Thursday, May 28, 2015

Boss Fight: Beating the black out of the Human Torch argument ...




There's no rage like manufactured rage.

It's a very simple formula; All you have to do is basically create a controversy, and it'll polarize the community, force some dialogue on whatever it is you're debating about, and this is the most important thing - so you should really listen, Generate interest into whatever it is that the fuss is being made about. That thing that the fuss is being made about could be anything. Got a new game coming out? let's push out some drama to get eyes on it. Some musician who's career is waning from the spotlight? Manufacture a feud with another musician and you can get two people's albums on the top 40 list!! Or, in this case. If you want people to pay attention to your movie, all you have to do is create drama around something so simple as a casting decision.

Michael B. Jordan (The black guy from Chronicle) is supposedly at the center of a literal firestorm (pun intended) over last year's casting as Johnny Storm, the human torch in Fox films reboot of The Fantastic 4 movie, he succeeds former torch, and current Captain America, Chris Evans as the current hot-head of Marvel's first family.  Of course, this move has not gone unquestioned by the public. "News sites" such as The mary Sue (a website named after bad trope who tend to push them) and Dorkly have gone on complete tirades, claiming that people who are against the casting decision may be harboring racism. That's a little much, isn't it? I thought Michael Clarke Duncan wasn't the best choice for Kingpin in 2003's Daredevil film, but that doesn't mean I light crosses on my neighbor's lawn, right?

Of course, in a recent article in Entertainment Weekly,  Michael B. Jordan decided to come back with some words of his own...







You’re not supposed to go on the Internet when you’re cast as a superhero. But after taking on Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four—a character originally written with blond hair and blue eyes—I wanted to check the pulse out there. I didn’t want to be ignorant about what people were saying. Turns out this is what they were saying: “A black guy? I don’t like it. They must be doing it because Obama’s president” and “It’s not true to the comic.” Or even, “They’ve destroyed it!” 
It used to bother me, but it doesn’t anymore. I can see everybody’s perspective, and I know I can’t ask the audience to forget 50 years of comic books. But the world is a little more diverse in 2015 than when the Fantastic Four comic first came out in 1961. Plus, if Stan Lee writes an email to my director saying, “You’re good. I’m okay with this,” who am I to go against that? 
Some people may look at my casting as political correctness or an attempt to meet a racial quota, or as part of the year of “Black Film.” Or they could look at it as a creative choice by the director, Josh Trank, who is in an interracial relationship himself—a reflection of what a modern family looks like today. 
This is a family movie about four friends—two of whom are myself and Kate Mara as my adopted sister—who are brought together by a series of unfortunate events to create unity and a team. That’s the message of the movie, if people can just allow themselves to see it. 
Sometimes you have to be the person who stands up and says, “I’ll be the one to shoulder all this hate. I’ll take the brunt for the next couple of generations.” I put that responsibility on myself. People are always going to see each other in terms of race, but maybe in the future we won’t talk about it as much. Maybe, if I set an example, Hollywood will start considering more people of color in other prominent roles, and maybe we can reach the people who are stuck in the mindset that “it has to be true to the comic book.” Or maybe we have to reach past them. 
To the trolls on the Internet, I want to say: Get your head out of the computer. Go outside and walk around. Look at the people walking next to you. Look at your friends’ friends and who they’re interacting with. And just understand this is the world we live in. It’s okay to like it.

I...um.... Well that's a whole lot of stuff going on in that block of text, isn't it?

Let's go through this, again.
It used to bother me, but it doesn’t anymore. I can see everybody’s perspective, and I know I can’t ask the audience to forget 50 years of comic books. But the world is a little more diverse in 2015 than when the Fantastic Four comic first came out in 1961. Plus, if Stan Lee writes an email to my director saying, “You’re good. I’m okay with this,” who am I to go against that?
While it may seem disheartening to hear that people aren't satisfied with your appearance in a particular role, that's something to be expected when being placed in a situation such as this. And while you may feel that this is unique to you, the concept of "race-bending" has been around for decades. from Warner Oland and Boris Karloff playing Asian Detectives Charlie Chan and Mr. Wong respectively, to Mickey Rooney's portrayal of I. Y. Yunioshi in the screen adaptation of Truman Capote's novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's, to the more recent casting choices of  M. Night Shyamalan's adaptation of "The last Airbender". With the difference between the former and the latter being that the brunt of those earlier depictions pushed racial stereotypes.

