Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Casting/racial diversity is a beautiful thing

What's wrong with racial diversity in the "Star Wars" Universe?

Absolutely nothing; the mix of different skin colors is a beautiful thing.

We live in a world where I would think race should be a non-issue by now. Everyone should be colorblind.

Actor John Boyega's unmasked Stormtrooper is the first
character seen in the teaser trailer for "Star Wars:
Epsiode VII - The Force Awakens."
In that case, science-fiction and genre fans should be equally OK with racial diversity when it comes to casting.

Even above and beyond all of that, I just don't get the hubub by fans' astonishment over seeing John Boyega, a black man playing an unmasked Stormtrooper — the first character seen in the teaser trailer for "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens."

Why is that a problem? Why are some fans so ignorant they're upset about the very existence of a black Stormtrooper? (Boyega had a great response on Instagram, in which he sounded quite excited about being in a "Star Wars" film: “To whom it may concern…Get used to it. :)”)

What's the problem with casting black actors in "Star Wars" — especially when the original trilogy was dominated by white actors — and male ones at that? As I said in my review of the "Episode VII" teaser trailer, I find it "extremely positive" there will be black characters and apparently more female characters in "The Force Awakens" — and director J.J. Abrams makes that clear with Boyega's Stormtrooper and a young lady on a speeder bike being the characters we see first in the 88 seconds of footage.

Why shouldn't there be people with different skins colors in that "galaxy far, far away"? After all, there are aliens of every type!

Samuel L. Jackson's Mace Windu uses a purple lightsaber
in the "Star Wars" prequels.
Say what you will about the "Star Wars" prequels (released from 1999 through 2005), but at least the cast included actors and actresses whose racial background weren't just Caucasian. For example, the actors who played Jango and Boba Fett have olive complexions. (According to the Internet Movie Database, both Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett) and Daniel Logan (Jango's son, Boba Fett) were born in New Zealand.)

Keep in mind, Samuel L. Jackson played Jedi Master Mace Windu, who was the second in command to Yoda on the Jedi Council in the prequels. The way this lifelong "Star Wars" nerd sees it, Windu was the second most powerful Jedi and Force-user (behind Yoda) until the births of Anakin Skywalker and his son, Luke.

Let's spread this casting issue— which is a non-issue for yours truly — into the realm of superhero films.

Fans took notice of the beautiful Kerry Washington in the first two "Fantastic Four" films. Sure her character, Alicia Masters, is a white woman in the comics, so it was somewhat of a surprise to cast Washington.

But once I witnessed the chemistry she has with Michael Chiklis (Ben Grimm/The Thing), I was all in.
Ben Grimm/The Thing (Michael Chiklis) shares a tender moment with his girlfriend,
Alicia Masters (Kerry Washington), in "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer."

Why can't all genre fans be as blind to color as Washington's character is completely blind?

The reason Masters falls in love with The Thing is because Grimm is a caring soul who loves her deeply – the fact is his skin is orange rocks is irrelavent. And in the two FF films, The Thing doesn't care about Master's skin color; it's never discussed. Their love is what makes them a happy couple. That's a beautiful thing.
Michael Clarke Duncan as The Kingpin smokes a big cigar
in this promotional photo for the "Daredevil" film.

The Kingpin, in Marvel Comics, is a large white man. But Michael Clarke Duncan was cast as the nasty mob boss in 2003's "Daredevil." That casting is a stroke of genius since I totally could see Duncan embody the slimy charisma it takes to play the Kingpin.

As I've said before, I had — and still have — more problems with casting Colin Farrell, a white man, as Bullseye in the same film. That's not because I have an issue with an Irishman playing the assassin I assume is an American; it's because it seemed Farrell was cast as a "name" that might inspire buzz and generate some box office instead of what he ultimately could do with the baddie. And he didn't do enough to make me believe Bullseye is as menacing or as tough as his reputation.

My problem with casting Michael B. Jordan as a black Johnny Storm/the Human Torch in the upcoming "The Fantastic Four," a reboot, comes from a different viewpoint.
Michael B. Jordan in 2011

Jordan is a fine actor, so that's not the issue. His being a black guy also doesn't bother me; what irks me tremendously is that Storm's sister is being played by a young white woman, Kate Mara. Since the Storms are siblings, why didn't the "Fantastic Four" casting director choose actors with the same skin color?

If Johnny and Sue Storm end up being siblings through adoption in the film, I have to say that casting Jordan then falls under the completely ridiculous categories of "casting a great actor of a different race for a character just because we can" and the equally odd choice of failing to stay true to characters' long histories. Each of those creative decisions come off as nothing more than change for the sake of change.

And that's just disrespectful.

But do you know what's even more disrespectful? Jumping to the race card and being offended based solely on one short clip from a teaser trailer. That's not just rude; that's ignorant.


  1. I dislike the idea that we should be color blind. Instead we should embrace the beauty of racial diversity.

    1. I too believe in the beauty of racial diversity; it's one of the things that make the world go round. IMO, I think being color blind is a step in that direction/the right direction. Either way, I'd love to live in a world where the color of one's skin and/or one's gender isn't a headline when someone achieves something in the entertainment industry.