This is my second assessed essay for my MA in Cultural and Critical Studies at Birkbeck, University of London written for the module Contemporary American Cinema.
Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman (2018) and Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You (2018) are similar films in many respects but were recognised by the American film industry very differently. In this essay, I argue that despite the industry recognition afforded to BlacKkKlansman, Sorry to Bother You is more emotionally affecting and more successful at representing racialised trauma in America. In so doing, I explore how magical realism in films like Sorry to Bother You is able to represent trauma — specifically the trauma of black people under white supremacist capitalist patriarchy — in a more emotionally affecting and “truthful” way than the realist representations of films like BlacKkKlansman and Green Book (2018). 
BlacKkKlansman and Sorry to Bother You were both released in 2018 and both use the idea of “white voice” to reflect on the experience and the trauma of black people living in America.  The two films share a number of thematic and narrative similarities. Both films deal with issues of race and the experience of black people in America. Both films were directed by black male directors. Both films have black male protagonists: BlacKkKlansman follows Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first black police officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department, and Sorry follows Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a telemarketer for the fictional company RegalView. Both films start with the protagonist being hired at their place of work. Both protagonists have a creative girlfriend who is more politically engaged than they are: Patrice (Laura Harrier), a university student and president of the black student union in BlacKkKlansman, and Detroit (Tessa Thompson), an independent artist in Sorry. In both films, the difference in political engagement between the protagonist and the girlfriend causes conflict in the second act which is resolved in the third act. Both protagonists become friends at their place of work with someone from a non-black ethnic minority group: Jewish police officer, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), in BlacKkKlansman and Asian-American union leader, Squeeze (Steven Yeun), in Sorry.
The deeper thematic similarities between the films derive from their shared central narrative device: the use of white voice by black people. In BlacKkKlansman, Ron infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan by posing as a white man when on the phone to the organisation’s local chapter and manages to fool various members right up to Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace). In Sorry, Cash uses white voice to make telemarketing sales to white customers and to work his way up the corporate ladder at RegalView and its client company WorryFree. Both films use white voice as a way to explore voice as a signifier of status and the code-switching required of black people in America.  Kentrell Curry discusses how both films represent W. E. B. DuBois’ idea of “double consciousness” whereby black people must maintain two psychological identities: the acceptable white-friendly identity required to move through white spaces and the face of their black cultural and familial identity.  Ron and Cash are both required to use white identities to succeed in their respective organisations. When Cash ascends to the Power Caller floor, he’s specifically told to use ‘White Voice at all times here.’  Both films’ organisations require their black characters to code-switch to succeed and through this we see how those capitalist institutions enforce white supremacy by asserting the primacy of white identity.
While both films examine the experience of black people in America through their narratives focused on white voice, they do this using different modes of representation and different aesthetics. BlacKkKlansman is based on the real Ron Stallworth’s memoir and is a realist representation. Its aesthetics are embedded in the goal of representing ordinary reality effectively and realistically. BlacKkKlansman’s realism is emphasised from the start of the film as the words ‘Dis joint is based on some fo’ real, fo’ real sh*t’ appear on screen immediately after the opening titles. 
Sorry to Bother You by contrast is a magical realist representation. The film’s director, Boots Riley, explicitly identifies it as such when he calls it ‘an absurdist dark comedy, with magical realism and science fiction, inspired by the world of telemarketing.’  Adam Nayman says the film’s aesthetics and narrative mode resembles the ‘detached, magic-realist style of early Spike Jonze’.  A stop-motion animated sequence in the film specifically references the magical realist writer and director, Michel Gondry. 
Magical realism is variously defined as a style, a genre, or a narrative mode distinct from realist representation.  In her study of magic(al) realism, Maggie Ann Bowers defines the term as ‘narrative art that presents extraordinary occurrences as an ordinary part of everyday reality.’  Magical realism ‘relies… upon the matter-of-fact, realist tone of its narrative when presenting magical happenings’. 
Sorry contains various ‘extraordinary occurrences’ and ‘magical happenings’ while embedded in the everyday reality of working in a call-centre for a telemarketing company. For example, when Cash makes phone calls to customers, he and his desk cubicle are magically teleported to the customer’s home.  Later in the film, WorryFree is found to be creating monstrous human-horse hybrids.  Neither of these extraordinary occurrences are reacted to by the film’s characters as if they are out of the ordinary: although there is some outrage and confusion at the fantastical human-horse creatures, they are soon broadly accepted by wider society in the film.
