‘Green Book’: The Feel-Good Oscar Contender Has a ‘Magical Negro’ Problem — Analysis

  • Indiewire
‘Green Book’: The Feel-Good Oscar Contender Has a ‘Magical Negro’ Problem — Analysis
Dr. Donald W. Shirley was a piano prodigy of Jamaican descent who had mastered much of the standard concert repertory by age 10. “His virtuosity is worthy of gods,” Igor Stravinsky once said. Yet the idiosyncratic Shirley has been reduced to one of cinema’s long-standing racist stock characters in Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book.”

To be fair, “Green Book” doesn’t set out to be a Don Shirley biopic; however, the movie’s billed as essentially an interracial buddy comedy. Universal, which produced the film, plans to submit the true-life road trip film in the Best Comedy/Musical at the Golden Globes (although its eventual category placement will be determined by the Hollywood Foreign Press). American buddy comedies have generally mandated equal screen time to both characters — except when one of those characters is black, and exists almost entirely to help transform his white companion on a quest toward salvation.
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