Even The Duke was once a God Damn Mongorian!!

Of course, in stating this, I'm not implying that your depiction of Johnny Storm will include any racial stereotypes (though that fist bump in the trailer was pretty suspect), The baggage that comes with playing in a race-bending role seems to come spring-loaded with criticism. Especially considering that series fans are people who have a vested interest in the character you are portraying.

Now, The Mary Sue tries to use an argument that Racebending in the other direction "demands a safe space for people of color to exist in franchises where they are severly underrepresented".But let's look at the Wikipedia definition of the term.
Racebending or "Whitewashing" are terms used when the race or ethnicity of a character, in a story, is altered to an ostensibly more "palatable" or "profitable" ethnicity. "Whitewashing" is the older term, with "racebending" coming to the fore, as a broader term, since Patrick Stewart performed Othello in a "photo negative" production, as a white man, with an otherwise all-black cast, in 1997.
Now if we go by Wikipedia's definition, are we to assume that Black people are the "profitable ethnicity" here? And is this why we're trying to push people into being on board with Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch? If so doesn't this seem less of a "push for diversity" and more of a "press black to rich" scenario? And then, that's when we get into things like Tokenism.
the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce.
Tokenism can be just as damaging, and it makes your "Valiant cause" seem like grasping at straws for the sake of looking progressive, which is kind of where my opinion lands in this particular subject.

And about that claim of  under-representation; Haven't we seen four black actors in rather prominent roles in the Marvel films. Nick Fury, who actually was created in the Ultimate Marvel universe with the intention of being portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheedle and Terrence Howard played James Rhodes, who is shown in the films to be a decorated Lieutenant Colonel as well as playing the part of liaison between Stark Industries and the U.S. armed forces (so says Wikia). Anthony Mackie, playing the role of the Sam Wilson AKA: Falcon, who happens to be Mainstream comics' first Black (American) superhero (Fun Fact: Black Panther, who actually preceded Falcon in comics is African, which is a small technicality, but whatever. Gabe Jones, who was part of Sgt. Fury's Howling commandos, is considered a soldier and not exactly a superhero per-se.) The Falcon not only was a large part of the Captain America mythos, but was given top billing by Jack Kirby!! The Cap books were changed in the 70's to "Captain America and the Falcon", which was pretty progressive and diverse to say the least. The only race-bending situations we have seen in Marvel films so far has been Heimdall in Thor and Ben Urich in the Netflix series Daredevil. Both are not in very prominent roles, but have been integral to their respective story arcs due to their actions and their character. Not their skin color.

While we're on the black superhero discussion, Luke Cage, Black Panther and Storm were all members of the fantastic four at one point, as well as prominent Black superheroes in their own right, so you're telling me that you absolutely had to change the ethnicity of one of the core members in order to preach diversity? Fox still owns the rights to X-men so Storm definitely could of been a possibility of a character replacement in some story where maybe Johnny was out of commission due to filming the "Rawhide kid" movie (yes, he was an actor, temporarily) or kidnapped by Doom?, but you have to reboot the series, because rebooting, much like remakes have been doing oh-so well in the long run, right?  Right.

Also, I noticed that you pointed out that Stan Lee backs this decision, but Let's be real, here. Marvel Entertainment has completely shut down any further production of comics and marketing of The Fantastic Four brand (This is also slowly happening with the X-men Brand as well). That's not even coincidence, my friend. They're banking on this film failing so they can retrieve the rights and reboot the brand with their own creative staff and decisions. This means having enough creative freedom to produce something closer to the source material.  So as much as I can see your plight, this film is already on the tightrope without a net, as it is. So while I can sympathize with you, here the only reason i currently see as to why you're playing a previously white character has more to do with dollar signs than diversity.