In contemporary American cinema, industry awards and critical discussion tend to be focused on realist representations. Bowers argues that magical realism in film has been less analysed than magical realism in literature because of film’s tendency towards realist representation.  She quotes Tom Gunning’s argument that film is regarded as one of the most directly realistic art forms because its representation appears to be real, actual, and present in the same way as our everyday experience of the real.  What we see on screen moves through time and inhabits space in the same way as our visual experience of the world and so we tend to perceive filmic representation as real.
This perhaps accounts for Hollywood and the Academy’s valorising of the real in terms of which films are taken seriously and which films receive nominations for prestigious industry awards. With a few exceptions — The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014), and The Shape of Water (2017) — the winners of the Best Picture Academy Award for the past twenty years have been realist representations.  In the past ten years, this includes realist films that aimed to represent the experience of black people in America including 12 Years a Slave (2013), Moonlight (2016), and most recently Green Book (2018). 
Magical realism is strongly associated with postcolonial countries and marginalised groups. Eugene L. Arva identifies how magical realist fiction in Latin America stems from the region’s history of colonialism, military dictatorships, and shock doctrine capitalist incursions.  Sherratt-Bado similarly points to magical realism in Northern Irish fiction emerging out of Northern Ireland’s postcolonial status.  The association between magical realism and colonial history situates magical realism as a:
disruptive narrative mode… [that] offers to the writer wishing to write against totalitarian regimes a means to attack the definitions and assumptions which support such systems (e.g. colonialism) by attacking the stability of the definitions upon which these systems rely. 
Because of its politically subversive potential, magical realism has been used to represent the experience of ‘the politically or culturally disempowered’ more broadly than just in a colonial or postcolonial context. Bowers writes that:
It [magical realism] has also become a common narrative mode for fictions written from the perspective of the politically or culturally disempowered, for instance indigenous people living under a covert colonial system such as Native Americans in the United States, women writing from a feminist perspective, or those whose lives incorporate different cultural beliefs and practices from those dominant in their country of residence, such as Muslims in Britain. 
Magical realist fiction has been used in this wider context of representing the disempowered to represent the experience of black people in America and more generally under white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. In her novel Beloved (1987), for example, Toni Morrison represents the experience of black people under slavery — and their trauma post-slavery — through the presence of ghosts haunting the lives of former slaves.  Faris discusses how Morrison uses the dissonance of the mysterious to represent the unknowability of truth for those who are oppressed and marginalised by overwhelming social systems. 
In contemporary American, black people are a marginalised group. Using the United States of America as an exemplar of white supremacist capitalist patriarchal society, we have seen the Black Lives Matter movement and #OscarsSoWhite controversy both highlighting the institutional racism and racialized violence of American institutions from the police and government to the entertainment industry. In Sorry, Detroit refers to black lives as ‘[lives] shaped by exploitation.’  This contemporary trauma is real, violent, and felt as lived experience.
Eugene L. Arva and Maria Kaaren Takolander position magical realist fiction as a form of trauma narrative and Sorry uses its various magical realist elements to represent the trauma of black people in America in various ways. 
Takolander starts from how the inherent irony of magical realism represents the fantastical as real: the inexplicable impinges upon ordinary reality in ironic ways which emphasise the compromises and cognitive dissonance of living as a marginalised group within a hostile society.  Marisa Bortolussi also identifies irony as foundational for magical realism identifying the implausibility at the heart of magical realism to be ‘deliberately and playfully self-conscious and intended to make us resist any facile interpretation based on referential reality’. 
Sorry shows this ironic juxtaposition through a blend of arch absurdism and sincere meaningful content. Nayman highlights the absurdism of the film’s ‘proliferation of sight gags and illustrative gimmicks’ while Abigail Nussbaum highlights the sincerity of the film’s depiction of progressive labour organising and trade union action.  Nussbaum specifically points out how rare it is for labour organisation to be intrinsic to a film’s plot in contemporary American cinema. The sincerity of this plot element within a ‘raucous, SF-inflected comedy’ emphasises the absurdist elements of the plot and the film’s ironic juxtaposition of the everyday and the inexplicable.  The blend of absurdist comedy and sincere depictions of meaningful political action creates a more heightened emotional affect than either element would have on their own.
Takolander identifies how this ironic juxtaposition is central to magical realism’s depiction of trauma. The continual juxtaposition of fantastical elements against the mundanity of ordinary life creates a constant sense of uncertainty in the text. Arva discusses how trauma involves cognitive dissociation, forced forgetting, and, as in Faris’ work on Morrison, the unknowability of truth.  Magical realism uses uncertainty to build what Arva calls a ‘traumatic imagination’ which, though evoking the cognitive dissonance of traumatic experience, is able to give:
traumatic events an expression that traditional realism could not, seemingly because magical realist images and traumatized subjects share the same ontological ground, being part of a reality that is constantly escaping witnessing through telling. 
