Back in May, when the news broke that Michael B. Jordan (star of The Wire and Fruitvale Station) was being considered for the role of Johnny Storm in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, let’s just say the internet wasn’t too happy about it. At the time, my friend and former editor Justin Aclin tweeted about it and then wrote about it on his blog. I’ve cross-posted the rest of Justin’s thoughts after the jump.
And come back later in the day as Justin will be my special guest on Hard N.O.C. Life where we’ll discuss his latest book for Dark Horse, S.H.O.O.T. First.
by Justin Aclin | Originally posted May 2, 2013
When The Wrap broke the scoop this morning that actor Michael B. Jordan (who’s African American) might be cast as Johnny Storm in the new Fantastic Four film, I didn’t even bother waiting for the whiny tweets to start up before posting the tweets above. I knew they’d be coming, like clockwork.
Here’s the thing. I understand fearing change. I wouldn’t want to watch a Spider-Man movie where the character is a homicidal maniac, because that is contrary to the spirit of the character. But, and I’m going to put this in italics so you can tell I’m serious…
THERE IS NOTHING ABOUT THE CORE HUMAN TORCH’S CHARACTER THAT PRECLUDES HIM FROM BEING BLACK. AT ALL.
The only argument against Human Torch being black is that he wasn’t conceived as black. But guess what… NO superheroes were conceived as black when Human Torch was created. That is not a valid reason that he should be Aryan for the rest of eternity in every possible medium.
There’s nothing wrong with white dudes per se. Iron Man 3 opens tonight and it is an excellent movie chockfull of white dudes. (Even notorious Asian villain The Mandarin is played by Sir Ben Kingsley, but trust me when I say this is a good thing in every possible way.) [EDIT: It's been pointed out to me that Ben Kingsley is part Indian, which I didn't know. The Mandarin is still way awesome.] There are no shortage of superhero films fronted by white dudes. I’m ready to see something different.
And the fact is, it’s not just in my consumed entertainment. I’m tired of writing white dudes. At least, white dudes as default main characters. I’m not a black woman, or a transgendered person, or any other number of identification combos. But I’m interested in exploring the commonalities and differences I have with these people way more than just dropping in another white dude because I’m a white dude and I know how white dudes live.
I always joke that the reason there are so many advertising guys as protagonists in movies and TV is because advertising is the only day job that writers can picture themselves doing because it’s kind of like writing. As writers, we should be trying to move outside ourselves, at least a little bit. You know every character is going to be you in some way anyway. Isn’t it more interesting if they’ve at least got some major differences from you that you can explore?
So please, for the love of humanity, if you’re going to complain about a fictional character’s race being swapped on-screen… don’t. Don’t be that guy. Ask yourself, is the core of the character being compromised… or is my own sense of comfort and familiarity?