Ignorance, racism and fanboys

A few weeks ago news surfaced on the internet of a possible casting choice in the upcoming reboot of the Fantastic Four. The role up for grabs was that of Johnny Storm, aka The Human Torch. The man rumoured to be up for this particular role was Michael B. Jordan, a talented young man probably best known for his work on Friday Night Lights and Chronicle.

My only problem is he’s too damn handsome.

Jordan, at least in his acting roles, is cocky, confident and has a slight playboy swagger about him. This makes him perfect for the role of cocky, confident and playboy type Johnny Storm right? Of course it does, any open-minded person who wants the best person cast in a role would agree, would they not?

Well apparently open-minded people are hard to find on internet forums and in the comments sections on some sites. The problem, for some people, is that Johnny Storm (a creation in a purely fictitious world) is white and Michael B. Jordan is black. This possible casting choice is incomprehensible to some folk.

The Human Torch can fly while being on fire but can’t be black, apparently.

I tend to look at a few sites to find my movie news and reviews, some are well-known established sites like IGN and ComingSoon, others are fellow bloggers I have found since I started blogging and thoroughly enjoy their work. However, when this rumour first started circling I knew it would cause a reaction, so I took to some of the more established websites and started reading their comments section.

It’s an act I wish I had never carried through, as some of the blind ignorance on display was astounding. There were, of course, some rays of hope in among the stupid and empty-headed comments. I understand that sometimes people will let go and post a quick fire reaction without thinking, but some comments were simply depressing.

The fact that people are so upset over a fictitious character, who exists mainly in comic books and movies, is worrying. They have no problem believing a man can set himself on fire, control said fire and fly whilst doing this, but change his skin colour and they lose their shit.

Here is one example: ” Nobody will watch it if they make the human torch black. He was white as white as a person could be in the comics. blonde hair, blue eyes. COME ON! There are black superheroes. why can’t we just keep them their race? I am not racist. one of my favorite super heroes is black. and you don’t see people making him white!”

So nobody will watch this film if they make the Human Torch black? Idris Elba and Laurence Fishburne are both phenomenally talented actors, they are both black and have both appeared in movies as characters who were originally envisaged as being white. Thor took, roughly, $181 million at the US box office alone. But nobody will watch if they make the Human Torch black. Marvel even rebooted their Ultimate Spider-Man comic line with Spidey being half black/half Latino.

Elba put it brilliantly when questioned about the fanboy reaction to his casting in Thor: “We have a man [Thor] who has a flying hammer and wears horns on his head. And yet me being an actor of African descent playing a Norse god is unbelievable? I mean, Cleopatra was played by Elizabeth Taylor, and Gandhi was played by Ben Kingsley.”

The horns were a little big weren’t they Idris?

Another example was this beauty: “Lets reboot Blade and have Jay Leno play the day-walker……….. Lets have a Hitler biopic staring (sic) Will Smith as the fuhrer.”

The idea of Adolf Hitler being played by a black actor is completely counter-intuitive, as Hitler wanted a master race, a pure race where Blacks were at the bottom of the ladder and white Europeans were at the top. So to cast a black actor as Hitler would be senseless and hamper the true story being told.

One comment was actually well thought out and went thusly: “I dunno, but it’s worked for Lucy Liu playing Dr Watson. And that was a male role filled by a woman. Have you made a similar complaint about Laurence Fishburne playing Perry White in Man of Steel. Does it really matter what colour the actor is? No. Who cares?”

Then came this response: “You should care. You can’t have a white Sue Storm and a black Johnny Storm if you don’t makes (sic) sure that the story makes sense since they are supposed to be siblings.”

One of my favourites was this one:  “A Black Human Torch and black Electro? Dafuq… I absolutely have nothing against black people, they are just people like you and me, but in a movie comic adaptation the actors MUST LOOK LIKE THE CHARACTER FROM THE COMICS!”

There is something brilliant about the idiocy on display here. Saying you have nothing against black people is almost admitting your comment has a racist edge to it but you want to put a warning up first, just in case anyone takes offence. Also, who is to say that the actor must look like the character from the comics? Never mind that Jessica Alba never really looked like Sue Storm in the original Fantastic Four movie until they made her hair blonde and put in some blue contact lenses.

