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Abstract

This essay explores three cinematic representations of Black matriarchs who play prophetic roles in redeeming humanity in the midst of apocalyptic change: Ika (Quest for Fire), Kee (Children of Men), and The Oracle (The Matrix trilogy). Not only do these courageous women resist the politics of domination, rebelling against a dying status quo, but they "give birth" to the leaders needed to rebuild a world in chaos and decay. One film ends with a pregnant woman rubbing her belly as she stands on the precipice of evolutionary change; another positions a mother and newborn adrift, waiting to be found by leaders of a new world order; in the third, a character sacrifices herself to empower resistance fighters with ideas and the means to choose their survival in a postapocalyptic world. Defying the politics of an annihilating patriarchy, these women portend a return to a naturally evolving world. However, despite their powerful influence, they can be understood, problematically, as modern-day reinventions of Black female stereotypes—Ika as Jezebel, Kee as Hagar, the Oracle as Mammy—because they, and the indices for understanding their roles in the community, are wedded to White patriarchs and to their own gendered functions as nurturing or sexual(ized) beings.

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