Awkward Fixations with Fictional Identities

I’ll never understand the fixation with the skin color of fictional characters.

In the latest disgrace to human dignity, people took to social media to express their disdain over Michael B. Jordan’s casting as The Human Torch in the next Fantastic Four installment.

Michael B. Jordan

These complaints echo those towards Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue in The Hunger Games. Rue was actually Black in the books, but for some reason, Amandla’s ethnicity sparked a vicious uproar.

And let’s not forget the Fox News fiasco over Santa Claus.

Why does it seem that Black actors and actresses cannot escape controversy, unless they’re playing roles as slaves or civil rights icons? Why is it that Black actors are only expected to portray historically significant roles that traditionally belong to African Americans? The modest servant. The racial rebel. The Black best friend.

The superhero/comic book space is notoriously dominated by white male patriarchy. I’m not the biggest comic book fan, but think of the most profitable and marketed superheroes… do they have a similar look? This, in of itself, isn’t life threatening; I for one, don’t lose much sleep over the ethnic background of fictional characters, unless their identity is explicitly significant to the plot. But when fiction turns to reality, and the woefully ignorant display their hatred in the public sphere, I feel the need to respond.

Michael B. Jordan is relatively new to the acting world. A fresh face, he gained international recognition for Fruitvale Station, an emotionally trying film about the last 24 hours of Oscar Grant’s life before he was gunned down by a policeman in L.A. It’s an amazing accomplishment that he scored a top superhero role given his short resume, and the rapidity at which Hollywood typecasts Black actors.

I’m sure he knew that backlash was coming. There’s already been calls for boycotts (which will most likely go unheard), similar to when the gorgeous Idris Elba was slated to play Norse god, Heimdall in Thor in 2011. The film went on to gross $450,000,000 worldwide. Some boycott.

But it seems like Hollywood is taking a stand against racism, or at the very least, ignoring it because doing so is more profitable. Already, there’s so much attention that will translate to ticket sales. And, for the millennial activists who are quick to support diversity, we’ll definitely pay to see Michael B. Jordan shut his haters down with talent.

Everybody wins.

I have no clue what it says about America that these conversations are still necessary. I cannot comprehend why racism shows itself in the artistic and cinematic space. Entertainment is vivid, insightful, and interpretative. It doesn’t maintain a rigid formula or inflexible order. Of course, casting different races of people can lead to quality discussions about cultural mores and social norms.

But to outright attack a man based on his skin color; to brutalize a man who dares to question preconceived notions of appropriate character, deserves no consideration in the 21st century.

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7 responses to “Awkward Fixations with Fictional Identities

  1. ugh, isn’t it annoying? i will never understand this either. i mean, these are fictional characters. also, i agree with your point that we are only allowed to play roles of cultural significance and not venture outside that. that’s a real shame.

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  2. I don’t think it’s racist to be angry at the race change….it can be. But I think it’s lazy and un-creative to do so, to me it’s just an obvious attempt to capitalize on black dollars. He’s a token, and a forced token at that. Instead of just changing a character black, why not just put a black marvel character in the movie like the Black Panther, who actually has many comics where he works with the Fantastic 4. In the comic Michael B Jordan’s character the Human Torch is brash, arrogant, and a loose cannon….so making him black may actually just be a bad move….unless we’re cool with seeing the only black dude for into a bunch of hollywood stereotypes… Eh but I don’t care too much for Marvel movies so I’m not trippin, it’s whatever I guess.

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