the social system for women that does not acknowledge women having any other role than being a mother and a house wife. It denies women any super power!
Hancock is a movie that cites an example of popular culture which asserts never to 'judge a book by its cover!'.  Always look for the hidden messages behind it, which could be signals and markers to the way the dominant culture views others and works, intentionally or unintentionally, to pass hegemonic conceptions on and about them.

* Elham Abdulkhalig is a post-graduate student. She lives in Toronto, Canada.

Readers  of this post will be treated to an exciting 'other' side of the writer. Elham is also a singer-songwirter! There is an audeo clip for her down below the Will Smith trailer!

Movie Specifics:

Hancock (2008), 92 min

Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance, Comedy. 
Cast: Will Smith, Jason Bateman, Charlize Theron
Music by: John Powell, Screenplay: Vincent Ngo
Director: Peter Berg
budget:  $150 million. Box office: $624,386,746
Watch The Movie Trailer:

Elham is also a talented Singer-Songwriter:


First Published on Oct. 22, 2012 @ 10:23 PM

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

بَزقَللِي، عفيف إسماعيل

"مُنمْنَمَة حِكائيَّة"


لا يُبادرُ بالتحيّة أبداً!، كما هو حالُ أهل مدينته الصّغيرة؛ الذين يَتصافحون في اليوم أكثرَ من مائة مرّةٍ بمودّةٍ صافية!، ولا يَطلبُ أيّ شيءٍ مِن أحَد!، ولا يَشكرُ أحداً على إحسانه إليه!، لكن كلّ مَن حوله يُدركون ماذا يرُيد فورَ حضوره، ويُبادرون بإعطائه قبل أن يَنطق بحرفٍ واحد، ويُطْرِقون خجلاً يخالجه ارتباكٌ فاضحٌ مصحوبٌ باحمرارٍ في الأعين والوجوه. دائماً تَغْشَى الأمكنةَ التي يَعبر بها يومياً سحابةٌ مهيبةٌ من الصّمت الـمُعْدِي تظلُّ عالقةً بفضاء المكان إلى حين ابتعاده، وتُشيِّعه نظراتٌ عطوفةٌ مصحوبةٌ بدعواتٍ وابتهالاتٍ صادقةٍ تَدعو له بالرّحمة ولُطف القضاء. صاحِب البقالة يُعطيه ستَّ سيجارات روثمان وكبريت، ونصف رطل من السكّر، وقليلاً من الشاي، وبعض توابل، وصابوناً لغسل الملابس.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Nectar! This Morning by Shakir Abdalrahim

By Shakir Abdalrahim himself. The romantic guy with a matchless technique of baring behind fret No.12 in a standardly tuned guitar. A swift, brief arrest. A second of incarceration in a chord. A bonus for the listening ear.
Shakir will always be associated with this simple shift achieved by his pinky. He loves simple arpeggios that emanate of fleeting auditory bliss. His style has remained the same since we used to sit for hours listening and playing through the night in that past of uncertain pleasures and illusory colors orchestrated by poverty, unease and unrelenting hope.
Shakir's style is simplicity that oozes with quality sounds.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

اعتداء، طه جعفر


بقلم طه جعفر

كان مهتماً و منزعجاً قليلاً  و ربما خائف و لو لا هذا الارتباك لما فعلها فالوقت متأخر، ليس من احتمال لأي بص أو تاكسي أو حتى دفّار، الحركة قليلة في الطريق. شمال سوق ود نوباوي في هذا الوقت من الليل. يمر قليلٌ من رواد

Monday, 10 November 2014

An Entity Unknown By: Mohamed Hamad- Translated From Arabic

Text by: Mohamed Hamad

Translated by: Mustafa Mudathir

There is a tiny mystery;
an entity unknown
that hymenates our souls
for reasons undisclosed
with a plasticine of thinness
a sleazy film of boredom
to blunt our insistence
in dealing with existence.
And verily those same songs, 
enchanted as they are
that ornament affect, the deepest and inmost,
are turned to mere phonations
that tend to bore at most.

The things you sought with passion
are now dispelled around you
devoid of early value, or heavily under-rationed.
You like it, oh! no more,
the stretching on your bed
Nor do you like rising
and nothing is surprising.

Your cup of tea, whose edges
are occupied with white,
fitly tight but slight
arrangements of foam
in a faintly soaring vapor
is sipped with only half the usual kind of fervor.

With both your lungs employed
you only get some faint amount of air.
And every time you feel that
filament on your soul,
it gets the thicker and firmer.
I know it is illusory.
It surely doesn't exist.

But can this ever resist
the working of that
tiny, unidentified being
wrapping my soul
in a filament, a flimsy membrane,
once and again and again.

