‘American Society of Magical Negroes’ Hurts Race Relations Post-George Floyd

Race satire starts strong before embracing toxic views, boring woke critiques

Race relations in America took on a tense atmosphere in 2020 following the death of George Floyd. Protests sprung up nationwide, sparking the rise of DEI initiatives across society.

Just as it seemed like black and white Americans could get back to engaging on a human level, a new movie arrives to set the flames ablaze again in the guise of satire.

“The American Society of Magical Negroes” was a much-anticipated comic fantasy at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but it received a terrible reaction from reviewers. Critics either thought it was too negative about race relations in the U.S. or not critical enough.

True to that debate, the movie is hopelessly confused and rarely funny, a dull mishmash of styles and tones with a poisonous point of view.


It follows Aren (Justice Smith), a 27-year-old black man who wants to be an artist but struggles to sell his creations. While the movie tries to spoof white gallery attendees as clueless about how great his art is, the facts are the facts.

Aren makes ugly art. He strings together thousands of dollars of yarn for abstract pieces no sane human would want in their home.

Things are made worse by the fact that Aren constantly cowers from and apologizes to any white person he comes across, as if he is beneath their existence. When the gallery owner tells him to pack up his exhibit and forget about showing future work at her gallery, Aren throws his creation in a dumpster.

What he doesn’t know is that an older bartender named Roger (David Alan Grier) has been watching his feeble interactions all night. When a misunderstanding leads two white men to attack Aren, Roger magically appears to save the day.

The mysterious Roger invites Aren to join his secret organization: The American Society of Magical Negroes.

(The concept of the “magical Negro” took off following Will Smith’s 2000 fantasy “The Legend of Bagger Vance.” Smith’s character kept showing up to make a white golfer’s life and golf game magically better).

The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

The Society exists to have blacks agree to enter white people’s lives and try to prevent their “White Tears.” It’s a somewhat funny idea as popular culture has made comic sport of complaining “Karens” and inane “White people problems.”

But then Roger explains that “the most dangerous animal of all is a white person,” and that they must be kept happy at all costs or they will endanger black people.

The movie immediately plunges from satire to pushing toxic ideas.

Aren joins the Society and is assigned to a white website designer (Skylar Astin) at a Facebook-style platform called Meetbox. The company needs a new logo due to widespread criticism of it being white-focused. Enter Aren, tasked with helping Skyler create a new, inclusive design.

When Aren is drawn to a white woman named Lizzie (An-Li Bogan), Roger tells him he’s endangering the mission of the Society and putting black people everywhere at risk.

Worse yet, the designer he’s helping is after her, too.

Will Aren do as the Society tells him? Or will he stand up for himself at long last and seek true love?

“American Society” starts strong, despite a heavily woke agenda, thanks to Grier’s jovial performance and clever gags about racial differences.

The film starts falling apart the longer the movie drags on. Writer/director Kobi Libii loses a good deal of the humorous bite and settles into a woe-is-me victim mentality via Aren. That includes some negative speeches by Roger about how terrible white people and America are.

But the movie fails at even this darker agenda by having a serious lack of storytelling ambition. While we are told that the Society’s efforts to placate white people are key to saving black people everywhere, there’s no excitement to be had as the movie bogs down into the tepid will-they-won’t-they machinations of Aren and Lizzie’s romance.


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One black man in my audience was overheard early on laughing continuously and saying, “This is my new favorite movie!” By the last half hour, he was yawning.

That vibe emanated throughout the audience (I was the only white person in the theater). The big, early laughs dried up, and the movie’s last hour was met with stone silence.

“The American Society of Magical Negroes” raises a host of disappointing questions.

If you’re trying to show the magical characters saving the world, why waste time worrying about just one bland, underwritten white character? That focus kills any strong satire and makes the entire movie dull for viewers of all races.

Another illogical note – if the movie is about black empowerment, why does Aren obsess over having a white girlfriend? And how does a movie set in 2024 America, with black people succeeding at the highest echelons across American society and written and directed by a black male, think that anyone wants to see a black man who cowers throughout the film rather than taking action to achieve his dreams?

Dumbest of all, who thought of financing a movie whose very title is an insult to the black community and impossible for a white person to say at a ticket counter without drawing stares (as happened to me)?

Only Grier seems to be trying in the movie. Once Roger falls into hateful rhetoric, the movie collapses. 

American Fiction” – now on streaming – handled race-related satire a million times better. It also scored a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar this year.

Race remains a ripe, albeit tricky topic for comedy, with 1974’s “Blazing Saddles” being a perfect example. If the subject interests you, check out either “American Fiction” or the Mel Brooks classic before this “Society.”


  1. This movie that practically NO ONE WILL SEE , will HURT RACE RELATIONS.

    UH…I’ll take things a racist who was predisposed to hate both the movie and the color of the people in it , would say . For 200 Alex!

  2. By it’s very title the producers/authors make very clear this movie is not intended for me. Therefore, I shall oblige them and spend my money elsewhere.

  3. Welcome back! Thank you for your review. I used to read your reviews on Catholic World and I see you are once again reviewing movies.

  4. A barrel of laughs. Premise is like something that Wes Anderson should tackle someday.
    The magical negro didn’t originate with the Will Smith film. It was always around as a plot device. Sort of like a MacGuffin…. BlacGuffin.

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