I’m Not Down With “White” Being Black

Laurence Fishburne and Perry White

This one might ruffle a few feathers, but hey – “Straight. No Chaser.” – right?

I’m in total and complete opposition with Laurence Fishburne being cast as Perry White in the upcoming Superman film Man of Steel.

Not because I don’t like Fishburne (I rather love the guy). Not because I feel patronized by having a character’s ethnicity changed in some half-assed attempt to put my butt into a theater seat (I’m halfway there when you say “Superman movie” to start). I’m against it for one simple and plain reason:

I’m a purist. And what’s right is right.

Now I expect to get flamed for this. Then again, readership isn’t high on this blog yet, so this may go by completely unnoticed. And I realize that being a “comic book purist” and “fanboy” have become synonymously negative in much of mainstream society today – but I am who I am and I feel what I feel.

Perry White is, well, white. Always has been, and I’m guessing always will be (at least in the comics). It’s who the character is and that’s the way we’ve grown to love the guy. Race is very much a part of identity. So why just up and change the guy’s color? What really was accomplished by such a random move? Do I suddenly feel a swell of pride as a Black moviegoer because a widely-known character in possibly the most-known comic book in the world now looks like me?

Hell, no.

Let me be clear. I’ve never been in line with this thinking. I didn’t like it when Warner Brothers did it with Billy Dee Williams and Harvey Dent in ’89 with Batman. I liked it even less when Fox perpetrated the same crime with Michael Clarke Duncan as The Kingpin in 2003′s Daredevil. And don’t get me started on the anger I experienced over Terry Fitzgerald suddenly turning from Black to white to ease filmgoers’ “fear of a Black movie” when D.B. Sweeney played the part in 1997′s Spawn – a move even the comic’s creator  and movie’s screenwriter, Todd McFarlane, despised (and he’s white).

What about Idris Elba as Heimdall in this year’s Thor? Same sentiment. I love that the brotha got work, and I love the fact that Kenneth Branaugh respected Elba’s ability so much that he cast him against type in the film, but let’s be real – the story is set in the realm of Norse mythology. Wasn’t too many brothas and sistas running around that area of the world around that time.

And to any Right Wing-nuts and Tea Party types – easy there, folks. I’m not on your side. I’m not talking about “taking back” any country here. I’m just saying that political correctness has its place. As does fact and history. Much has been made about Miles Morales, the new Spider-Man in Marvel Comics’ Ultimate Spider-Man, being biracially Black and Latino (after that universe’s Peter Parker is killed off) – but at least that’s an alternate reality – not Earth 616, where the “real” Marvel continuity, complete with everyone’s friendly neighborhood white Peter Parker, resides safely.I’m not saying the whole other dimension thing makes it okay; it just bothers me less – like the Black Ultimate Nick Fury.

If Hollywood actually wants to have more Black characters in these types of films, the answer is simple – make more movies where the characters are intrinsically Black. Of course that would mean they’d have to create new Black supporting characters, or (perish the thought!), make a movie where the lead character is actually – I can’t believe I’m about to say this – Black. I know, I know – “White folks won’t go to a movie where Blacks are the leads.” But even if this is true (and I have my suspicions), does that mean you never try? I mean, it’s not like it can’t or hasn’t worked in the past (cough*Blade Trilogy*cough).

You want Black folks to see your movie? Fine. Give me Black Panther. Give me Luke Cage. Let Storm have a spinoff of her own. Then there’s Static. The fact of the matter is there’s a litany of truly Black characters that could be mined for Hollywood gold – as opposed to indiscriminately flip-flopping a character’s race just to appeal to the widest audience possible.

This goes for all types of films, really, from fish-out-of-water comedies like New In Town (Black character changed to white) to Oscar winners like Cold Mountain (mulatto character changed to white) – to fantasy films like The Last Airbender (Asian characters turned white) and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Lavender Brown, established as Black in the first film, changed to white in the sixth film). Black people, like all people, love these stories they way they were created. And that’s the way they should be adapted for the screen – otherwise, it’s not the real deal. And although most of us do enjoy diversity in our storytelling, it’s best when that diversity comes from a place of natural originality, as opposed to forced artificiality.

At least to me.

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3 Responses to “I’m Not Down With “White” Being Black”

  1. jai aitch says:

    I love this review! Keep it real! This is now my favorite entertainment site!

  2. jai aitch says:

    Will do

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