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Is Adult Swim's Black Jesus the Savior We Need?

Bob Chipman | 18 Aug 2014 12:13
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Black Jesus may play like straight-up parody, but it's a comedy series that speaks directly to modern social controversy.

This past weekend, an otherwise average American town -- in Missouri, specifically -- looked for all the world like a dispatch from the Gaza Strip as a local police force rolled out enough hardware to cut a promo for the next Call of Duty against the town's own citizenry, who had assembled in public protest over the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by that same police department the previous week. It did not go well.

In the discussion surrounding the events, a narrative emerged in the media of a conflict over "depictions" of the shooting victim by the opposing "sides" of the debate in the press. On the protests' side, white-hot outrage at the police for releasing a video showing a man who may have been the victim committing an act of petty theft entirely unconnected to the shooting. On the other side, anger at the protesters (and their supporters in the press) for that outrage, and the renewal of ancient talking-points about the tendency to use well-composed family snapshots or graduation photos as the "default image" of such victims rather than "what they really looked like" (see: it somehow being relevant that murdered teenager Trayvon Martin had at some point worn gold teeth) -- as though the Liberal Media Boogeyman was covering up some incontrovertible proof that young black men really are just inherently scary enough for it to be justifiable (or "understandable") that panicky cops (or neighborhood watch vigilantes) might be scared enough to draw their guns and open fire as though The Predator was bearing down on them.

It's typical for that second group to refer to the "misleading" friendly images in spiritual terms for maximum "satirical" effect: "They tried to make him look like a cherub. A little angel. A saint." So it almost feels like something more than eerie happenstance that an accidentally-perfect parody (by exaggeration) of that innate absurdity -- bigots tacitly admitting through projection that young black men from the inner city would practically have to be Christ Himself to earn the benefit of their doubt -- emerged onto Adult Swim a week before any of this went down in the form of Black Jesus, a comedy series about the daily life of a young black man coping with (among other things) unfriendly police attention in poverty-stricken Compton, California... who just so happens to actually be Jesus Christ.

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