African American Tropes

     The movie and comic character Heimdall from the Marvel universe is a very good example of the “magical negro” trope that popular in current media. The magical negro trope is defined by a black (sometimes elder) side character that is wise and often leads the white protagonist on a journey of fulfillment. These characters, like Heimdall, also have magical or spiritual powers. This trope places black characters into a sidekick role, one who guides the white protagonist to success or fulfillment, usually at the expense of their own. With Heimdall’s character specifically, he is seen to guide and aid Thor on many occasions throughout the movies. He is skilled in combat, and can quite literally see and hear everything. He is never the center of attention, nor is his character even written to crave it. Yet he does help the white protagonist to the big fight and win in the end of the movie. He dies while trying to save Hulk by sending him back to Earth. He is then stabbed by Thanos as he gives one last look to Thor. He sacrifices his life for the white protagonist until the end. Even as a loyal and wise friend of Thor, he regularly puts himself in danger to aid him. This trope pushes black characters to the side role

     This KFC commercial is a good example of the popular trope in the media that black people love fried chicken. The short commercial depicts a white man that is in the middle of many West Indian Cricket fans that says “Need a tip when you’re stuck in an awkward situation.” He then proceeds to pass around a bucket of chicken to the crowd. The West Indian fans are cheering and dancing in their seats but quiet down when they start eating his fried chicken. While made in Australia (where apparently no such stereotype exists) this commercial feeds into the racist trope of black people and fried chicken. This can be supported by racist caricatures that were drawn of black people in the 19th century, a lot of the time they were depicted eating fried chicken. This specific commercial feeds into the trope as the white man is visibly uncomfortable by the fans surrounding him so he is able to subdue them with fried chicken. It also feeds into the narrative that black people are rowdy or loud. They are at a game so why would it be outrageous if they were cheering loudly?

    This Chinese art exhibit is a good example of the “brutish/animalistic” trope that plagues black people, but especially black men. In the exhibit there are African people being compared to animals like gorillas, giraffes and wild cats. This racist art perpetuates the trope that is used in much of the media today. Black people are very heavily compared to animals like monkeys and while this stems from long ago it still continues today. This racist trope stems from slaveowners and was used to justify slavery and lynchings. Scientists at the time had long compared black people and just African people as animalistic and savage. This racist art (which the museum again said was unintentional) perpetuates and continues this racist trope. 



“KFC Pulls Fried Chicken Ad after Racism Outcry.”, NBCUniversal News Group, 8 Jan. 2010, 

“KFC Accused of Racism over Australian Advertisement.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 6 Jan. 2010, 

“Now That Danny Baker’s Been Fired by the BBC, a Brief History of ‘Monkey Racism’ – Gal-Dem.” Gal, 10 May 2019, 

“Magical Negro.” TV Tropes, 


  1. Incredibly Racist Chinese Museum Exhibit … – Youtube. Photographs by: Yu Huiping
  2. “Heimdall.” Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki,
  3. KFC Pulls Fried Chicken Ad after Racism Outcry.”, NBCUniversal News Group, 8 Jan. 2010,