The rumored casting of Disney star Zendaya as MJ in Spider-Man: Homecoming caused quite a stir on the Internet when the rumors first started to buzz. While most people approved of this choice, some fans were argued by how this deviated from the comics.
After her character's identity was concealed for months upon months, the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming finally revealed that Zendaya is indeed playing MJ. Although her name is technically Michelle, Zendaya's character is still MJ nonetheless as that's the nickname she goes by.
While there are those who oppose the idea of casting someone whose ethnicity is different to that of the original character, this is far from the first time that a Marvel character was racebent. Marvel movies, both inside and outside of the #Marvel Cinematic Universe, are no strangers to making radical choices like this. Here are 5 other times Marvel characters swapped races in movies.
1. Wilson Fisk - 'Daredevil' (2003)
While many were disappointed with the theatrical cut of #Daredevil, it certainly had some great elements, one of which was the villainous Wilson Fisk (a.k.a. Kingpin). Fisk was played in this film by Michael Clarke Duncan, who is best known for his roles in The Green Mile, Sin City, Planet of the Apes, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
While he may not have been as great as Vincent D'Onofrio from the Netflix series, Clarke Duncan certainly pulled off a menacing Fisk. His deep voice and large stature made him a true force to be reckoned with, particularly in the Director's Cut of the film, which markedly improved on the theatrical cut.
2. The Ancient One - 'Doctor Strange' (2016)
In the comics, The Ancient One is male and Asian. However, in Doctor Strange, The Ancient One is played by Tilda Swinton, who is female and Caucasian. This casting decision also caused the Internet quite a stir, especially when it was revealed that the decision was made so that China would not boycott the film (China reportedly wouldn't allow the film in their country if it showed anyone from Tibet as a protagonist).
This particular casting decision is an outlier on the list, as it's a case of "white-washing" diverse roles. However, I personally enjoyed Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. I feel she did a fantastic job as the wise, old mentor in the film. Sadly, not everyone agrees with me here.
3. Nick Fury - 'Iron Man' (2008)
The most prominent character included on this list is Nick Fury, who was originally white in the comics, but is played by Samuel L. Jackson in the films. Jackson pulls the role off so well though that most people seem to overlook this change to his character, proving the talent of an actor far outweighs the color of their skin.
While Fury is primarily white in the comics, in the Ultimate Marvel comics (a completely separate comic-book Universe that features many similar storylines), Fury is not only black, but is even based completely off Samuel L. Jackson. Note, this was several years before Fury first appeared on-screen in Iron Man. Samuel L. Jackson was truly meant for this role.
We will later see Nick Fury return in Avengers: Infinity War, as well as in Captain Marvel.
4. Johnny Storm - 'Fantastic Four' (2015)
Like Zendaya and Tilda Swinton, the casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm in last year's Fantastic Four caused quite a bit of controversy. Nevertheless, I was quite impressed by his performance in the film. While Fantastic Four lacked in some aspects, the cast was phenomenal.
Michael B. Jordan was without a doubt my favorite part of the movie. He, like Chris Evans in the 2005 version of the film, truly became the Human Torch on screen. Looking back on the film, the effects could have been better, and the editing could have been improved, but the cast was spot on.
Fortunately, Michael B. Jordan has been given a second chance with Marvel, as he is set to appear as the villain Killmonger in next year's Black Panther.
5. Heimdall - 'Thor' (2011)
This is one casting decision that is often overlooked. Idris Elba has truly become a memorable face in the film industry, and seeing him appear three times thus far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a true blessing to the franchise. While many people overlook his character, adding Idris Elba to the series seriously improves the franchise. It is yet another example of how brilliant acting can only benefit a franchise, regardless of race.
One of Elba's best moments in the MCU, in my opinion, was in Avengers: Age of Ultron. During the intense dream sequence, Elba as Heimdall says the line, "You're our destroyer, Odinson. See where your power leads." This line, said in Elba's voice, still gives me chills every time I hear it. Check it out in the scene below...
So what's my point? Why does the race of an actor matter? Essentially, what I'm saying is that it doesn't matter. Every actor on this list did nothing but arguably improve the film they were in. Many people on the Internet flipped out when Michael B. Jordan was cast as Johnny Storm, but he was without a doubt one of the best parts of the entire movie!
Marvel has proven that they know what they are doing when they make their casting decisions, so we really have nothing to worry about. As anyone who's seen Spider-Man: Homecoming already knows, Zendaya will make a great MJ in future sequels, and in the end, that is all that matters.
Do you want to see more of Zendaya as MJ? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!