Okay, I’m dipping into sensitive waters here, I realize that, so let’s just agree that this post may contain some hard truths and in some parts might offend.
I’m sure many of you out there have seen the trailer for the new Fantastic Four movie. I know I have. Just to be clear, I think it looks awful and I have no intention of putting myself through it. It’s dark and gritty and that’s not how I have seen the Fantastic Four. It’s always been a fun, colorful kind of thing. That being said, one of the more hot topic issues with this iteration is casting. Johnny Storm is African American in this movie. Now, I fall on the side of the negative with this casting choice. I just feel the writers should have, as with all adaptations, stuck with the source material more closely. Johnny Storm is white. He was created white and has been white in every version of the character. I get the whole ‘the role should go to the best actor despite race’ argument, but are you telling me out of the millions of starving young actors out there today, this guy was the best of all of them? You could probably stuff a warehouse full of actors who could do the role and probably be able to pick out a Caucasian one.
I want to say race isn’t the issue here, but it is. I’m not racist, I just think a character that was conceived as being white should be represented as such in an adaptation. Now, if there was a legitimate, story-based reason for the change in race, fine. If you’re just doing it to satisfy some demographic or appeal to a certain segment of the population, not fine. That’s called whoring and I know Hollywood is no stranger at trying to satisfy everyone all at the same time, but there have to be some moments when integrity wins out. Call it optimistic, but I’m one of the few people in the world who still believe in integrity.
I’d even be okay with it if they had cast a big name African American actor to play Sue and Johnny’s father, but they didn’t. The guy they got is some character actor I remember from some educational show in the 90’s. I’ve seen him in some things, but he’s no Morgan Freeman or Sam L Jackson. He’s not the caliber of actor that you would make concessions for. He’s lucky he got this role. Biggest I’ve ever seen him in. So, they got him and he’s black, so we have to make one of the Storms black.
Now I realize some of you who are still reading this are just putting me in the ‘hater’ category right now. Fine. So be it. I just feel these characters were created by artists who had a vision. When they were hunched over their typewriters and drawing tables, they saw Johnny in their minds and they made him as they saw him. When that version was published the world accepted their vision and we all agreed that what they had given us was Johnny Storm. Fifty some years later, some slick studio execs slide in and decide something different and in casting an actor of a different race, they are saying that the creators were wrong. They’re saying that they can do better. As a writer, I am familiar with the process of creating a character and it’s not just coming up with a name and a visual concept. It’s much deeper and complex than that. You create their world. You create their childhood and their life up until the point where your story actually begins. You conceive them. You give birth to them. They are your children. I am offended when someone else’s children are treated so thoughtlessly. It’s not even like Marvel needs that much more diversity. They already have an impressive line up of heroes of other races. They have African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos. They’ve got the frickin’ United Nations of superheroes over there at the House Of Ideas. I am offended by a black Johnny Storm only because its clearly altering a character for the sake of a buck and a little promotion, which is working because here we are talking about it. I’ve fallen into the trap, but before I allow myself to go any deeper, let me get one last shot in by posing this question: What if it were reversed? What if an African American character were cast with a white actor? What if Falcon had been white in Captain America 2? War Machine? Hell, what if they switched Nick Fury back to white? Would people still be saying it’s cool and that it’s all about diversity? What if there was a JSA movie and Mr. Terrific got cast with a white guy? I think I would be less likely to make a stink about this issue if I saw the door swing both ways.