The Rise of Isaiah Mustafa

“The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” ads are undeniably hilarious, if a biiiit gender essentialist:

And the question, of course, is how much hay Isaiah Mustafa will be able to make out of them. He’s already landed a role in Tyler Perry’s next Madea movie. And now he’s pitching Marvel on a Luke Cage movie. These strike me as incredibly savvy career moves. Love them or hate them, Tyler Perry’s movies guarantee a steadier stream of roles for black actors than any of the major studios. If you’re trying to build a loyal audience that will buy tickets to your semi-niche movies if you don’t make it mainstream Hollywood, but might follow you to movies set in wildly different contexts, Perry’s extended professional family is a good place to start (and honestly, no matter how much I think Perry is treacly, I wish there was an equivalent for smart, funny female actors).

Just as Perry’s movies traffic in certain tropes, Cage is, and is a connector to, a bunch of very specific tropes: he grew up in Harlem, did prison time for a crime he didn’t commit, was raised by a tough grandmother, fights criminals within the black community, and his seventies blacksploitation origins, dates a clinic director. I don’t know if the audiences who go to Perry for family values piety would watch a Luke Cage rock-’em-sock-’em flick, but I’m a big believer in movies that can draw multiple audiences, and I would love to see nerds and church ladies come together at the box office.