Afrosurrealism, Aristotle, and Racial Presence in Netflix’s Luke Cage

Angela D. Mack
Texas Christian University
Fort Worth, Texas, USA


This essay examines Netflix’s Luke Cage as a rhetorical reading of racial embodiment and productions of the cultural identity of Blackness and People of Color, and the tensions they produce to help audiences understand the current climatic flux between racial hostility and American idealism. With only two seasons in the small-screen version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Cheo Hodari Coker’s adaptation of the 1970s Blaxploitation Power Man comic foregrounded the recent wave of superhero narratives that expanded minority/gender representation from both major comic houses (MCU and DC Extended Universe [DCEU]). This examination employs the lens of Afrosurrealism, a conceptual framework of understanding Blackness through its many complex manifestations of cultural and aesthetic representations in art across time. It is through this Afrosurrealist concept where references to race such as “Black”, “Brown”, “White,” and “People of Color” are applied to describe specific people groups/collectives throughout this essay. Using Afrosurrealism, I argue that Luke Cage can be analyzed through Aristotle’s three species of rhetoric: the judicial rhetoric of the past, the epideictic rhetoric of the present, and the deliberative rhetoric of the future. By using these three rhetorical branches, this analysis demonstrates a diasporic reading of race with Harlem as its bridge to the “realms” of New York City and beyond. This reading of a Black superhero’s world, Luke Cage’s “Harlem World,” thus brings about an awareness of a necessary racial presence, resulting in a grounding of racial realities, that subverts an ideal post-racial afterlife in the post-Obama “American” universe. By understanding the show’s characters and the setting of Harlem as another type of Americana manifestation, an America that from its origin to its current iteration is constructed through race, we can continue to learn the significance of representation and how working through issues of race for African Americans and People of Color impacts everyone. If we continue to resist the racial tensions and realities in our social climate, then we run the risk of contributing to the racial issues we say we would like to help heal. 

Keywords: Luke Cage, race, rhetoric, Afrosurrealism, Aristotle, Marvel, MCU

Author Bio

Angela D. Mack is a PhD student at Texas Christian University studying Rhetoric and Composition. Her research areas include poetry/poetics, rhetorics of performance, sound studies, and critical race and ethnic studies. She has taught composition and poetry courses incorporating popular culture and multimodality in her classrooms.

Suggested Citation


Mack, Angela D. “Afrosurrealism, Aristotle, and Racial Presence in Netflix’s Luke Cage.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 7, no. 2.


Mack, A. D. (2020). Afrosurrealism, Aristotle, and Racial Presence in Netflix’s Luke Cage. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 7(2).

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