Some people may look at my casting as political correctness or an attempt to meet a racial quota, or as part of the year of “Black Film.” Or they could look at it as a creative choice by the director, Josh Trank, who is in an interracial relationship himself—a reflection of what a modern family looks like today.

Your director's interracial relationship has no more of an impact on this movie than anyone else's has. And no one cares about what you feel a "modern family" looks like. What people do care about is watching a film about comic book characters they spent a large amount of time reading about, which is the point as to why this movie is being made!! Nothing more, nothing less!

I also want to point out that this is kind of a cheap argument to make, considering that a "modern family" can be made up of many differing dynamics. Also, I might be confused, but aren't you friends with Josh Trank, anyway? If so, then this whole thing pretty much seems like a "hey, let's get Michael in on my new project" situation, due to doing "alright" in Chronicle (which in my personal opinion, didn't amount to much, considering how much a snore that film was).

Also, what the hell is a "year of the black film", anyway? A handful of black folks show up in some high grossing Marvel films and we get that one asthmatic kid in Star Wars and now it's the year of the Negro? Is Tyler Perry making superhero films, too?


I ain't locked in here with you Ya'll locked in here with me!

This is a family movie about four friends—two of whom are myself and Kate Mara as my adopted sister—who are brought together by a series of unfortunate events to create unity and a team. That’s the message of the movie, if people can just allow themselves to see it.
So basically it's the same story as the original; which was the story of two siblings, the one sibling's husband and the husband's best friend coming together as both a team and a family unit to overcome obstacles. If that's the case, then fine.

However, it's not the story that people are worried about. it's the execution. Who can blame them? We've seen countless adaptations of comics and video games where the director took "liberties" only for the end result to be a near-unrecognizable pile of muck. This is also something that Marvel studios had set to rectify by taking control of their own properties.

I don't know if you know, but the results of that were kind of a big deal.

Now after seeing the trailer, This version of the movie is definitely taking some cues from the Ultimates version of the series (which Trank has gone on record of saying ), but people have been burned before by trailers, and it's going to take more than that to convince people to want to go out and see this film.

And then you have what Kate Mara said in the July 2014 issue of Esquire Latinoamérica.. I found the comment from this article on Screen Rant.

I’ve never been a fan of comics, I’ve never actually read one. I was going to for this movie but the director said it wasn’t necessary. Well, actually he told us that we shouldn’t do it because the plot won’t be based on any history of anything already published. So I chose to follow his instructions. The one fact is I am a fan of comic book movies, so it’s very exciting to be part of a movie like this. 
I don’t feel more responsibility with this role that I’ve felt with others. I understand that there are many fans of Fantastic Four and I guess they expect a lot from me, but I prefer not to be pressured by that. We are also trying to create a new way of seeing these superheroes, I’m focusing on making her (Susan Storm) as real as possible. 
I was excited, but I only focused on doing the best I could. I think there are roles you get if that’s what needs to happen. I kept everything in perspective although expected to stay with the paper, because the movie has great actors like Michael B. Jordan (who will be the Human Torch).

Soo I don't know about you, but when someone says to not read the source materials for established characters they're playing as, that kind of sets up a red flag. Shouldn't actors feel some sort of responsibility to what they're portraying? If I were playing a role of an established character, I should be putting as much effort into feeling like i did a good job representing that character, right? .....Yay! acting!

Also, why is it that I get this feeling that the movie is riding on you? The director shows images of you in your costume, Kate Mara goes out of her way to mention you being the Human Torch, you go out of your way to "combat" critics. There's something just not right about the way this is playing out.

The entire film seems like it's coasting on controversy to attract attention to it. That teamed with so little of what's being presented to the audience, leads me to wonder if this is because this movie might not gel well with consumers, and needs take drastic measures to ensure that there is a large amount of people going to see it. if things do not go as planned, however, Don't be surprised if you are one of the prominent reasons. People who often hold you up will eventually hold you the most responsible for failure. Just saying.

