Published on October 11th, 2019 | by Kevin Given0
Given to Me: Hollywood racism and Misogyny in the guise of diversity
Why would you change the race, or gender for that matter, of an iconic character? The defenders of such a decision would say it’s for the sake of diversity and to be more inclusive. I don’t buy that argument. I feel it’s for the sake of pandering.
Hollywierd, especially Disney, is on board with this gerrymandering. They’ve changed the race of Ariel, the little mermaid, Little Orphan Annie, Johnny Storm (the human torch), Nick Fury, the new 007 is going to be an African American woman. Even going back to the 1960’s they changed the race of Catwoman on the old Batman TV show and now there’s a rumor that Marvel is going to change the race of two of it’s most iconic characters, Professor X and Magneto. If anyone speaks out against such a change they’ll probably be labeled as racist or misogynist internet trolls. I feel, however, that it’s Hollywood and some of their filmmakers that are the racists and misogynists. If you agree or disagree let me know in the comments section.
Let’s start with an unpopular race change. Scarlett Johansen in Ghost in the Shell. As fans know this is an adaptation of a manga series with the main character a Japanese woman named Motoko Kusanagi. The entertainment media ate up how this film cast the Scandinavian actress in this very Japanese role. I agree that they should have cast an Asian actress in the role. But I wonder if the movie had been successful, would anyone have batted an eye at this casting? People blame the failure of the movie on the lack of diversity in casting the lead. However, this is simply a bad adaptation and I feel that even if they had cast a spot-on Japanese actress it still wouldn’t have made much more money than it did. With all the defending of casting African American actors in non-African American roles, I also wonder if the elitists in Hollywierd would have been upset with the casting of an African American woman in the lead, say, Zoe Saldana. This would still be a race change for the character, yet I don’t think that much would have been said by the powers that be if someone of color would have been cast instead of Johansen. Then there are those that would ask me who should be cast. Are there any prominent Asian actresses that could have taken the role? Lucy Liu maybe? Liu is getting up there in years, but she still looks good at 50, she might have pulled it off.
However, an actress that is very underrated that I think would have been excellent is Chiaki Kuriyama who appeared with Lucy Liu in the Kill Bill films (Gogo Yubari.) She’s only 34. Even though her character in Kill Bill is nothing like the main character in Ghost in the Shell, she had an intensity that kept me glued to the screen during the fight scene between her and Uma Thurman’s Beatrix Kiddo. I think she would have pulled it off nicely.
But back to my main point. Why would it be ok to change the race of a character who was envisioned as white, but not ok to change the race of a character who isn’t white? I don’t believe that any iconic characters should be changed into something unrecognizable. I mean who would watch a Luke Cage TV series if the lead were played by Dolph Lundgren? Or how about we have Chris Hemsworth play the White Panther instead of the Black Panther? We’ll change T’Challa to Charlie and have the people of Wakanda be blonde-haired, blue-eyed and fair-skinned. Would you watch that? I would not be on board with that myself. I happen to enjoy the Luke Cage show with Mike Colter as well as Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther and was disappointed with Luke Cage’s cancellation. If you want a Dolph Lundgren superhero show tune into Arrow where he plays Konstantin Kovar on several episodes. Yes, I know the character is Russian and Lundgren is Swedish, but we’ll deal with nationality change in a different article. I also love what Chadwick Boseman did with T’Challa and incidentally The Black Panther was my second favorite comic book growing up and, if they hadn’t canceled it, it may have become my favorite title. I was hugely disappointed with its cancellation. So, don’t label me with any of that racist crap. In fact, if you are down with race changes of iconic characters, I think it’s you who are racist. One comment I found under an article that talked about the possibility of Michael B. Jordan as Superman read like this:
Yes, because we know African American actors can’t succeed with African American or African driven films (ahem, Black Panther) so put them in the roles of white characters to “help” them out because you know African Americans need all the help they can get right? Racist much?
I was not down with Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch, that doesn’t mean I don’t like him. He was great in Black Panther and I loved the Creed movies. As the commentator implies, we don’t need to cast African American actors in white roles for them to succeed, there are plenty of good African American roles for them to play. Notice that the box office failed when he played a non-African American role but succeeded beyond expectations in a role meant for an African American. They don’t need any help from us, they can succeed on their own.
“Kevin, yes, the Black Panther succeeded, but you yourself mentioned that Luke Cage was canceled after only a couple of seasons and Black Lightning over on the CW didn’t fair all that well. “ Ok, I’ll grant you those, but let’s examine why these shows didn’t succeed.
