Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Denzel Washington Is One of Hollywood's Most Overpaid Stars, According to Forbes Denzel Washington Is One of Hollywood's Most Overpaid Stars, According to Forbes Bill Duke's 'Dark Girls' Follow-up, 'Light Girls,' Gets a First Trailer & Release date (Heading to OWN) Bill Duke's 'Dark Girls' Follow-up, 'Light Girls,' Gets a First Trailer & Release date (Heading to OWN) Watch Trailer for Romcom 'With This Ring' (Regina Hall, Jill Scott, Eve Star - Coming January 2015) Watch Trailer for Romcom 'With This Ring' (Regina Hall, Jill Scott, Eve Star - Coming January 2015) Here Are the Top 10 Grossing "Black Films" of 2014... How Many of Them Did You See? Here Are the Top 10 Grossing "Black Films" of 2014... How Many of Them Did You See? Debbie Allen & Phylicia Rashad Sign Up for 'Arsenic and Old Lace' Playing the Brewster Sisters Debbie Allen & Phylicia Rashad Sign Up for 'Arsenic and Old Lace' Playing the Brewster Sisters Kickstart This: A Film About a 150 Year-Old Black Vampire With Suicidal Urges Kickstart This: A Film About a 150 Year-Old Black Vampire With Suicidal Urges Weekend B.O. Dec. 19-21 (Sony's Grateful for Small Blessings, while Paramount Blew it) Weekend B.O. Dec. 19-21 (Sony's Grateful for Small Blessings, while Paramount Blew it) Ava DuVernay Has Multi-Episode TV Series on "Black Experience in America" in the Works Ava DuVernay Has Multi-Episode TV Series on "Black Experience in America" in the Works Sony Hack Reveals the Insufferable Whiteness of Hollywood Sony Hack Reveals the Insufferable Whiteness of Hollywood Preview: Jessica Williams of 'The Daily Show' Makes Leading Lady Debut in 'Tap Shoes & Violins' Preview: Jessica Williams of 'The Daily Show' Makes Leading Lady Debut in 'Tap Shoes & Violins' '106 & PARK' Says Goodbye Today, Dec 19 at 6pm, w/ Live, 2-hour, Star-Studded Finale! '106 & PARK' Says Goodbye Today, Dec 19 at 6pm, w/ Live, 2-hour, Star-Studded Finale! First Image of Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith in Upcoming HBO Biopic First Image of Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith in Upcoming HBO Biopic The Best of Black Television in 2014 The Best of Black Television in 2014 The Gift That Keeps on Giving - Leaked Sony Email Challenges Denzel Washington's Overseas Box Office Appeal The Gift That Keeps on Giving - Leaked Sony Email Challenges Denzel Washington's Overseas Box Office Appeal Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means Co-Screenwriter of 'Noah' Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film Co-Screenwriter of 'Noah' Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

The 'Fantastic Four' Reboot Casting: Progressive Or Not?

Shadow and Act By Zeba Blay | Shadow and Act February 20, 2014 at 6:30PM

The 'Fantastic Four' Reboot Casting: Progressive Or Not?
32
Image via Yahoo! Movies
Image via Yahoo! Movies

It’s surprising to no one that the Fantastic Four casting news has garnered as much criticism as it has praise from comic book fans. The ongoing rumors that Michael B. Jordan has nabbed the role of Johnny Storm are evidently true, and with his casting comes all sorts of questions about how the highly lucrative comic book and comic book movie industry continues to represent black characters.

 

Those who consider themselves purists have been notoriously vocal about wanting historically white comic book characters to stay white. A perfect example of that was the backlash a few years back against the introduction of the Afro-Latino Miles Morales as the new Spider-Man, or the even bigger backlash when Community actor Donald Glover campaigned for the role in the Amazing Spider-Man reboot that eventually went to Andrew Garfield.

And even now, while there has indeed been huge support for Jordan’s casting, a quick perusal of the Fantastic Four tag on Twitter does bring up comments like “Let's be HONEST. Making Johnny Storm a black character is a financial and PC move for Fox and Hollywood,” or “This sucks ! The black guy should be the thing,” or, “I don’t remember a black guy in the Fantastic Four?”

Of course, we all know that haters are gonna hate in an effort to defend the overwhelmingly white comic book world. They’ll rant about “staying true to the comic,” and argue that if white characters keep getting cast with black actors, then the same should be done for what few black comic book characters there are. And, of course, we all know that the casting of characters like Johnny Storm isn’t, or shouldn’t, be as arbitrary as this. It’s about balancing an industry that’s skewed far too heavily in one direction.

Comic books proper are one thing, but there has been a dearth of black superheroes onscreen. There’s been Halle Berry as Storm (and, much less successfully, Catwoman). There was Hancock. Marvel Studios to date has only had three, if you count James Rhodes in Iron Man, Heimdell in Thor, and Anthony Mackie’s Falcon soon to be seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. So the Michael B. Jordan casting is indeed a very big deal, pointing towards a kind of progress that Hollywood has been resisting for a long time.

But then there’s the question of whether it really is progress. Has he been tokenized? Is the brash Johnny Storm too obvious as opposed to say, the scientific genius and group leader Reed Richards? Perhaps, but at the end of the day, Jordan’s casting is a sort of progress, and an incredibly exciting milestone for a charismatic and promising young actor. But his casting, or rather the casting of the entire Fantastic Four lineup is emblematic of Hollywood’s one step forward, two steps back syndrome.

Because the bigger question, of course, is the Sue Storm question. There’s been discussion that casting House of Cards actress Kate Mara as sister to Johnny Storm might be “confusing” to audiences. There’s a great deal of speculation as to how in fact interracial siblings might be related (it’s telling that some social media theorists think Johnny, not Sue, is the adopted one), and how their different races might inform their dynamic. There’s the possibility that in an effort to be truly “progressive” that question might be ignored altogether in a post-racial gesture of color-blindness. Let’s hope not.

The real question, though, isn’t about how they are related but why we have to debate about how they are related. In other words, what’s more progressive: casting a single black character in a historically all white superhero team, or casting two black characters in an all white superhero team? Why isn’t Sue Storm black? Yes, Hollywood racism being what it is, Fox execs may fear that two black actors in one movie might make their blockbuster less marketable. Perhaps a possible interracial relationship between Reed and a black Sue Storm might be too controversial?

The problem here is that in the ongoing conversation about black actors and superhero movies has always revolved around men. We sign petitions to get black actors to play Spider-Man, campaign for the Black Panther movie to get made, and fantasize about Idris Elba playing Batman. But (unless Halle Berry comes up) the same doesn’t happen when we’re discussing say, a Wonder Woman. 

Even in Hollywood’s bid towards progress, it seems black female superheroes, just like black female anything in movies, are still seen as less viable. But why take the leap with Johnny Storm and not go all the way? It’s great that Michael B. Jordan is playing Johnny Storm, but it's distinctly telling that Sue Storm isn’t a black woman. The new Fantastic Four cast may be surprising, yes, but truly progressive? Not at all.


Zeba Blay is a Ghanaian-born film and culture writer based in New York. She runs a personal movie blog, Film Memory, and co-hosts the podcast Two Brown Girls. Follow her on Twitter @zblay.

This article is related to: Michael B. Jordan, Things That Make You Go Hmm...


Shadow & ActNewsletter