Changing Ethnicities of Beloved Characters: A Simple Solution to the Controversy

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Whenever casting news is announced online, casting a new actor in a beloved role from a comic book or previous film, fans always react. They love it. They hate it. They think it might kinda sorta have to grow on them. And sometimes the casting news involves an actor that is different ethnically from the way the character has been traditionally portrayed. When that happens, that is when my faith in science fiction, as a genre that is supposed to expand horizons, starts to dip a little bit when I read the ignorant comments that are often made online.

I understand what it is like to think that an actor is entirely wrong for a role. I know what it’s like to have a preconceived idea about a character and scratch my head as to why a particular actor was cast. I also know what it is like to be proven completely wrong when the bully kid from 10 Things I Hate About You completely nails The Joker. People will write things about the actors’ previous work or whether or not they are a good actor when objecting to them being cast as a certain beloved character. And some of it is rose-colored nostalgia glasses, having a tough time moving forward if something is changing.

But then, there are the people who think that it’s wrong or in some way pandering to switch the ethnicity of a character, claiming that Michael B. Jordan was the reason Fant4stic flopped when it was obviously the budget cuts that the studio imposed in the middle of production. I wrote an article recently about the Ice Cube playing J. Jonah Jameson rumor, and the amount of racially-slanted comments that I saw on Facebook made me sad. I commented on his acting ability (something that is important to a movie), and others commented on the color of his skin. Anyway, that evening, ironically while watching Zootopia, I came up with a solution to this problem. It is actually a solution to this issue as well as another that has been plaguing Hollywood science fiction films for years. Ready for it? Here you go!


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Think about it, if Michael B. Jordan played a superhero in a movie that was not based on an existing franchise, would people object to it? Probably, but racist fans couldn’t hide behind a nostalgic love for a previous version of the character because this character was never seen before. It’s like when people objected to a black Stormtrooper in The Force Awakens before they saw any real footage. Those people were racist. If they opposed to Morgan Freeman playing Han Solo, they could hide behind “I would miss Harrison Ford”. But Finn was an original character, so they didn’t have nostalgia to hide behind.

"Where's my boyfriend? I like that Wookiee."
“Where’s my boyfriend? I like that Wookiee.”

Needless to say, Hollywood ONLY making big-budget science fiction films that are based on an existing brand creates other problems that result in stale remakes. I have no problem with making movies out of existing books/comics that have never been adapted before. Even Die Hard was based on a book, believe it or not. And I forgive the new Spider-Man reboot because now he gets to “come home” and hang out with the rest of the MCU. But enough is enough with the reboots. The few truly original science fiction films that have come out in recent memory have underperformed partially because they didn’t have the advertising campaign of something with a bigger name. Would Pacific Rim have done better if there was merchandise on every corner of Target and Wal-Mart like there was with Age of Ultron? Probably. And I say that because Godzilla came out about the same time and I saw a lot more merchandise for that one. Would that original sci-fi movie have even gotten made if Del Toro didn’t have clout in the industry and his own production company? Probably not.

Pacific Rim 2
“I’m about to whoop Godzilla!”

Yes, that is a debate for another article. And I lack the magic power as well as the will power necessary to solve the problem of racism worldwide. But creating more original content in science fiction films will reduce the number of people complaining about the ethnicities of characters online because that will be the first time we’ve seen that character (like Finn), so he can be whatever the director wants. (black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Hutt, Rodian, Klingon, Vulcan, Kree, Skrull, talking teapot, etc.) And the haters can’t hide behind nostalgia. Two angry birds with one Infinity Stone.

What do you think? Would creating more original science fiction movie content squash this problem? Or at least, reduce these kinds of annoying comments? Did you like Idris Elba’s character in Pacific Rim or would you rather see Tom Selleck and his mustache scream, “We are canceling the apocalypse!” Comment below.

"Apocalypse cancelled!"
“Apocalypse cancelled!”

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Chad Descoteaux
I am a 37-year-old science fiction geek who has loved writing ever since I was hit in the face with a canister of mutagen ooze fifteen years ago. I live in Rhode Island. I am married. I have Aspergers. I write science fiction Kindle e-books for Turtle Rocket Books (website below)...and articles about the Marvel Cinematic Universe for Monkeys Fighting Robots.


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