Throughout Sorry, reality constantly escapes the viewer and this builds a pervasive sense of uncertainty. In an early scene in film, Cash and Detroit are in bed in what appears to be an apartment. As the two start to remove their clothes, it is unexpectedly revealed that the bedroom is actually a garage and that the wall of the apartment (which ironically has the words ‘Reality sets in’ pinned up in the centre of it) is a disguised garage door.  The viewer is thrown off by the film’s unreality from the start.
The viewer’s sense of uncertainty builds as the film progresses. As Cash moves up the corporate ladder at RegalView and WorryFree and is exposed to more of the organisation’s dubious practices, his reality grows progressively stranger and the sense of uncertainty builds. This culminates when Cash meets the CEO of WorryFree, Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), and learns that he has been breeding monstrous human-horse hybrids that he calls equisapiens.  Equisapiens are able to work harder and longer than ordinary humans thus ensuring his company’s domination of the labour market. In their respective reviews, Nayman refers to this moment as a culmination of the film’s outrageousness and Nussbaum refers to it as ‘probably the moment that blew the top of a lot of people’s heads off’.  This moment reveals an unexpected new layer of the fantastic within the world of the film and serves as the film’s crescendo of magical reality uncertainty.
The film’s gradual move towards more fantastical elements creates a sense of uncertainty that mirrors the uncertainty of living with trauma as described in Arva and Takolander. Sorry specifically links this traumatic uncertainty to American capitalism by having the film’s uncertainty grow in parallel with the narrative’s dive into the murky world of capitalism. As Cash becomes mired in the capitalist world of WorryFree, the charismatic Steve Lift, and the moral issues of arms dealing, indentured labour, and slavery, the film moves to more heightened aesthetics and introduces more fantastical elements culminating in the equisapiens revelation.
Evan Calder Williams discusses how compositing filmic images with computer-generated effects leads to a fragmentation effect — a ‘lost indexicality’ — that fragments the viewing experience.  Even when we know that CGI images on screen are ‘absurdly overblown, moronically expensive, improbable, dazzling, and “fake,”’, we experience these images as fragmentary and disassociated.  Sorry’s move towards more CGI, special-effect-laden, and stop-motion animated images in the last third of the film — including the images of the revolting equisapiens — is a move towards images that invoke more fragmentation and dissociation in the viewer.
The deliberateness of the move towards more fantastical effects and the parallel narrative progression of Cash getting closer to the CEO of WorryFree, the narrative’s nexus of capitalist power, creates a parallel between the fragmented imagery of special effects and the fragmentation of the character’s sense of self under capitalism. In this way, the film’s building uncertainty mirrors the uncertainty of American capitalism itself: the disconnection between the forces of capital and everyday reality; the fragmentation of identity for workers in large corporate bodies; the disassociated trauma that workers feel under capitalist labour relations.
Sorry’s ironic juxtaposition and its growing sense of uncertainty are elements of magical realism that allow this narrative mode to both convey and induce empathy in the reader/viewer. Magical realism as a narrative mode successfully represents trauma by creating empathy whether for Latin Americans living through colonial history or black people living within American white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
Theorists who position magical realism as a form of trauma narrative have emphasised the importance of the victims’ voices in creating empathy. J. Brooks Bouson discusses how Toni Morrison uses magical realism to ‘speak the unspeakable’ of black trauma after slavery.  Arva studies three magical realist novels by Caribbean authors — Jean Rhy’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), Alejo Carpentier’s The Kingdom of This World (1957), and Maryse Condé’s I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem (1992) — which represent the trauma of the historical experience of black people in the Americas by allowing the voice of victims to be heard.  For Arva, magical realism conveys and induces empathy ‘not by appropriating the victims’ voices but, rather, by making them heard for the first time.’ 
This emphasis on magical realism making victims’ voices heard fits with Sorry’s magical realist depiction of white voice and the contrast with BlacKkKlansman’s realist depiction. As mentioned, both BlacKkKlansman and Sorry use white voice as a central narrative device but their differing depictions of it highlight the differences in the two film’s aesthetic and narrative modes. In BlacKkKlansman, Ron’s white voice is his own voice. The actor John David Washington speaks his own dialogue when he’s playing “white” Ron Stallworth and when he’s playing black Ron Stallworth. As Ron tells the chief of police, ‘some of us can speak King’s English. Others speak jive. Ron Stallworth here happens to be fluent in both.’  In Sorry, Cash’s white voice is the voice of a white actor (David Cross) dubbed over the lip-syncing of Lakeith Stanfield’s acting. Other white actors — Lily James and Patton Oswalt — provide the white voices of other black characters. The reaction of Cash’s friends to his white voice and the ethereal music that plays in the background when he first uses the voice both suggest that another voice is magically emerging from him.  One character refers to Cash’s use of white voice as ‘some puppet-master voodoo shit’.  Sorry’s depiction of white voice is magical realist and this magic power allows the characters to succeed in white corporate environments and white-dominated performance art spaces.