حكايات قصيرة، حسن الجزولي


عندما راح يحكي معاناة المتطوعين في تلك الحرب اللعينة التي فُرضت عليهم فانتزعتهم من أحضان أسرهم وضحكات أطفالهم إلى أتون تلك المعارك، كان السحاب يتجمع في فضاء السماء الزرقاء بالخارج، ثم واصل الحكايات عن معاناتهم، دون أن يتطرق بشكل تفصيلي لما حلّ به هو شخصياً، كان يتحدث بحيادية دون أن يحمل أي ضغائن حتى للجانب الآخر من الذين كانوا يحاربونهم، إعتبر أن الجميع ضحايا لمواقف متشابكة ومتباينة من ناحية التقديرات والمواقف ووجهات النظر، في تلك الليلة وهم داخل ذاك العنبر الذي جمعهم مع أشتات من شعوب وقبائل أخرى  داخل المعسكر النائي، لمع البرق فجأة وانهمرت السماء مدراراً. عنّ له أن يمارس لهوه الجنوني وهو طفل في قريته، فخلع ببطء حذائه العسكري، ومد رجله الخشبية خارج نافذة العنبر، فبللت قطرات المطر الخشب السميك، بينما أخذ هو غفوة. 

Friday, 7 November 2014

Without Her (2)

Without Her (2)

She cast aside her charms for the sake of an intellectual image. That did not bother you. Keeping her by your side was all that mattered. You felt you could defer your yearning, you lust and build on them to a great promise. Oh God! was that why she went with the goalkeeper? because of..Where is his photo? I always wanted that album here and open! That's him. I clipped this from a sports magazine on the eve of their marriage. Tha caption blames a recent defeat on him. Mark this! His physique was more attracting than athletic. Then she made a choice that would not have occurred to you. Of course you knew that women marry for reasons you cannot foretell. They also marry without obvious reasons and, again without you being concerned

After getting married, he moved her from her culture-reviving ambiance to a peripheral setting fraught with infra-subsistence revelations and burgeoning emotions. Very early on, she dropped her previous contention for abortion along with tens of desires disclaimed. she maintained a foetus that was most likely disoriented and put on that eccentric attire to totally disrupt transmissions. It was no longer possible for her to return to metropolitan life. She glared at a printed word with complete stupor.
You will not redeem her by reminding her of those days of leverage. You think by sitting with her, you and your booted men, in any of your bureaucratic functions, you will redeem her? No sir! Forget it. It is of you that one is bereft. Always going to extremes in you petit prophecies.

She had delivered those exotic and varied speeches from mobile platforms at the students' cafe. Although she had talked seriously, you took the chance of her getting overwhelmed to pore over her body, not her talk. Her most enchanting corporal state revealed itself in the midst of her elocution. She had meant to show you that the world went on the very same way you thought it did not. She did not mean to embarrass you by that. The fate of things to her was so simple and devoid of surprises. It was her view that tales and anecdotes had their delights encapsulated into rubrics of directness and traditions of narration. She used to shoot at you: Talk like Brecht or Kafka and you never get things straightened!Her voice soared while her body, with it's delayed or rather subdued drives, did not seem to fit this very description. She would say,"They are the prophets of the ordinary, those who act according to courses and vicissitudes." She would ask you to "Take for instance.." a phrase she often used, "how those aliens entered our home?"
"It's a big story. They pierced through the tribal pride that took us decades to build and you know how?"
You would cling to your silence, knowing you weren't sure how. Then she would go on:
"O.K. Why did they stay so long? To teach us how to grow cotton? Why did they bring in the railroad? To flush your rural relatives into the alleys of Omdurman? Do you have definitive answers?"
You pondered the matter. Your face wore an affirmative expression. And, as if to commend that, she exclaimed,"Yes exactly! I would not take those twisted answers reiterated by the hypocrites! Forget them. They accepted half-truths or less. The fact is that we were dealt a fatal blow. Those aliens broke something that was deeply ensconced. Cherish was its essence, indeed. it is a simple and painful story."
But, because you had thought she went to extremes on that, you chose to watch, while she pled against what was held incontrovertible in that matter, with a passion that inflamed other passions and postures that concerned you a lot more. That scar did not concern you. The theory of defeat seemed to concern no one, either. It had no impact on the general sense of pride. Nothing made her face switch colors of denouncement like that little refrain she never tired of repeating: 'Even after they departed, we could not cope. Our denial of the scandal had trained us for more denials. We swept into labyrinthine roads, armed with obstinacy-the aggravation of denial. This a neurotic post-colonial reality'
Goodness! Beauty and mind gathered in one.

For thirty years, he was unable to see except through cracks in the husky ordinariness that encompassed him. Then, suddenly, one morning, while crossing the public road, he discovered how talented he was in forging methods of refusing the ordinary. He now wears one of those boots thea bang the ground in pursuit! He, too, is stretched out in some bleeding orbit, turning over his talent in his palms and blowing into them lest they be extinct.

Her's was an opposite transformation. Ordinariness was an axis she had known so well. A cradle that lulled the 'deeply rooted' in her. She leaned on it, sometimes, but mostly overstepped it. Then, it so happened that she lapsed into it, irretrievably.

- Don't try. It won't work.
- ...
- It is useless.
Don't butt the rock! Forget about her distinctions. You know where to get them.
- ....
- Abandon and don't cry. You really cry, eh? Well, if you cry....Are you crazy? I am telling you not to cry.
- ...
- Well, cool down a little. Be in your mind, fellow>
- ....
- Not to this extent. Don't. She won't be back.
- ....
- What the hell is this?

I leaned a little bit to the right to spit out a lump when I say them. They were still knocking the ground. Some of their details slid to float away, making me think...
Photos courtesy of Google.