I had more problems believing she was a scientist really.

Now, this comment I am just going to put down as trolling, as I would hate to believe this was backed up with any kind of belief from its author: “It just sucks because the more reason black people have to go see the movie in theaters, the more I’ll have to deal with people walking in late, smuggling in meatloaf and chicken wings, answering their phones during the movie, and repeating all of the film’s dialogue.”

The very fact that people can get so upset over a fictional character in a fictional universe baffles me. They are ok with the idea of seeing people fly, getting superpowers in experiments gone wrong, aliens invading earth, gods falling from the sky, people turning into green rage monsters but when a black man is approached to play a character they believe to be white, their world implodes.

Michael B. Jordan was interviewed recently about him possibly playing the Human Torch and he had this to say: “Things change and time goes on, It’s 2013 right now. The characteristics of The Human Torch are his name is Johnny Storm, he’s charismatic, and he’s a playboy. That’s it.”

He is correct of course, and these characteristics are what defines Johnny Storm, not his colour or ethnicity. As film lovers we should want the best actor possible cast in a role, their skin colour should not matter and the fact that it does in this day and age saddens me greatly.


12 thoughts on “Ignorance, racism and fanboys

  1. Fanboys are real dickheads sometimes… a lot of the time… but I don’t recall the same complaints when Marvel had Nick Fury turned black for the Ultimates. Or when the Marvel films employed Sam Jackson to fill that particular mode. Personally I think he was good but I’d have preferred the not-so-child-friendly white version. I would have used Kurt Russell to play the old spy. That was just what I’d have preferred personally but I’m still happy with the outcome.

    I just hope that if Marvel is going to do this, that they will not be stupid and make Sue Storm black because she’s Johnny’s sister after all. After Alba, it won’t take much to fill that jumpsuit. She relied too much on the appearance and just wasn’t a strong female lead at all.

    But what fanboys of the Fantastic Four comics need to realise is that they’re a minority. FF have been in the background for years and even though they’ve showed up everywhere, they don’t raise eyebrows anymore. If they joined the initiative now, it would mostly be to talk all scientific and for Thing to face off against Hulk.

    Finally, as a comic reader myself and having taken many a fight to the forums, it’s worth pointing out that fanboys are not all white. Some black fans of Marvel appreciated the black Heimdall and others didn’t. Some felt it was out of character with the Norse mythology aspect. And some black fanboys are just as racist

    But ultimately: wouldn’t the surname Storm be confusing with the X-Men Storm female lead if they had to change Sue as well as Johnny? And would that lead to a court case between Disney and Fox?

    1. Thanks for comment. I hope you enjoyed the post.

      I understand what you are saying but I don’t necessarily agree with every point you make. If you will allow me, I will address your points now.

      I feel to a large degree that fanboys follow their favourite properties with a stubborn blindness that things can only be portrayed one way. This quite often comes across on forums and comments sections where they refuse to debate topics and will just insist that their point of view is the right one and that nothing else matters, which can then cause arguments and ill feelings instead of debate and reasoning.

      With regards to Samuel L. Jackson and his portrayal of Nick Fury, I had no problem with this and neither did a lot of people. So on that one I agree with you, and your desire to see the original white Fury on screen is merely a preference and nothing more. I believe I am correct in saying that Charlton heston’s character in True Lies was indeed based on Nick Fury, no?

      As for Sue Storm being played by a black actress, I would have no problem with that. As they are brother and sister it would obviously make sense for them to be alike, but likewise one could be black and one could be white and all the story would need was an update to say that one was adopted.

      I’m not sure on the relevance of the Fantastic Four anymore either. However, done right, they can still have an impact on the big screen and in the comic books.

      I also never stated whether the commenters I noted in my post were white or black, but to be clear I found comments from white and black both male and female.

      Finally, I believe if they were going to be a problem with the name Storm then that would have already occurred. I am also quite sure that a movie going audience can define between the two, as one is an actual surname whereas one is simply a codename developed over time.