This crucial difference between BlacKkKlansman and Sorry’s depictions of white voice highlights the difference in emotional affect between their modes of representation. Arva and Takolander use mirroring to explain the emotional affectiveness of magical realist representation of trauma. Arva argues that magical realism’s focus on ironically juxtaposed impossible dichotomies — real and fantastic, mundane and magic, ordinary and uncanny — mirrors the relationship in trauma between the shock event and its remembered experience of narrativized cultural memory.  Through this “traumatic imagination”, magical realist representation creates an empathy-driven consciousness that allows the acting out and working through of trauma.  In magical realism,
the re-represented or reconstructed truth will not be of what actually happened but of what was experienced as happening. The traumatic imagination transforms individual and collective traumatic memories into narrative memories and integrates them into an artistic shock chronotope [a traumatic event time-space]. 
Sorry uses traumatic imagination in this way to mirror the experience of life for black people under white supremacist capitalist patriarchy rather than to represent what actually happens. In the words of Takolander, it ‘preserv[es] the essence of the original traumatic event’.  The magically transporting desks of the RegalView call-centre do not accurately represent the reality of everyday work in a call-centre but they do represent the essence of the feeling of intrusion that one feels when calling strangers’ homes to sell them products.
Similarly, in its depiction of white voice, Sorry represents the code-switching and double consciousness required of black people in America through a metaphorical representation that represents the experience of using white voice rather than a realistic depiction as in BlacKkKlansman. Sorry’s magical realist representation of white voice robs the black characters of their voices and replaces them, literally and symbolically, with the voices of white actors. White people literally speak for black people in a way that mirrors the societal domination of white voices in America. Sorry creates empathy through representing the experience of white voice and the shock and loss of identity involved. By robbing the viewer of the authentic voice of the black actors, the viewer experiences a loss that parallels the loss of black cultural identity that the black characters feel as they come to depend on their white voice in the corporate environment.
The dependency on white voice and its emotional impact is emphasised through the character of Mr. _______ (Omari Hardwick), a successful Power Caller and Cash’s mentor at RegalView. Mr. _______ drops his white voice (Patton Oswalt) only once during the film. Following a party / orgy during which Cash was humiliatingly made to rap for the party’s white guests, Mr. _______ gives Cash directions to Steve Lift’s office (and to the film’s culmination of capitalist fragmentation in the form of the equisapiens revelation). At this one point, the character speaks in his regular voice and his authentic self comes through. He tells Cash:
Look here, young blood. We don’t cry about the shit that should be. We just thrive on what is and what is… [pointing towards Steve Lift’s office] opportunity. 
In this sole use of his own voice, Mr. _______ shares that he knows this system is broken but that we have to accept it. He has accepted his position in the capitalist system and his use of white voice to such an extent that his identity is completely lost. This is emphasised through the film’s censoring of his name. His sadness — the essence of his emotional reaction — is only allowed to come through when he drops the white voice required of him by RegalView and by society.
By contrast, BlacKkKlansman’s realist representation of white voice fails to create the same empathic connection. Rather than showing the experience and the essence of white voice, BlacKkKlansman realistically shows its black actor using his own voice to pretend to be white. In terms of representation, Ron does not lose his identity through his use of white voice. Apart from some initial doubt about the viability of his plan immediately after Ron first calls the Ku Klux Klan, there is no cultural anguish on Ron’s part about using white voice to succeed by erasing his blackness.  Ron’s use of (realistically represented) white voice helps him to become the hero and to save the girl whereas Cash’s use of (magical realist represented) white voice alienates him from his community and his girlfriend. By representing the experience of loss of black identity through white voice, Sorry’s magical realist mode represents the trauma of code-switching in America in a way that BlacKkKlansman’s realist mode does not.
