“But why’d they have to make him Black?”
Ever since Samuel L. Jackson became the new face of Nick Fury, I haven’t heard the end of it. It’s understandable for people to want their favorite characters realized on screen as accurately as possible. We all know that feeling. But it’s also important to have some diversity on the big screen, especially with superhero films.
“The studios are trying too hard to be diverse.”
Are they? We’ve had exclusively white characters in the superhero genre for decades and no one made a fuss. Now there’s attempts to try to add a little color and people just can’t handle it. What many don’t understand is the extensive timeline of all of this. Superhero comic books started becoming prominent in the 1930s and 40s, a time when racism and segregation were still major issues in North America. Those early heroes like Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Captain America are still among the most popular heroes today. They were all born from a time when people of color had little to no exposure in popular culture. All of “the greats” are white heroes because they were created in a time where that was the norm. Black Panther, the first Black superhero in mainstream American comics didn’t even come around until 1966, almost 20 years after the emergence of superhero comics!
It’s quite astonishing that race-bending is even an issue with superhero movies because the characters that have been changed aren’t even main characters. Nick Fury from The Avengers, Heimdall from Thor, and most recently Iris West in the upcoming TV show The Flash have all been cast as Black actors and caused some discontent among hardcore fans. These are all side characters that people barely paid attention to in the first place. Now that they’re “the wrong race”, everyone’s concerned about them. Before Thor, I had never even heard of Heimdall in the geek community. He wasn’t a character people really thought of or cared about, but as soon as a Black actor was confirmed to play the role, a bunch of fans began complaining that he didn’t look like the original character that they “knew and loved”.
A Facebook group was even created to boycott Thor for making Heimdall, Black. And yet we have a character like Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man whose portrayal very few people complained about perhaps because his race could be ignored since he spent most of the movie more blue than Black.
Often when I start talking about race-bending in movies or ‘colorblind casting,’ those who oppose try to say something along the lines of, “well what if they made a movie about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and he was casted as a white person? You’d be upset wouldn’t you?” This kind of retort is unfortunately very common and beyond frustrating because that comparison doesn’t even make sense. Martin Luther King Jr. was a real person who actually existed. He’s not up for interpretation because he isn’t a fictional character. Many people seem to forget that these are fictional characters we’re talking about. Superheroes were created to show that anyone can be extraordinary no matter who they are, where they come from or what they look like. It’s about time we embrace that.
It’s okay to not be comfortable when a character’s race is altered, we all have our own preferences. Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury is the only version I know so that’s the look I associate with that character. But the original content isn’t going anywhere! If you prefer a certain version of a character, you’ll always have them available in the original books, shows or movies. You don’t have to like the change, but you don’t have to discourage other people from enjoying it.
With the news of our new Human Torch being Black in the 2015 Fantastic Four reboot, I hope people keep an open mind. I mean we all questioned Quicksilver’s look in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but the character turned out great! Let’s not be so quick to judge based on appearances.
Alanna is a Canadian cosplayer, filmmaker, photographer, musician and all around geek. She’s a comic book nerd and gamer at heart, with a particular fondness for Marvel and DC Comics. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr as AlannaMode.