I’m Not Racist, I Just Want a Black Superhero
For those of you who aren’t die hard fanboys, weeks ago Fox announced the cast of the Fantastic Four reboot. And like all comic book movie casting news before it, the internet nearly broke in half when the actors who will play Marvel’s first family were finally revealed to a bloodthirsty fanbase.
Sorry boys, no Jessica Alba this time around. Instead we get Kate Mara (“American Horror Story: Murder House”) as Invisible Woman, Miles Teller (“Divergent”) as Mr. Fantastic, and Jamie Bell (“The Adventures of Tintin) as The Thing.
These casting choices, to be completely honest, stink. Not that Jessica Alba was any better, but Mara is a better Machiavelli than wholesome heroine, Teller needs to hit puberty before he can carry the mantle of the world’s greatest scientist, and Bell is just too dapper dandy to play the rugged Thing.
However, none of these casting announcements were as contentious as Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch, the fourth and arguably most iconic member of this fantastic quartet.
Who is Michael B. Jordan you ask? The deliciously handsome actor boasts an impressive IMBD. He starred in the superhero flick Chronicle, guest starred on Bones, and played one of Zac Efron’s bros in That Awkward Moment (yea, I meant to see that movie as well).
Oh and he’s black.
Gasp! But wait true believers, do my eyes deceive or has there just been a coloring error all these decades…isn’t Johnny Storm a white guy in the comics?
Holy comic book continuity, does this mean he and Invisible Woman won’t be brother and sister? Is he going to be adopted? How does this affect the team dynamics?
Are we now beginning to see how fanboys nearly broke the internet?
I’m going to lay it all out there for you, dear reader; I was one of those angry fanboys upon hearing Jordan would be playing the hot-tempered hero. Now, before you try to track me down and beat me with your mouse (or iPad), my hesitation had nothing to do with race. Sadly, I’m a crazy, comic book geek. I’m the one who brings his iPad to dinner after the movie and references scenes the movie got wrong. Yea, there’s no 100% faithful adaption, I know, but I want my hero movies as close to the original source material as possible.
Please note I was equally angry when they kept Amy Adams’ strawberry locks for the raven haired Lois Lane; when a beefy and buff Mark Ruffalo played the frail Bruce Banner; and don’t make me break out the angry hashtags for Ben Affleck as Batman #gobacktomattdamon.
Furthermore, as a minority man in his thirties, I found it insulting that Hollywood would rather swap the race of a character before giving a leading role to historical black comic book characters. True, there aren’t many black comic book characters to begin with, but what about a little respect for the ones we have? Characters like Black Panther, Cyborg, and Misty Knight who were created at a time when we needed black voices in comics and helped propel equality.
I took to the Comic Book Resources (CBR) page on Facebook to voice my humble opinion. As you can imagine the thread was already wildly active.
“You’re a fucking racist,” one person wrote to me.
I stared at the word “racist” on my screen, my heart racing and my fingers trembling. I’m gay and Latino. I grew up with a mentally handicap sister and my best friend is Japanese. Calling me a “racist” is as hurtful as calling me a “fag” or “spic.” And how was I being racist? I was arguing black comic book characters were being marginalized and heroes like Cyborg, Black Panther and Photon were being treated as if they were unworthy of a fabulous multimillion franchise. After all, let’s not kid ourselves. Johnny Storm is not a leading role. He’s the comedic relief and eye candy. There is nothing diverse about this casting.
One of my friends told me that Johnny Storm’s defining characteristics were that he’s cocky and hot tempered, traits that aren’t exclusive to only white males. True.
But I argued Jonny Storm was a character created in 1961, before the Civil Rights Movement and was a reaction to the glamour of the Space Age as well as all the idea that only the white male could be an astronaut.
Joseph Phillip Illidge, Head Writer for Verge Entertainment and leader on the subject of diversity in comics, wrote an article for CBR in favor of the Johnny Storm casting and cited how 12% of the US population is black and will have a projected buying power of 1.1 trillion dollars in the coming year.
On the same note, geek queen and Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Felicia Day posted a rant on Tumblr which she dubbed, “Tiger Lily Doesn’t’ Equal Human Torch” where she discusses the turmoil over white actress Rooney Mara‘s casting as Peter Pan’s American Indian gal pal, Tiger Lily.
“Most lead characters and lead actors of movies are white. Period,” Day wrote. “Bottom line, actors of ethnicity don’t get a lot of work to begin with. And that very fact creates a scarcity in the number of actors of different ethnicities to choose from when casting.”
I agree with both these articles 110%; however, am I just missing the point? If there is such a stigma against minority actors in Hollywood and Americans are ready to see a black superhero on screen, why aren’t we getting a Green Lantern movie where the main character is John Stewart?
Now, with a wave of a hand and Hollywood magic, Johnny Storm is turned into a black character and we’re suppose to accept this as diversity while the black superheroes who paved the way are left on the sidelines? What’s worse, if you dare say something about this casting you’re automatically called a racist. Am I the only one furious about this?
And why is no one talking about Blade? Blade earned 131 million on a 45 million budget. For a rated R superhero movie back in the 90s that’s a phenomenal achievement. Mind you, the character’s movie rights have now reverted back to Marvel Studios recently. Why aren’t we seeing our favorite vampire hunter pop up in any Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Andrew Garfield, who played Spider-man in the new movie series, once said “‘What if MJ [Spider-man’s love interest] is a dude?’ Why can’t we discover that Peter is exploring his sexuality? It’s hardly even groundbreaking!…So why can’t he be gay? Why can’t he be into boys?”
As cool and accepting as that sounds, Andrew, I’ll pass. I don’t want Spider-man to be gay. I want Northstar, one of the world’s first LGBT superheroes, to be the one to usher in a gay superhero movie. And as great of an actor Michael B. Jordan is, I can’t just blindly accept his casting while Luke Cage is getting a Netflix only series and Falcon plays sidekick to Captain America. And if anyone saw The Winter Soldier this weekend they KNOW Anthony Mackie as Falcon stole the spotlight.