The differing representations of white voice emphasise the differing politics of the two films. Ron uses white voice and succeeds within the police in a way that positively benefits his life and his community. Cash uses white voice and succeeds within the company but this negatively impacts his life and his community. In BlacKkKlansman, Ron uses white voice not only to destabilise the local KKK chapter but to succeed as an American police officer — as a tool of the Althusserian repressive state apparatus.  The link between the police and capitalist oppression is the substance of Boots Riley’s ‘political critique’ of BlacKkKlansman posted on Twitter.  Riley argues that BlacKkKlansman is ‘a made-up story in which the false parts of it to try to make a cop the protagonist in the fight against racist oppression.’ [sic]  In reality, police organisations in America did not infiltrate white supremacist terrorist organisations to disrupt them but to use them to threaten or attack anti-capitalist leftist organisations. The film’s story of a black police officer and his positive use of white voice serves to prop up the police as part of the repressive state apparatus of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Sorry, on the other hand, shows the negative impact of using white voice to succeed in a capitalist organisation: Cash’s rise in the corporation causes him to lose his friends, his girlfriend, and, as we see in the representation of his white voice, his sense of self. Sorry faces up to various issues of capitalism — precarity of employment, labour relations, the nature of work, etc. — whereas BlacKkKlansman absolves institutions like the police for their role in white supremacy. For Riley, the fabrications of the supposedly true narrative in BlacKkKlansman and the underlying faux-progressiveness of its politics makes it less “real” than Sorry despite the realist representation of the former and the magical realism of the latter.
This feeling of truthfulness and magical realism’s ability to capture the essence of traumatic experience makes Sorry to Bother You emotionally affecting despite the fantastic nature of its aesthetics and narrative. Conversely, the lack of truthfulness in its putatively realist representation makes BlacKkKlansman feel less “real” and ultimately less emotionally affecting. Arva argues that magical realist representation is often more emotionally affecting than realist representation:
Fantastic re-presentation… has proven to work where realistic representation… apparently failed. Postmodernist fiction in general and magical realist writing in particular re-present not reality but rather its non-referential substitutes or simulacra. By virtue of its subversive character, magical realism foregrounds, somewhat paradoxically, the falsehood of its fantastic imagery exactly in order to expose the falsehood — and traumatic absence — of the reality it has proposed to represent. 
Despite the emotionally affective power of magical realism to represent trauma, BlacKkKlansman was embraced by the American film industry in a way that Sorry to Bother You was not. BlacKkKlansman received several award nominations at prestigious industry awards winning Best Adapted Screenplay at the 91st Academy Awards. Sorry to Bother You was nominated only for less prestigious industry awards and struggled to find an international distributor. 
Another realist representation of the experience of black people in America, Green Book was also awarded at the 91st Academy Awards. Green Book is focused on racism and segregation in the American Deep South but, like BlacKkKlansman, despite the film’s realist representation, there is an underlying untruthfulness in its politics that makes it feel less “real” and distances the viewer from its emotional affect.  Green Book is ostensibly the story of Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a black queer man, but the film’s centring of a white male protagonist (Viggo Mortensen) and the relegating of black characters to supporting roles makes it what Obie calls a ‘Hollywood White Savior Film’.  Despite its pretence of telling a true story, Shirley’s relatives said that that ‘with all the film’s inaccuracies, they did not feel the “love”’.  Green Book is another example of a realist representation failing to convey reality, truthfulness, or soulfulness in its depiction of the experience of black people in America.
Magical realist representations like Sorry to Bother You and other non-realist representations in cinema and television are starting to use the emotionally affective power of this narrative mode to explore the experience and the trauma of black people in America. Nussbaum identifies how ‘[i]n the last few years, we’ve been seeing more black characters take center stage in the pulpy, fantastic genres, everything from Black Panther to Sleepy Hollow.’  She argues that weirdness or magical realism in cinema and television — ‘the sense that the characters are walking on the skin of the world, and that just beneath it is a deep well of strangeness and wonder that humans are only dimly aware’ — has not previously been available as a mode of representation for black characters.  Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017), for example, uses horror tropes to represent black trauma.  The abstract void of the Sunken Place is a quasi-magical realist space that represents the trauma of black people being marginalised by white people in America and being metaphorically “sunken” within white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Donald Glover’s Atlanta (2016–) contains various magical realist elements within its depiction of the everyday reality of working-class black characters in America.  The show’s protagonists encounter an invisible car, multiple enigmatic characters in whiteface, and a mysteriously race-swapped Justin Bieber.  In a way that echoes Arva’s discussion of magical realism representing the essence of experiences, Glover has referred to the show’s aim as ‘kind of to show people how it felt to be black, and you can’t really write that down. You kind of have to feel it.’ 
Magical realist representations of trauma can succeed emotionally where realist representations can not. In Sherratt-Bado’s article on magical realism in Northern Irish fiction, Roisín O’Donnell observes that:
when… stories are at their ‘weirdest’ is when they are most true. Perhaps Northern Irish women authors feel that their experiences cannot be adequately represented by the conventional realist mode, and so we have sought out new ways of telling. 
