Sigh. A heavy, collected "sigh" was just heard throughout the world. Why is the world sighing? Well, for one thing, the two most dangerous llamas in the entire Camelid biological family have been apprehended, and the dress business is finally cooling down. So that's a big sigh of relief.
But the second collective sigh was one of utter disappointment in the words of a certain actress by the name of Michelle Rodriguez. Michelle, when asked by paparazzi if she would be playing the superhero Green Lantern, not only squished the rumors but also did a bit of slamming on minorities "stealing white people superheroes."
Now obviously, headlines like "Michelle Is Anti-Minority" and "Michelle Doesn't Think Superman Can Be Black" showed up all over the internet. Now, before I get into this, Michelle did try to redeem herself via an apology video:
Now, let's get this out of the way first. I do not believe that Michelle Rodriguez was in ANY WAY, trying to be racist or derogatory to any culture or group of people. I personally don't see anything racist about her statement, and here's why: Now let me be clear, I'm not defending her, but I'm also not attacking her. There are some things she says that I agree with to an extent and disagree with to an extent, so don't think I'm being one-sided at any point in this article, and if I am, I apologize as that's not what I intended. Now, let's talk about the phrase "stealing white people's superheroes." I don't agree with that. Not at all. A superhero does not in anyway belong to any certain ethnic group. Anyone can be any hero as long as the mythology isn't contradicted.
Storm and Black Panther
In the case of heroes like Black Panther and Storm, these characters NEED to be of African descent. That's not prejudice or racism, it's prerequisite. Black Panther and his wife Storm were created with origins that make them now and forever African. Not just the characters, but their beliefs, their religions and even the way they obtained their powers/abilities all have African mythology within them. Now, you could argue that either character could be portrayed as a South African Caucasian, but this simply wouldn't work. BP and Storm's fundamentals are predominately based off ancient, tribal African mythology. You simply can't go back in time and change the skin color of ancient Africans. Therefore, these characters must be black.
But as for characters like Superman or Green Lantern. Superman is an alien, he doesn't have to be white! He could be green, purple, periwinkle, any of the fifty shades of gray!
The point is, he's not from earth; his appearance can be drastically changed at any given time.
Green Lantern and The Human Torch
And as for Green Lantern, he's not one person. The Green Lantern isn't just Hal Jordan, there are tons of Green Lanterns in every quadrant of the galaxy. You don't exactly have to make Hal black, there's already Jon Stewart. But if a black person auditions for Hal Jordan, what do you do? This brings me back a bit to what Michelle said about minorities "stealing" white superhero roles. Look, I agree that changing the skin color of a character should not be done just for the sake of a publicity stunt or as a way to get your film a ton of attention. But, you can't turn down someone because of their skin color. You can't tell a black man he can't be Human Torch because he's black! What if he was a huge Fantastic Four fan as a child and his favorite member was Human Torch? He had a HT action figure, a lunchbox, every day he would come home from school, turn the TV on and tune in to the Fantastic Four TV show, saying "flame on!" in sync with Johnny Storm whenever it was time for the FF to get down to business.
He then grows up to be an actor and hears they're making a new Fantastic Four film! Excited, he auditions, only to be turned down because of the color of his skin. Really, this guy is an exceptional actor and you turned him down because he was a darker tint than the flaming character is usually portrayed? Again, casting a black actor in a white role JUST because he's black is not good. People argue that Human Torch being black in the new film is just one big publicity stunt and that there's absolutely no reason for him to be black. Ok, fair enough, you're right. There is NO valid reason for the character being black, it does nothing for the character itself. But what has being white done for the character? Nothing. Because who cared that he was white? Certainly not the writers. There weren't ever any situations in the FF comics where being white actually benefited Johnny Storm; his skin color was the farthest thing from everyone's minds. We were too busy focusing on the things that actually defined the character: his personality, his charisma, his amazing ability to become a walking/talking supernova!
Now obviously, by the TMZ video, Michelle is saying the exact opposite of what I'm saying. She's saying that actors like Michael B. Jordan shouldn't be going after white superhero roles and that it's stupid. That's it, right? Well, no. I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and watch her try to worm herself out of this in the apology video. And what I thought was going to be a simple "Hey, sorry, my mistake oopsie kk bye" video, actually inspired the second part of this article.
