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A Breath of Fresh Air on the Comicbook and Movie Diversity Craze

The openly bisexual actress Michelle Rodriguez was asked recently about possibly being cast as the Green Lantern for a future film.

Her answer was epic:

I think it’s so stupid because of this whole minorities in Hollywood thing. It’s so stupid. Stop stealing all the white people’s superheroes. Make up your own. You know what I am saying? What’s up with that?

While this may be a bit harsh (Rodriguez indeed backpedaled a bit on her Facebook page after her comment), it speaks to the current craze within, if not yet so much the comicbook movie industry, certainly the print comicbook biz.

The “Big Two” companies, Marvel and DC, over recent years have “re-imagined” many of their popular heroes by

  • turning Thor into a woman
  • having Sam Wilson, the Falcon and an African-American, assume the role of Captain America
  • making Ms. Marvel a teenaged Muslim female
  • making Green Lantern a Muslim male
  • making the original Green Lantern gay
  • creating an Hispanic-black Spider-Man
  • turning Nick Fury into a black man
  • transforming Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, into a black guy
  • making Asgard’s Heimdall a black guy
  • officially making Catwoman bisexual

And I get these moves. I really do. For, back when comicbooks were magnitudes more popular than they are now, African-Americans and other minorities simply did not have access to the industry. Not to mention, I wonder how many ideas to include minorities in mainstream stories were nixed by editors or publishers. (Anyone remember this excellent Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode?) If it weren’t for forward-thinking creators like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (who introduced the first black superhero, the Black Panther, in 1966), who knows how long it would have taken for non-Caucasian characters to see print.

But Rodriguez has a point in that it begins to become … silly when iconic — or marquee, if you prefer — characters are altered merely for the sake of “diversity.” As the actress notes, why not create new ones?

This sentiment doesn’t sit well with some current Big Two creators. Marvel’s Dan Slott, the writer of Spider-Man, has even implied that those who don’t like such character conversions are racist. When a fan on Twitter said that Peter Parker’s identity (as a white guy) is “cultural saturation,” that his grandmother knew him, and suddenly making him black would seem rather weird, Slott replied that “MY grandma knew Jim Crow laws. Didn’t make ’em right.”

Say what? This is how you respond to a (very legitimate) critique of the issue by a fan — by insinuating his opposing view on the matter is proof of racism and prejudice?

That’s some real positive business model you have there, Mr. Slott. What would you say to Ms. Rodriguez?

(Image courtesy Douglas Ernst.)

Dave Huber

Dave "Hube" Huber has been blogging about politics, entertainment, and education for over a decade, mainly at The Colossus of Rhodey. He's also contributed to the popular media bias site Newsbusters, and the entertainment webzine Advanced Iron. He is currently an assistant editor of The College Fix.