First Luke Cage (incidentally, all the Marvel shows on Netflix were canceled, not just Luke Cage, so it wasn’t a race or gender thing, just a ratings thing.) Although I enjoyed the show, I think the first few episodes spent way too much time with him sweeping up in that barbershop. I know they wanted us to get to know and like the characters in that barbershop, but there was too much male bonding and not enough action. The show finally hit its stride when Mahershala Ali as Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes came on board as the chief antagonist. Those were the episodes that really built up suspense in the show. Then, just as fast as they introduced him, they killed his character off. The episodes that came out after that just weren’t as good. I lost interest and I feel that many others did as well. From Wikipedia: Audience viewership
As Netflix does not reveal subscriber viewership numbers for any of their original series, Karim Zreik, senior vice president of original programming at Marvel Television, provided some viewership demographics for Luke Cage in August 2017, noting that the series has attracted “sort of a mix” of viewers between gender and age. Also in the month, Netflix released viewing patterns for the Marvel Netflix series. The data, which came from Netflix’s “1,300 ‘taste communities’ around the world, where subscribers are grouped based on what they watch”, showed that viewers would not watch the series in chronological order by release, rather starting with Jessica Jones, then Daredevil, Luke Cage and finally Iron Fist. Todd Yellin, Netflix’s vice president of product innovation, noted that audiences watch the series “in order of how they’re interested in them and how they learn about them.” Netflix’s data also showed that a viewer watching Luke Cage would most often then move on to Iron Fist, with Yellin figuring that Jessica Jones and Luke Cage would have paired up more, given that Cage was introduced in Jessica Jones. The data also revealed that fans of Stranger Things and other series that explore “the dark side of society” such as Black Mirror, The Walking Dead and the documentary Amanda Knox led viewers to starting Luke Cage. In October 2018, Crimson Hexagon, a consumer insights company, released data that examined the “social-media buzz” for the series to try to correlate it with potential viewership. The data showed that when the first season premiered on September 2016, the season had over 300,000 Twitter and Instagram posts regarding it, and when the second season was released on June 2018, the posts had declined dramatically to under 50,000.
Now let’s look at Black Lightning. This character has been retconned several times and his original run only lasted one-year (1977-78) DC keeps trying to make the character relevant but never succeeds. The CW wanted an African American lead on one of their superheroes shows, so they adapted this character with a shaky history at best. The first season saw about 2.73 million viewers, not too shabby for the CW, but the ratings have been declining ever since. However, I don’t think it’s a race thing as the ratings for all the CW superhero shows are on the decline. The new Batwoman only had 1.8 million viewers for its premiere episode (also Wikipedia). I think what’s happening there is that the market is oversaturated with Superhero shows and the writing is just not as good as it used to be. I still haven’t seen the show, so I have no comment on the quality of the episodes. It’s simply that the character isn’t that interesting, to begin with. Compared to T’Challa, who has a rich background and an interesting heritage.
I am not down with anyone but James Bond as 007. If the new African American female agent were 006 or 008 I would be down with that, but 007 is James Bond. As far as Michael B. Jordan as Superman goes, I would be down with that if he’s playing Calvin Ellis or Val Zod, but if they’re making him Kal El, Clark Kent, count me out.
Now we come to the possibility of Charles Xavier and Eric Lehnsherr changing into African American characters. Please don’t do this. Kevin Feige and Disney are doing their best to pander to political ideology and are promising “diversity” by making characters different than how they were originally created. I find this disrespectful to the fans, the creators of said heroes and a slap in the face to, not just one, but two races, not to mention survivors of the holocaust. I believe firmly that we should always respect the source material. If you want an African American Green Lantern, you don’t change Hal Jordan’s race, you create John Stewart. If you want a Hispanic Spiderman you don’t change Peter Parker’s race, you create Miles Morales. If you want new mutant leaders, you shouldn’t change the iconic characters’ race, you create new African American mutant leaders.
Getting back to the original commentator (who, incidentally, inspired me to write this article.) You don’t believe that new mutant leader characters of color could succeed, so, you’re going to change the race of the existing characters? What will this do? Eric Lehnsherr is a Jewish holocaust survivor. This could mean something to a lot of Jewish fans. Magneto is probably the most popular Jewish character in the history of comics (next to Ben Grimm perhaps) and the fact that he was conceived as a holocaust survivor makes him an incredibly interesting three-dimensional character that many fans can relate to and holocaust survivors especially can look up to. All changing the character’s race will do, is divide the fans. There is no need to cast white actors in non-white roles. In fact, there is no need to cast any actor in a role that doesn’t reflect who they, or their characters, are.