There was a time where you couldn't get an A-or-B list actor to play a comic book character in a movie. Now, everybody from Al Pacino to Terry Crews wants in on the money and fame that comes with being in a comic book movie. The problem that comes with this is you get actors and actresses playing roles that may or may not be suited for them. A white character is now black, a man is now a woman, and an Asian character now does not exist. Is this always a bad thing? Absolutely not. For example, Michael Clarke Duncan was one of the few saving graces in the Daredevil movie. But there is something to be said for some specific characters staying their designated race, creed, ethnicity, and sexual orientation because these attributes are integral to their character.
Whenever this conversation comes up, the first two characters that pop in my head are Luke Cage and Steve Rogers-two characters that at a glance could not be further apart. But for those of us who really read and love comic books, they have a lot of the same ideals. While Steve Rogers wanted to protect his country, Luke Cage set out to protect a small part of New York. But what's makes them extraordinary is their character.
In the 1930s and 1940s, it wasn't very acceptable to look at people of color as equals. But Steve Rogers was always one to look at someone's character, rather than their skin. Steve Rogers (not Captain America) being a white, blonde haired, blue eyed male and being a supporter of equal rights is important. Because, in those times, there weren't many people who stood up for everyone regardless of what they believed in. As long as you were good person, Steve Rogers would defend you. Heck, sometimes he sees more in people than they see in themselves and that means he sometimes defends criminals. Making Steve Rogers another race takes away from what he stood for. Not Captain America. Any race can take the Captain America mantle. But Steve Rogers' story is one of inclusivity, at a time when this wasn't something everyone- white males in particular- were striving for. Steve Rogers being a white male is crucial for his character arc.
Then there's Luke Cage a character I couldn't stand until writer Brian Michael Bendis got a hold of him and made him more than just a stereotype in a yellow shirt. Bendis turned him into a leader of Marvel's premier superhero team. He went to jail, survived a super soldier like experiment, changed who he was, and never forgot where he came from, but never used it as a crutch. For me, a black man, I read Luke Cage in comics and I'm happy. He's not just some random black hero who only fights the man. He is black superhero who fights for everyone. And like Steve Rogers, Luke doesn't see color. Heck, his best friend is a rich goofy white guy and he married a white woman. Luke is proud of what he is and never shies away from telling people where he came from, because he eventually got out. Sure, this role could be played by a poor person of another color, but for a black male who didn't have a lot of black male superheroes to look up to, it's refreshing having someone like him around now. Luke Cage remained a hero all while raising his daughter, being a great, and a person the people in his community could look up to.
Michelle Rodriguez said it best when she said that we should be making more characters of different races instead of taking old characters and changing what they are. Look at Rey and Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. They kicked @$$. A woman and a black guy. Two new characters that starred in a movie that was knocking on the door of being the highest-grossing film of all time. How did they do it? Good writing and great acting. It's a simple formula. Now, I know some people are not going to agree, and that's perfectly okay. I also know that I might be called all sorts of names for voicing my opinion. But I am sure we can all agree that it would be nice to see more NEW characters of all races (white, black, gay, Christian, Asian, etc) instead of rehashed characters with a new skin tone. It worked well for Steve Rogers and Luke Cage and many others, so there's no reason it can't work again.