Daily Distraction: Watch Scott Woods' lecture on 'Stephen King's Magical Negroes'

The Alive columnist breaks down the literary device as used by King, as well as the way the author approaches Black characters in his work

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Stephen King's "The Green Mile"

Scott Woods opens his two-hour lecture "Stephen King's Magical Negroes," which posted Saturday via the Streetlight Guild YouTube channel, with a series of disclaimers, one of them being that the presentation is not meant to tell "Stephen King or any other writer what to write." Rather, Woods says, "It's about conveying what I take away from what he writes."

It's also not about "canceling" King, Woods continues, but instead about interrogating and critically engaging with a body of work that stretches back decades.

From there, Woods, a poet, cultural critic and gallery owner who also contributes a weekly column to Alive, provides some brief biographical info on the author, as well as the roots of his own public engagement with the subject matter, which began with a 2015 essay in Union Station magazine in which Woods explored King's approach to Black characters.

Woods takes advantage of the video format, providing an assortment of visual aids and displaying source material stretching from early Reddit threads exploring the topic to PowerPoint slides providing breakdowns of the various "magical negroes" constructed by King, including John Coffey of The Green Mile, described by King in the book as a "black man next door to an idiot."

The lecture is, at turns, insightful, infuriating and funny, with Woods providing the kind of perspective that could only come from someone who also has an appreciation for the subject at hand, even as King's approach to his Black characters offends and exhausts Woods on a deeply human level. If nothing else, the piece will make you question how or why King has never more publicly interrogated the subject himself, as well as bringing into focus the larger concept of race in America and why we as a country so consistently get things wrong.

"Denying the impact of work like this on the way we process and navigate race is a sure-fire way to keep racism alive and well," Woods says, going on to reiterate the importance of discussing the implications and impact of works like these.

You can watch the full lecture in the video below.