In the film “Radiant Child” Jean-MichelBasquiat displays similar characteristics as the “genius child” in the poem by LangstonHughes. Through his neo-expressionist artwork, Basquiat had the power of agenius to upset, transform and revolutionize. Asthe poem “Genius Child” by Langston Hughes conveys, such intelligence and powercoming from a young black mind is considered dangerous in a very whiteconformist world. The genius child in the poem is compared to an eagleand a monster, demonstrating that his ability to think outside the box poses apotential threat to society.
Similarly, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s artisticindividuality and unapologetically revelatory and defiant work is feared andmisunderstood by the conformists of society. Basquiathad a capacity to create new meaning through innovation and establish power bysubverting the rules of an oppressor: “I cross out words so you will seethem more: the fact that they are obscured makes you want to read them.” Basquiat’s genius characteristics is unsettling to manyas presented in the poem by Hughes: “nobody loves a genius child” (Hughes, In. 3).
As a black man in a white world, Basquiat was commonly relegated to theposition of “wild” artist. Despite his genius ability to convey messagesthrough his art, he was constantly set apart andfictionalized, designated a “primitive”. As Basquiat mentions in thefilm “Radiant Child”, most of his reviews and critics on his work were abouthis personality. He was imprisoned by the condemnation of the dominant white conformistculture. The last line of Hughes’ poem seems to present a conformistattitude towards individualists such as Basquiat: society is better off withoutdefiant people like Jean-Michel Basquiat in order to maintain control andconformity.
By terminating himself, Basquiat freed himself from the expectationsof society and “let his soul run wild. In sum, Basquiat’s rebellious and innovativepersonality reflects the one of the genius child in Hughes’s poem, who constitutesa threat to the strict moral confines of the world.