The non-realist representations of the experiences of black people in America that I have discussed represent new ways of telling in the cinematic mode. In Sorry to Bother You, magical realist elements combine in an ironic juxtaposition to mirror the unknowability of truth, the pervasive sense of uncertainty, and in so doing represents the essence of traumatic experiences. In the words of Bouson, magical realism is used to ‘speak the unspeakable’ about the trauma of marginalised people.  In this way, magical realist representations are able to represent the trauma of the experience of black people in America in a way that is more emotionally affecting than realist representations like BlacKkKlansman and Green Book. The stories of black people in America feel the most true when they’re at their weirdest.
Althusser, Louis, ‘Ideology and Ideological Status Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)’ in Lenin and Philosophy and other essays, trans. by Ben Brewster (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971/2001), pp. 85–126.
Arva, Eugene L., The Traumatic Imagination: Histories of Violence in Magical Realist Fiction (Amherst: Cambria Press, 2011).
Bortolussi, Marisa, ‘Implausible Worlds, Ingenuous Narrators, Ironic Authors: Towards a Revised Theory of Magic Realism’, Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, 30:2 (2003), pp. 349–370.
Bouson, J. Brooks, Quiet As It’s Kept: Shame, Trauma, and Race in the Novels of Toni Morrison (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000).
Bowers, Maggie Ann, Magic(al) Realism (London: Routledge, 2004).
Collins, K. Austin, ‘BlacKkKlansman, Sorry to Bother You, and the Thrills and Perils of “White Voice”’. Vanity Fair. 10 August 2018. <https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/08/blackkklansman-sorry-to-bother-you-white-voice> [Accessed 11 March 2019].
Curry, Kentrell, ‘What Sorry to Bother You and BlacKkKlansman are saying about double consciousness.’ Medium. 8 December 2018. <https://medium.com/di-alogue/what-sorry-to-bother-you-and-blackkklansman-are-saying-about-double-consciousness-8013eebf4bae> [Accessed 11 March 2019].
Faris, Wendy B., ‘Scheherazade’s Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction’ in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, ed. by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (London: Duke University Press, 1995), pp. 163–190.
Gallagher, Brenden, ‘The 8 Greatest Moments of Magical Realism in ‘Atlanta’’, Highsnobiety. 2 April 2018 <https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/atlanta-magical-realism/> [Accessed 29 March 2019].
Gunning, Tom, ‘Narrative Discourse and the Narrator System’, in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, 5th edition, ed. by Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 461–472.
hooks, bell, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love (London: Atria Books, 2004).
Meraji, Shereen Marisol, ‘‘Sorry To Bother You’ Brings Magical Realism To The World Of Telemarketing’. NPR. 5 July 2018. <https://www.npr.org/2018/07/05/626049353/sundance-film-festival-hit-sorry-to-bother-you-opens-friday> [Accessed 27 March 2019].
Morrison, Toni, Beloved (London: Vintage, 1987/2005).
Nayman, Adam, ‘Sorry to Bother You’, Sight & Sound, January/February 2019, pp. 122–123.
Nussbaum, Abigail, ‘Getting Out: The Dangerous Weirdness of Atlanta’s Second Season’. Asking the Wrong Questions. 31 August 2018 <https://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/2018/08/getting-out-dangerous-weirdness-of.html> [Accessed 15 April 2019].
— — — — , ‘Sorry to Bother You’. Asking the Wrong Questions. 5 November 2018 <https://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/2018/11/sorry-to-bother-you.html> [Accessed 28 March 2019].
Obie, Brookie C., ‘How ‘Green Book’ And The Hollywood Machine Swallowed Donald Shirley Whole’. Shadow and Act. 14 December 2018 <https://shadowandact.com/the-real-donald-shirley-green-book-hollywood-swallowed-whole/> [Accessed 29 March 2019].
Opam, Kwame, ‘Atlanta is a dreamy, dark love letter to the black experience’, The Verge. 8 September 2016 <https://www.theverge.com/2016/9/8/12847294/atlanta-fx-series-review-donald-glover-black-experience> [Accessed 8 April 2019].
Riley, Boots (@BootsRiley), ‘Ok. Here’s are some thoughts on #Blackkklansman. Contains spoilers, so don’t read it if you haven’t seen it and you don’t wanna spoil it.’ Twitter. 17 August 2018 <https://twitter.com/BootsRiley/status/1030575674447212544> [Accessed 13 March 2019].