Guys, She's TRYING To Make Good Points
Is she doing a good job? No, not really, in my opinion. Ok so, talking about diversity in Hollywood is extremely hard to do. No matter what side you're on, your words are ABSOLUTELY going to be twisted and tangled right in front of your very eyes. It's a bit like being in court: anything you say can and will be used against you (that's the saying, right?). I'm not saying what she said isn't what she said. I'm saying that the way she said what she said completely missed the point of what she was trying to say.
Let me try and explain myself here. Michelle, in her apology video goes on about how she believes that minorities going after white superhero roles is "lazy" and that it "needs to stop." I don't particularly agree with either of those statements. Minorities going after non-minority roles isn't lazy, it's a person auditioning for a role. That's all it should be! We shouldn't be looking at a person's skin color during their audition, and we shouldn't be manipulating it either! Of course, again, characters like Black Panther and Storm have to be black in the same way that Martin Luther King Jr. has to be portrayed by an African-American onscreen. Otherwise it's unfaithful. But I would never see the brilliant casting of Idris Elba as Heimdall in the Thor films as lazy. I would agree that this kind of casting has become a bit of a Hollywood gimmick and that honestly saddens me. I'm a superhero fan, and I'm half-black/half-Honduran. I want to become an actor one day. And I'd like to have as much of a chance as the white person sitting next to me when auditioning for Spider-Man or Deadpool! So, lazy? Sorry Michelle, but I'd have to disagree on that poor choice of words. Acceptable words could have been "used incorrectly" or "sometimes a gimmick."
But, there is something she said that I find myself really agreeing with. Now wait a moment before you leave!
In the apology video, she talks about how there are plenty of non-white writers and directors and so forth who could potentially create their own mythology. Now again, I do not agree when she says that a black actor essentially cannot or should not be a white superhero. But just because I say that any person can be essentially any hero, doesn't mean we should stick to just those heroes. Minorities are unfortunately scarce in the comics world. Sure you've got the aforementioned power couple, Black Panther and Storm. Then there's Miles Morales, John Stewart, and a handful of other minority superheroes, but they're called "minorities" for a reason. For every Miles Morales story there are 100 Peter Park ones. While I agree that everyone can audition for whoever and whatever - and by the way just to clarify, that goes for all races - if you're white and you want to be Falcon, go for it!
Anyway, while I do believe that, I also agree that we should really be making some of our own superheroes as well. I'm not saying make a universe of comics or a group of comic characters that are dominantly one race, but some more black and hispanic superheroes to join the ranks of Superman and Captain America would be nice. Both these, and many other cultures are full of mythology, just ripe for the adapting! How about a Mesoamerican superhero with ancient Aztec powers? That's something I'd like to see. Writers should be making characters like that and many more, as well as supporting equal rights in superhero roles!
The Main Point
Bottom line: Do I agree with what Michelle Rodriguez is saying? No. Do I agree with what she's TRYING to say? Yes. Again, she's TRYING to say that she believes that her and many other's minority cultures and mythology should be adapted. I do not agree with her notions that casting a minority in a white superhero role is lazy. Unfortunately, it is often used as a gimmick. I hope that one day a minority is actually cast in a role solely on his acting skill, not because his casting would have Twitter blowing up.
[That's not a stab at Michael B. Jordan. He's an amazing actor and I honestly can not wait to see him play Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four]
Anyway, yes, she said the wrong things. Yes, she had her foot way in her mouth! And yes, she most likely didn't read up on the GL rumors otherwise she would have known that the character people were rumoring her for, Jessica Cruz, is a Green Lantern of Hispanic descent. But Michelle isn't a racist and she isn't a white supremacist. She tried to make some good points, but only ended up digging herself into a hole.
So while I may not agree with everything she's saying, I'll say this: EVERY actor should be able to audition for ANY role, and their casting of the part should be determined by a job well done, not their skin color. BUT, we should try harder to get some original minority representing heroes out there! The world is made up of countless different races, so there's a ton of material out there. All it takes is a little creativity!
Thanks for reading!