This essay examines how the relationship between black performance and black ontology might disrupt the chronopolitics of social death. To date, critical reception of The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete (dir. George Tillman Jr., 2013) has read the film as a multiracial coming-of-age story about two children on the run from state social services in a nightmarish Brooklyn landscape. Against these readings, I argue that the film is available to a more radical interpretation that locates, in the character of Mister, modes of black performance that puncture and disrupt what Frantz Fanon describes as the fact of blackness. Mister’s dreams of escape materialize around a casting call for child actors in Beverly Hills, for which he spends his fugitive summer preparing. His study of acting engages in a serial invention of alternative selves—the production of substitute identities by which he invents himself anew in black. Mister’s fugitive maskings enact the black invention that Fanon champions in the figure of “the leap” into other lifeworlds: worlds unbounded by the temporal regime of social death. In theatrical snippets, Mister leans into slow, stalled time to animate life in non-movement; in spite of a formal cinematic structure that thrusts his movements forward, Mister remains suspended in the “colored” time of captivity, which is coincidentally where he cultivates social life.


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pp. 218-237
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