Comic books didn’t start out with a wide array of diverse heroes. So, it wasn’t much of a surprise to me that when films started being made I didn’t see very many black people. I remember three from my youth. Billy Dee Williams was cast as Harvey Dent in Batman (1989). I can only imagine what the studio executives said to Tim Burton about that. But, it was Billy Dee after all. Then came Blade (Wesley Snipes!) and Spawn (Michael Jai White/Black Dynamite) in the 90’s. Times have come a long way since then.
Who didn’t get excited when Samuel L. Jackson showed up as Nick Fury in Iron Man? When he said “Avengers Initiative” I high-fived someone, could’ve been the devil for all I know; I was overjoyed. Since then, we’ve seen many roles go to actors with very diverse backgrounds. From Will Smith as Deadshot, to Pom Klementieff as Mantis, comic book cinema has gotten pretty colorful.
But, sometimes studios are so eager to please audiences, they’re decision-making is questionable. Instead of bringing more diverse roles into comic book blockbusters, they are trying to stuff people of color into roles that were not originally diverse. That’s fine in some cases like Billy Dee’s Harvey Dent, Laurence Fishbourne’s Perry White, and Idris Elba’s Heimdall. But, what about Halle Berry’s Catwoman, Michael Clarke Duncan’s Kingpin, and Jamie Foxx’s Electro. We’ll see how Jason Momoa’s Aquaman turns out, but I don’t have warm fuzzies. Why not just bring great diverse characters to the screen? Took a while, but look how much people loved Luke Cage. Black Panther is highly anticipated. Maybe they just need a reminder of some great characters.
First up, Miles Morales aka the half Puerto Rican, half Black Spider-Man. He’s coming, but Marvel didn’t need to show us Peter Parker for a third time (I loved Homecoming btw), they could’ve gotten straight to this popular new hero. There’s Northstar, a gay superhero. Firestorm, Deathlok, Lobo, Bumblebee, Tyroc, Sunfire… you see? And, some of these characters are on their way, so that’s a good sign. The next Green Lantern film is rumored to have both Hal Jordan (white) and Jon Stewart (black, and let’s hope it’s Common) which will be very interesting if done well.
For the latest case of struggling to shove an actor/actress into a role, we need look no further than Deadpool 2. Zazie Beetz was cast as Domino, and everyone cheered. She’s a talented actress, Atlanta has a lot of buzz, plus she’s drop dead gorgeous. Let’s take a look at Domino’s profile just in case some of us didn’t read X-Force when we were kids (I hear some people were playing outside):
Domino is a mutant with the ability to subliminally and psionically initiate random telekinetic acts that affect probability in her favor by making improbable (but not impossible) things to occur within her line of sight, thus causing her to have “good luck” and her opponents to have “bad luck.”
“As results of her mutation, she has chalk white skin, and a black circle tattoo around left eye” Marvel.Wikia.com’s reference to her skin
Personally, I thought they’d paint Zazie white (more like Sofia Boutella in Star Trek: Beyond than white face) to keep the character’s look. They chose to do nothing, and give her a white birthmark around her eye. Wuh?! And, her hair isn’t a big deal, but did they give her an afro to say “we’re cool, right?” to the black community? Just please don’t let her talk like Foxxy Cleopatra from Austin Powers in Goldmember. I knew when I saw their handling of Domino; I wouldn’t like their treatment of Josh Brolin/Cable either. I didn’t; but that’s a whole separate rant.
For all the hate people give Halle Berry on her post-Oscar choices, at least Storm looked like the leader of the X-Men I remembered from my childhood. And, yes, I actually read X-Force as a kid. Most won’t care because it was a B-team, but why even bother bringing heroes to the screen just to totally change them? I have imagination, but to a certain extent you’re just creating a new character on the strength of a name I trust. Perfect example, that thing they called Juggernaut in X3: The Last Stand. I blame 20th Century Fox. In their comic book cash grab, they don’t actually care about the properties. They almost screwed Deadpool twice, and against their poor judgement it became a tremendous success.
Let’s go back to 2015 to discuss Fox’s Fantastic Four. Did you see that hot mess? I’m so sorry if you did. I saw a guy next to me filming from his pocket, and I judged him. Not as a thief, as a man of poor taste. Remember when they cast Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm aka The Human Torch? Great choice, but why not make Susan Storm black too? They’re brother and sister. Instead of potentially seeing Richard Reed in an interracial relationship, it’s easier to make up a story line where the Storm family adopted a white girl??? They should’ve just made her black, but instead, they only thought as far as “get me Michael B. Jordan NOW.” They don’t get it. Audience want diversity (and Michael B. Jordan), but bring me diverse characters, not just a black version of a character I know.
Michael B. Jordan did as well as he could with the heap of garbage that we call Fantastic Four. I pray no one’s career suffers under the weight of that bomb. As for Zazie Beetz, she’s been great on Atlanta, and I look forward to seeing the onscreen chemistry she shares with stars Ryan Reynolds and (sigh) Josh Brolin. May she be just as witty and awesome as the character X-Force fans have come to know and love. I’ll reserve most of my judgement until we see a trailer, which can’t be far off now. At least, we can rest easy knowing the come February when we travel to Wakanda, everything will be just as it should be: Awesome. #BlackPanther
It would be wrong not to take a moment and recognize the tragic accident that occurred 8/14/17 involving Joi “SJ” Harris, the first professional black female motorcycle racer in US history, who was doing her first film as a stunt performer, specifically for Zazie Beetz’s character Domino. Harris was killed on the Vancouver set of Deadpool 2 after a motorcycle trick took a tragic turn.