Sometimes you have to be the person who stands up and says, “I’ll be the one to shoulder all this hate. I’ll take the brunt for the next couple of generations.” I put that responsibility on myself. People are always going to see each other in terms of race, but maybe in the future we won’t talk about it as much. Maybe, if I set an example, Hollywood will start considering more people of color in other prominent roles, and maybe we can reach the people who are stuck in the mindset that “it has to be true to the comic book.” Or maybe we have to reach past them.

Woah woah, there Mandela.

You're not fighting Apartheid. You're not even striking a blow for civil rights. You're a guy in a comic book movie. Idris Elba getting the role of James Bond would have blown your little role out of the stratosphere!! meanwhile you're going to be remembered as a guy in a funny looking costume on a freaking 7-11 Slurpee cup.

Free at last, Free at last.... 

Sidney Poitier has starred in an abundance of films that were both socially conscious, and actually pushed the color line forward in cinema, as did Harry Belafonte, John Amos, James Earl Jones, Osse Davis and a host of other fantastic actors of their time (Don't even get me started on the women). and then there's this film. Ultimately, you're Some guy getting paid millions of dollars to pretend he's on fire for the better part of an hour and a half in a movie that we haven't even seen enough of to determine if it sucks or not.

All this so when my children accomplish great things in life they're going to look back and say "Hey, if the crappy guy from Chronicle who got struck by lightning hadn't of starred in Fantastic Four in the role that was intended for a white person, I wouldn't have gone to medical school in order to cure cancer!!".  NO.

To the trolls on the Internet, I want to say: Get your head out of the computer. Go outside and walk around. Look at the people walking next to you. Look at your friends’ friends and who they’re interacting with. And just understand this is the world we live in. It’s okay to like it.

Contrary to popular opinion, it's considered more prejudiced to point at a bunch of people and call them names non reflective to their character just because of a difference of opinion, but for some reason this is what the argument always comes down to. "Nerds stuck in a subterranean dwelling, preferably a basement, on a computer screen".

 Let's consider for a moment, that the average comic book fan (much like the average gamer) is in their mid twenties to early thirties, may have families of their own, and works a normal 9 to 5 job. They spend their money just like everyone else, go out, and have fun and just enjoy the things they like. Now consider that you just basically dropped trou and shat on the collective whole of those people who either didn't like or rolled eyes at the "creative liberties" that were taken by your director. If you were intending to shoot yourself in the foot then I would say that's some expert marksmanship there, sir.

Perhaps the reason people dislike the idea of you being the human torch, isn't just because it has very little to do with the source material, but also due to a case of some would be "progressive visionary"  screwing with this series for no reason other than to have other so-called "progressive" people shout from mountain tops about "diversity", and things that people have already embraced in modern society because we're already quite progressive.

I took a trip back home to Virginia a few months ago, and My old neighborhood, which had been predominantly black when I lived there now had a larger range of diversity than what was there back in the early 00's. White people families now have houses there, and live side-by-side with black families. Interracial couples jog through the neighborhoods in the early morning, and take their kids for walks in strollers in the afternoon. That's something that in my thirty years living there I have never seen, and it both surprised me and made me feel good. I like the fact that things are getting diverse, there, but I don't need a message of diversity being shoved into my face through a rather disingenuous method of shaming.

Maybe the better option should of been to just ignore the controversy, and see how the movie fares in theaters? Then you could just go on with your life and focus on things that are more important to you. Now this rebuttal from you comes off as half-martyrdom and half-ignorant to your target demographic. These are comic book films, man! Fans of comics and Animation spend a large part of their free time arguing over if Superman can beat Goku, or if Neil Patrick Harris can play a better Riddler than Jim Parsons can! That's not killing you, and to quote my best friend, I'm 1000% sure it wasn't even an issue to you before you even got involved in this project.

The big question in the grand scheme of things is; Did you even do your job of getting more people on board of wanting to see this movie? Granted I was a little interested when seeing the trailers during Age of Ultron and Mad Max: Fury Road, however after this statement, I think i'll just Redbox it a few months from now. Now if you'll excuse me I feel compelled to go back to reading my copy of Stan Lee's Amazing Marvel Universe.


-Game On!

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