Sherratt-Bado, Dawn Miranda, ‘‘Things We’d Rather Forget’: Trauma, the Troubles, and Magical Realism in Post-Agreement Northern Irish Women’s Short Stories’, Open Library of Humanities, 4:2 (2018) <https://doi.org/10.16995/olh.247>
Takolander, Maria Kaaren, ‘Theorizing Irony and Trauma in Magical Realism: Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book’, ariel: A Review of International English Literature, 47:3 (2016), pp. 95–122.
Williams, Evan Calder, Shard Cinema (London: Repeater Books, 2017).
Wilkinson, Alissa, ‘Sorry to Bother You is the latest victim of the movie industry’s “black films don’t travel” myth’, Vox. 6 August 2018 <https://www.vox.com/2018/8/6/17656176/sorry-to-bother-you-boots-riley-black-films-international-distribution> [Accessed 10 April 2019].
12 Years a Slave, dir. by Steve McQueen (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2013).
Atlanta, created by Donald Glover (20th Television, 2016–).
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), dir. by Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2014).
BlacKkKlansman, dir. by Spike Lee (Focus Features, 2018).
Get Out, dir. by Jordan Peele (Universal Pictures, 2017).
Green Book, dir. by Peter Farrelly (Universal Pictures, 2018).
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, dir. by Peter Jackson (New Line Cinema, 2003).
Moonlight, dir. by Barry Jenkins (A24, 2016).
The Shape of Water, dir. by Guillermo del Toro (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2017).
Sorry to Bother You, dir. by Boots Riley (Universal Pictures; Focus Features, 2018).
Figure 1: Post-title card from BlacKkKlansman, 00:04:28.
Figure 2: Cash’s desk is teleported to a customer’s home in Sorry to Bother You, 00:24:52.
Figure 3: The apartment is revealed to be a garage in Sorry to Bother You, 00:05:10.
Figure 4: The equisapiens as fragmented images of capitalism in Sorry to Bother You, 01:16:22 & 01:19:04.
Figure 5: Mr. _______ uses his authentic voice to share with Cash in Sorry to Bother You, 01:12:14.
 The term ‘white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’ comes from bell hooks who uses it to discuss the ‘interlocking political systems that are the foundation of our nation’s politics.’ Following hooks, I use white supremacist capitalist patriarchy as a shorthand for the various interlinked systems of oppression within American society.
bell hooks, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love (London: Atria Books, 2004), p. 17.
 BlacKkKlansman, dir. by Spike Lee (Focus Features, 2018).
Sorry to Bother You, dir. by Boots Riley (Universal Pictures; Focus Features, 2018).
 K. Austin Collins, ‘BlacKkKlansman, Sorry to Bother You, and the Thrills and Perils of “White Voice”’. Vanity Fair. 10 August 2018. <https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/08/blackkklansman-sorry-to-bother-you-white-voice> [Accessed 11 March 2019].
 Kentrell Curry, ‘What Sorry to Bother You and BlacKkKlansman are saying about double consciousness.’ Medium. 8 December 2018. <https://medium.com/di-alogue/what-sorry-to-bother-you-and-blackkklansman-are-saying-about-double-consciousness-8013eebf4bae> [Accessed 11 March 2019].
 Sorry, 00:38:56.
 BlacKkKlansman, 00:04:28.
 Shereen Marisol Meraji, ‘‘Sorry To Bother You’ Brings Magical Realism To The World Of Telemarketing’. NPR. 5 July 2018. <https://www.npr.org/2018/07/05/626049353/sundance-film-festival-hit-sorry-to-bother-you-opens-friday> [Accessed 27 March 2019].
 Adam Nayman, ‘Sorry to Bother You’, Sight & Sound, January/February 2019, pp. 122–123 (p.122).
 Sorry, 01:17:42.
 Maggie Ann Bowers, Magic(al) Realism (London: Routledge, 2004), p. 3.
 Bowers, p. 131.
 Bowers, p. 3.
 Sorry, 00:10:14.
 Sorry, 01:16:15.
 Bowers, p. 103.
 Bowers, p. 110; Tom Gunning, ‘Narrative Discourse and the Narrator System’, in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, 5th edition, ed. by Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 461–472 (p. 465).
 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, dir. by Peter Jackson (New Line Cinema, 2003).
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), dir. by Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2014).
The Shape of Water, dir. by Guillermo del Toro (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2017).
 12 Years a Slave, dir. by Steve McQueen (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2013).
Moonlight, dir. by Barry Jenkins (A24, 2016).
Green Book, dir. by Peter Farrelly (Universal Pictures, 2018).
