'Black Lightning' Midseason Premiere References 'Sorry to Bother You'

Tonight's episode of Black Lightning, titled 'The Book of Rebellion: Chapter Three: Angelitos [...]

Tonight's episode of Black Lightning, titled "The Book of Rebellion: Chapter Three: Angelitos Negros," featured a tongue-in-cheek reference to Sorry To Bother You, a film that is likely to earn at least one Academy Award nomination when the full list of nominations is announced tomorrow morning.

The reference was dropped during a scene between Tobias Whale (Marvin Jones III) and Todd Green (RJ Cyler).

The two are at dinner, talking about their plans to work together in the future. When a cell phone rings, Tobias tells Todd to answer the phone, and to "use his white voice."

This plays into Tobias's racism -- he frequently expresses disdain for black people, and directs racial slurs at them. Hell, in the same scene he refers to Todd's "thick lips" when giving him the order to answer the phone.

But more than that, the "white voice" line is almost certainly a reference to filmmaker Boots Riley's masterful directorial debut Sorry To Bother You.

The film centers on Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), who becomes wealthy and powerful after mastering his "white voice" and climbing the ladder at a telemarketing company, ultimately becoming a "Power Seller" who cold-calls corporate and political leaders to sell things like weapons of mass destruction. The idea of a "white voice" is not unique to Sorry To Bother You, but is the pop cultural touchstone most closely associated with the idea.

It could be that they decided to draw this parallel because Todd (besides having the last name Green) was, like Cassius, a talented young black man who was undervalued by those around him, but whose rise to notoriety was/will be fraught with conflicts of interest, crime, and danger. Or maybe we are just reading too far into it.

The film, which also starred Thor: Ragnarok's Tessa Thompson and The Walking Dead's Steven Yeun, was nominated for a number of awards on the Emerald City Video Podcast's year-end wrap-up, co-hosted by this writer:

Black Lightning steps into the time slot vacated by DC's Legends of Tomorrow, which will take an extended hiatus and come back later in the year to end its fourth season. In the meantime, Black Lightning will wrap up its season and bring on the first on-screen appearances of Lightning, Jennifer's costumed identity.

You can check out the official synopsis below.


Still on the run, Jennifer (China Anne McClain) and Khalil (Jordan Calloway) succumb to their feelings for one another and begin planning their future together. Meanwhile, Jefferson (Cress Williams) approaches Henderson (Damon Gupton) with a favor. Nafessa Williams, Marvin Jones III and James Remar also star.

Benny Nzingha Stewart directed the episode written by Jan Nash & J. Allen Brown.

Black Lightning airs on Monday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT, following episodes of Arrow on The CW.

Sorry To Bother You is available now on DVD, Blu-Ray, and digital.