Why does colourbending comic book characters on screen automatically reduce manbabies to big, wet, soppy tears?
After all, if a show tunes-loving Australian can be believed as an angry Canadian mutant with adamantium claws for the past 16-years, is it such a stretch that a comic book character can be played by anyone who isn’t white? Nah, it ain’t.
And yet, there is a weird and deeply disturbed subset of comic book movie fans who seem to internally haemorrhage every time a character is taken in a new, progressive and – frankly – not vanilla direction.
The latest shit fit from this internet minority has come following the revelations that African American singer and actress Zendaya is set to play Mary Jane Watson in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming.
It’s not the first time this has happened either. Yes, it’s a tale as old as racism itself… kinda.
Back in the sixties, Eartha Kitt copped criticism for filling the cat ears of Julie Newmar in the role of Catwoman in the kitsch but magnificent Batman series. Halle Berry too experienced it when she was cast as Catwoman in the standalone film, yet it’s not as clear whether this was down to fanboy issues about her race or the movie a) completely disregarding Catwoman’s backstory and history or b) the film just being generally terrible.
More recently though, actress Tessa Thompson was revealed to be playing the (previously) Aryan Nordic bad-ass Valkyrie in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok and there were some who were ‘upset’.
Yet Thor 3’s director – Maori filmmaker Taika Waititi - was unapologetic.
“Right from the start we wanted to diversify the cast and it’s hard when you’re working with Vikings,” he told CBR.
“You want to be more inclusive and provide a broader representation. And at that point, you have to look at the source material as a very loose inspiration.
“And then take it from there and go with your gut. Say, ‘You know what? None of that stuff matters. Just because the character was blonde and white in the comic book. That doesn’t matter. That’s not what [that character] is about.'”
“I think the story is king, and you want the best person for the job … Tess was the best person.”
Candice Patton encountered similar BS when she was cast as Iris West in The Flash TV series. However, now that depiction of a woman of colour in the role seems to have followed through and become canon with Kiersey Clemons cast as Iris for the upcoming Flash movie and DCEU as well.
For those who are upset with the switching of races between depictions on the page to the screen, the main sticking point seems to be that the casting is unfaithful to the history of the character.
Yet, on the contrary, aren’t the internal characteristics of the character more important than the external? For instance, the key thing with Valkyrie is that she’s portrayed as both a physically and emotionally strong woman with agency, drive and authority. Whether she has blonde hair or not seems rather inconsequential in comparison.
Filmmaker James Gunn – who gave us comic book flick Guardians Of The Galaxy and it’s impending sequel – made some impassioned and powerful points in a written response he posted on Facebook.
“People get upset when something they consider intrinsic to a comic book character changes when adapted for a film. I get this,” he wrote.
“That said, I do not believe a character is the color of his or her skin. When Michael B Jordan was cast as Johnny Storm I didn’t understand the uproar.
“The primary characteristic of Johnny was not, to me, that he was white, or that he had blonde hair, but that he was a fiery, funny, big-mouthed braggart of a hero.
“I was happy that he was going to be played by one of the finest and most charming young actors out there.”
Heck, even Spider-Man’s creator (well, one of them at least) Stan Lee thinks Zendaya as Mary-Jane is a “great idea” that he wishes he thought of himself.
“I can’t wait to see that gal, I can’t wait to see that movie,” he told CBR. “And I think the public will love it.
You have to wonder how much longer protestors can attempt to gatekeep the ‘traditional’ aspects of the character when even Marvel’s baby daddy is behind it.
Notably, those man-babies didn’t make much more than a whimper when Samuel L Jackson first appeared as Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D Nick Fury in Iron Man. Excluding the Ultimate Marvel Universe, Fury had been drawn as white for the past, say, 50 years.
And yet, barely an outcry was heard. Why? Because Sam f**king Jackson, that’s why.
But also, maybe, perhaps, it’s because he’s a man? Think about how little has been said about Guatemalan American actor Tony Revolori playing Flash Thompson (a traditionally white, blonde, jock-type in his 54-year comic book history) in Spider-Man: Homecoming compared to Zendaya.
Could misogyny be linked to these thinly-veiled racist protests? Shocking, we know.
Then again, note the reaction to Gunn's previously mentioned casting of Michael B Jordan as Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four. And people crying themselves to sleep over John Boyega playing a black Storm Trooper in Force Awakens - because apparently it matters what someone looks like under a helmet?
And did they forget majority of Storm Troopers are actually Polynesian anyway? See episode two, Attack Of The Clones, Temuera Morrison's Jango Fett providing the DNA profile for the troopers and then let us never speak of that movie again.
It seems that the manbaby minority are equal opportunity racists ¯\_(ツ)_/¯