 Eugene L. Arva, The Traumatic Imagination: Histories of Violence in Magical Realist Fiction (Amherst: Cambria Press, 2011), p. 98.
 Dawn Miranda Sherratt-Bado, ‘‘Things We’d Rather Forget’: Trauma, the Troubles, and Magical Realism in Post-Agreement Northern Irish Women’s Short Stories’, Open Library of Humanities, 4:2 (2018), p. 4 <https://doi.org/10.16995/olh.247>
 Bowers, p. 4.
 Bowers, p. 33.
 Toni Morrison, Beloved (London: Vintage, 1987/2005).
 Wendy B. Faris, ‘Scheherazade’s Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction’ in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, ed. by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (London: Duke University Press, 1995), pp. 163–190 (p. 171).
 Sorry, 00:45:42.
 Arva, p. 3; Maria Kaaren Takolander, ‘Theorizing Irony and Trauma in Magical Realism: Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book’, ariel: A Review of International English Literature, 47:3 (2016), pp. 95–122 (p. 103).
 Takolander, pp. 96–97.
 Marisa Bortolussi, ‘Implausible Worlds, Ingenuous Narrators, Ironic Authors: Towards a Revised Theory of Magic Realism’, Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, 30:2 (2003), pp. 349–370 (p. 359).
 Nayman, p. 122; Abigail Nussbaum, ‘Sorry to Bother You’. Asking the Wrong Questions. 5 November 2018 <https://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/2018/11/sorry-to-bother-you.html> [Accessed 28 March 2019].
 Nussbaum, ‘Sorry’.
 Arva, p. 5.
 Arva, p. 6.
 Sorry, 00:05:10.
 Sorry, 01:19:06.
 Nayman, p. 122; Nussbaum, ‘Sorry’.
 Evan Calder Williams, Shard Cinema (London: Repeater Books, 2017), p. 47.
 Williams, p. 47.
 J. Brooks Bouson, Quiet As It’s Kept: Shame, Trauma, and Race in the Novels of Toni Morrison (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000), p. 21.
 Arva, p. 118.
 Arva, p. 6.
 BlacKkKlansman, 00:31:41.
 Sorry, 00:22:25.
 Sorry, 00:23:00.
 Arva, p. 44.
 Arva, p. 5.
 Arva, pp. 5–6.
 Takolander, p. 104, emphasis added.
 Sorry, 01:12:13.
 BlacKkKlansman, 00:30:55.
 Louis Althusser, ‘Ideology and Ideological Status Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)’ in Lenin and Philosophy and other essays, trans. by Ben Brewster (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971/2001), pp. 85–126 (p. 96).
 Boots Riley (@BootsRiley), ‘Ok. Here’s are some thoughts on #Blackkklansman. Contains spoilers, so don’t read it if you haven’t seen it and you don’t wanna spoil it.’ Twitter. 17 August 2018 <https://twitter.com/BootsRiley/status/1030575674447212544> [Accessed 13 March 2019].
 Arva, p. 62.
 Alissa Wilkinson, ‘Sorry to Bother You is the latest victim of the movie industry’s “black films don’t travel” myth’, Vox. 6 August 2018 <https://www.vox.com/2018/8/6/17656176/sorry-to-bother-you-boots-riley-black-films-international-distribution> [Accessed 10 April 2019].
 Brookie C. Obie, ‘How ‘Green Book’ And The Hollywood Machine Swallowed Donald Shirley Whole’. Shadow and Act. 14 December 2018 <https://shadowandact.com/the-real-donald-shirley-green-book-hollywood-swallowed-whole/> [Accessed 29 March 2019].
 Abigail Nussbaum, ‘Getting Out: The Dangerous Weirdness of Atlanta’s Second Season’. Asking the Wrong Questions. 31 August 2018 <https://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/2018/08/getting-out-dangerous-weirdness-of.html> [Accessed 15 April 2019].
 Nussbaum, ‘Getting Out’.
 Get Out, dir. by Jordan Peele (Universal Pictures, 2017).
 Atlanta, created by Donald Glover (20th Television, 2016–).
 Brenden Gallagher, ‘The 8 Greatest Moments of Magical Realism in ‘Atlanta’’, Highsnobiety. 2 April 2018 <https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/atlanta-magical-realism/> [Accessed 29 March 2019].
 Kwame Opam, ‘Atlanta is a dreamy, dark love letter to the black experience’, The Verge. 8 September 2016 <https://www.theverge.com/2016/9/8/12847294/atlanta-fx-series-review-donald-glover-black-experience> [Accessed 8 April 2019].
 Sherratt-Bado, p. 24.
 Bouson, p. 21.