      1. Awesome, I prefer people not to whole heartedly agree. Shows we’re willing to accept differences, right?

        About fanboy stubborness, I agree totally and I feel they have a right regarding their favourite characters but it all depends on their response. If it resorts to true racism, that right isn’t worth the stale air they exhale.

        I’m a Punisher fan but not a fanboy. I’ve seen the character fail three times at the cinema and then seen the likes of Dark Knight and Watchmen do what I wanted a Punisher film to do. I’ve also seen the character cancelled in every series I’ve followed so far and that’s the most frustrating.

        But I even tried writing a faithful adaptation in the form of a movie script and I know how hard it is to stick to what you feel is faithful. If he had been turned black. I’d laugh. He was once tuned black in the comics in the mid 90’s and that didn’t go well because comic writers were just as inappropriately clueless back then to black culture.

        I think what they fear the most is that just as soon as everyone gets the chance to jump on the Marvel Collective bandwagon, their favourite characters get the go-ahead and then it’s not all its cracked up to be. But as a self-confessed nerd, I see how the greater nerds can be really childish when they dont get what they want.

        Final point is well made. But we all know Fox to be a fat old bastard shouting ‘CEASE AND DESIST’ at every opportunity while he waits for his meds, right? lol

      2. Of course yes.

        I agree about certain fanboys. I too have some franchises that are close to my heart but I can accept different variations on characters and themes, even if the original may still seem best, at least to me. But racist comments should not be accepted anywhere.

        I also feel that some characters get short shrift from the studios and I understand how that can upset fans of the source material. Just as some people can be upset when their favourite book is turned into a movie, look no further than the likes of Jack Reacher for example.

        Straying slightly from point here, but my older brother is a fan of Judge Dredd and the 2000AD comic books. He saw the recent Dredd at the cinema and thought it was awful, he didn’t like the Stallone version either, which goes to show that you can’t please everyone.

        As for Fox, yes lol they are a company who likes to bully and make others submit but as I say if this was going to be a problem then I think something would have already happened regarding that.

      3. I was more a Rogue Trooper fan of 2000AD but I loved all the futuristic cyberpunk/splatterpunk style and architecture. I liked the Dredd reboot personally. But because I took the preconception with me that this would be a precursor to the legend that Dredd would become. They needed a sequel to really establish the character and it’s a shame that people didn’t see it that way.

        But yes, you have the hardcore fans to overcome. Only to divide an audience is the best way to win them in the end. Racism just avoids the point entirely.

      4. I’m going to plead ignorance to that unfortunately, I have no idea what Rogue Trooper is sorry.

        I loved the reboot too, it’s a shame that a sequel seems unlikely right now, but at least we still have that reboot to watch, as after the Stallone version I never thought Hollywood would make another Judge Dredd movie.

      5. Rogue Trooper was like the other major half of 2000AD about a genetic supersoldier left for dead on the enemy’s planet and classed as a traitor by his own company. It was him and the personalities of his dead comrades implanted into his gun, helmet and backpack trying to hunt down the traitor General. Simple stuff but fun. The PS2 has an awesome game about it in 2006. Showed just how much James Cameron had really ripped it off back in the day too.

      6. Sounds very cool. As you say, simple but fun. I take it there was no movie adaptation ever?

        The game looks like fun too and doesn’t look too dated at all, given it’s 7 years old, which is a long time in the gaming world.

      7. No but word had it that Sam Worthington’s production team bough the rights to it and were writing a script. I think he saw the likeness to Avatar lol no word since then though.

        The game wasn’t too complex but it was vast and gave you a lot of war tactics to use and to counter-strike etc. You had a lot of technology at your hands throughout the game (various rifle underslungs, landmines, snipermode, silencer, interactive hologram like in Total Recall and then some nifty upgrades) and it was very fluid animation as well.

        You made your own weapons from scrap metal and ammo from your enemies and allies. It was just endlessly cool.

      8. Yeah it looks like good fun, if it was on Xbox Arcade then I may even cough up the cash to play it through.

        I can see some of the similarities to Avatar too. It would make for a good movie in it’s own right though I think.

      9. Absolutely, that could even be a trilogy in its own right and with an honest to god story. A lot of films lately are just franchising for the sake of it

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