Tuesday, September 3, 2019

A Brief History of The Man



This blog has chronicled the adventures of the AfroSquad for over 10 years. One of the original concepts behind the AfroSquad, before the wrestling and before the comedy, was a struggle against The Man.

But what is The Man? How long have people been fighting The Man?

According to the AfroSquad,

"The Man" is an intangible bugaboo that masterminds the hardships and tragedies of that thing we call life. Being technologically superior, he can morph into anything he wants- your boss, the local authorities, the president, your parents, a lawyer, the guy that signs your inadequate paycheck, etc."

The AfroSquad was highly influenced by the blaxplotation films of the the 1970s. But The Man goes back further than that. Much further.

The Oxford Dictionary of American Political Slang does a great job of detailing all the early mentions of The Man on page 173.



In the 1960s, The Man moved from Southern and Black Etymology to a more wider use. White counterculture also used the term to discuss their frustration with authority.  While Yippies and others diminished the racial and historical context, fighting The Man became a universal effort. This change is well described in The Age of the Crisis of Man: Thought and Fiction in America, 1933–1973 by Mark Greif, pages 269-272.


While fighting The Man had become universal, The Man moved to black cinema as the omnipotent antagonist in blaxplotation films. According to museumofuncutfunk.com

"During the 1970’s the term “The Man” became a part of the vernacular of the Blaxploitation film era. “The Man” referred to the police, the mob, the politicians and anyone who was white with power. In most cases “The Man” held the key to the destruction or redemption of Black characters in these films."

After blaxploitation films, The Man slowly diminished from use as a negative term. It started being used as a positive term such as "You are The Man." 

In the late 90s, the AfroSquad started doing their thing in the early internet.

Then, in 2002, The Man had a renaissance in cinema with the movie Undercover Brother. Comedian Eddie Griffin’s character took on a faceless Man who ran an omnipotent multi-national corporation and made life difficult for a diverse group of heroes.

Currently, there is news that Undercover Brother 2 will soon see the light of day. Will the antagonist be The Man?

The Man is still out there, and still holding people down. We should never forget the original meaning and absolute power of The Man.

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