Mr. T-By Terrance Hayes Analysis

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In Terrance Hayes’s poem “Mr. T-,” the speaker presents the actor Laurence Tureaud, also known as Mr. T, as a sellout and an unfavorable role model for the African American youth for constantly playing negative, stereotypical roles for a black man in order to achieve success in Hollywood. The speaker also characterizes Mr. T as enormous and simple-minded with a demeanor similar to an animal’s to further his mockery of Mr. T’s career.
The speaker begins his commentary on the actor’s career by suggesting that The A-Team, the show Mr. T stars in, is racist by mentioning how he is “Sometimes drugged / & duffled (by white men) in a cockpit,” which seems to draw illusions to white men capturing and transporting slaves to new territories during the time of the slave trade (4-5). Next, the speaker reveals how
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T being a sellout. Obviously, the 1980’s were a very different time, and the portrayal of African Americans in mainstream media has changed considerably since then for the better, with black people now having a much wider range of leading roles available as well as better representation at award shows. Since this poem was written in 2002, it is easy for the speaker to look back and label Mr. T as a negative role model due to his cooperation in demeaning roles; but I do not think that it is fair to look at Mr. T in this condescending way because the fact that he was able to win the uphill battle of achieving success in Hollywood during a time when it was much less considerate toward black people is impressive, even if the means by which Mr. T attained such success were controversial. All in all, Terrance Hayes’s “Mr. T-” may be harsh, but at least it advocates the pursuit of positive role models for the African American youth, which, fortunately, is what America now has a larger supply
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