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The Curse of Bonnie Bennett and the Magical Negro Stereotype.

The Curse of Bonnie Bennett and the Magical Negro Stereotype.

Throughout the entire series run of The Vampire Diaries there’s been one character who has had the worst luck on the show, and that’s Bonnie Bennett the show’s resident witch (and hero in my eyes). Forget about Elena Gilbert and her “tragedy” the real tragic character is Bonnie Bennett, who joins a long list of token magical Negro characters in American cinema.

The Curse of Bonnie Bennett and the Magical Negro Stereotype.

Throughout the entire series run of The Vampire Diaries there’s been one character who has had the worst luck on the show, and that’s Bonnie Bennett the show’s resident witch (and hero in my eyes). Forget about Elena Gilbert and her “tragedy” the real tragic character is Bonnie Bennett, who joins a long list of token magical Negro characters in American cinema.

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From the get go, a character whose strengths were determined by how many white people she saved and how much of herself she sacrificed or how much of her soul she lost. I feel like the entire character of Bonnie Bennett, from her empowerment to her de-powerment to her death and all that she faced was just the white powers behind the show secretly sending out a message to black people that we can empower you so that you can use your new found power to service us and elevate the white people more.
How many times has this poor girl died for the white person? How many people, family, love interest has she lost for the white person? How many times did she disobey her ancestors for the white person? How many laws of natural magic did she break for the white person? Remember when home girl and her female ancestors banded together and sent hellfire back to hell just to save a town that’s played a part in her long running misery? Are black people’s soul just sacrificial lambs for white saviours in fiction?

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Bonnie’s trials and tribulations were 99.9% of the time centered on her white best friend who had two white male brothers pinning for her. Her death was not even about her but about said best friend. This got me thinking about all our favourite black characters in American cinema and how many of them are actually magical Negros (a term popularized by Spike Lee in 2001, when he was pissed at Hollywood execs for using the noble savage stereotypes in current cinema) and boy the results are shocking but I’m not surprised I mean it is racist America of course.
Spike Lee said this about The Legend of Bagger Vance:

"Blacks are getting lynched left and right, and [Bagger Vance is] more concerned about improving Matt Damon's golf swing! ... I gotta sit down; I get mad just thinking about it. They're still doing the same old thing ... recycling the noble savage and the happy slave."

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Magical Negros are usually amazing characters who are misused and they’re usually used for the aid of a film's white protagonists. The Magical Negro is also one of the wisest characters which is a common trope for them, so why haven’t they used their wisdom and strength to save the world?
Here are a few Magical Negro from movies you might recognize Kali (Stranger Things S2), Gus Mancuso (Passengers), Lucius Fox (The Dark Knight Trilogy), God (Bruce Almighty, Evan Almighty), About Fatma (The Four Feathers), Morpheus (The Matrix Trilogy). Look at these characters and their relationship with the white lead... characters who probably can do better than the white hero right?

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“So enlightened and selfless is he that he has no desire to gain glory for himself. He only wants to help those who need guidance, which just happens to mean those who are traditionally viewed by Hollywood as better suited for protagonist roles, not, say, his own oppressed people.” – Unknown

The white saviour narrative has been around for a long time in Hollywood and is probably a psychological thing for the white producers, writers and directors and even white consumers but it’s also psychological for the people of colour, as the white saviour mentality is something grand and amazing for the whites, it’s the complete opposite for us as it portrays us in a way which is possibly not true and somewhat offensive, demeaning and racist at times but Hollywood is Ray Charles to it.

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This white saviour narrative also seems to be a way in which white people can avoid conversations about racism, and other issues that concern POC. With this trope of the white saviour is important to white people as it is a device to make them forget/ignore their wrongs and gives them the power to say “we saved you people” with a smug look. The narrative will sacrifice great POC characters in order to sooth the ego and it will still be used regardless of the inherently racist overtones of the trope.

Even in this “age of change” Hollywood still finds a way to bring in the token magical negro and have them come sacrifice something for the white lead (mostly white male) or just come help them save the day while the whites reap the rewards and the negro just gets a thank you. Even the best Marvel movies use this trope (Iron Mans, Captain Americas – yes Don Cheadle and Anthony Mackie play the token magical negro characters) and I somehow feel like this trope might be sneaked into the already iconic Black Panther (yup there’ll be a magical negro to save Martin Freeman’s ass I’m 70% sure) even Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White in DC’s is a magical negro (if listen and watch closely you’ll see), so yeah not even the cash cow that is superhero films are safe from this.

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There seems to be a lack of trying from Hollywood to drop this trope and I guess this is another reason why POC feel like they’re not good enough to save the world or get the girl (or boy). They’re only good enough for a handshake. It’s a tradition that’s deeply imbedded into the roots of American cinema and I hope it’s a tradition that’s done away with in my lifetime because I’m pretty sure we can save the world too and get the girl (or boy), we too can be trapped in space with aliens seeking to destroy humanity. Actually we’re literally better than mayos in almost everything except mayoing.

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Film Television Vampire Diaries Bonnie Bennett Series articles

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