Black Satan Affirms My Caution

Just last month, I posted some thoughts discussing my frustration with lazy (or malicious) television writers that rely on tired stereotypes about Black men as rapists (see here). I was looking specifically at the “Game of Thrones” series but my concerns obviously extend to other visual media. My caution looks justified given the fuss over a recent depiction of Satan that some claim looks a little too similar to President Barack Obama (see here).

History Channel’s popular series “The Bible” recently unveiled Satan for its audience and its particular representation of the devil has drawn many raised eye brows. While nearly all of the commentary that I have read has focused on the character’s visual similarities to President Obama, I probably would have rolled my eyes at the choice of actor and his makeup even if they didn’t remind me of the President. I would still find it interesting that the series chose a Black actor to portray Satan.

I’ve only seen one episode of the show but thought that many of the actors and actresses had decidedly British looks and accents. I don’t think that strict faithfulness to historical context and the source material was a prime objective of the show’s producers. As such, they could have portrayed Satan in countless ways especially considering the limited descriptions of his physical appearance found in the Bible. So, why choose such a portrayal given America’s historical linking of dark skin to immorality and corruption? I don’t know much about the actor chosen to represent Satan but MSNBC identified him as Moroccan and the end product certainly has afro-centric features. It’s an odd choice to me.

“The Bible” is not some middle school play. It’s a production that has received widespread attention and has a considerable budget and distributive platform behind it. Given this high production value, one has to assume that what appears on-screen is vetted through numerous people. If the powers that be found no qualms with portraying no less than the personification of evil as a Black man, then I would appear more than justified in remaining vigilant about harmful portrayals of Black men as rapists.

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