There was a rumour this week that actor Michael B Jordan, best known for Friday Night Lights, Chronicle and The Wire will be starring as Johnny Storm, AKA The Human Torch in a new Fantastic Four reboot. It’s a great idea, until fanboys get involved. You see the problem is that Michael B Jordan is black, whereas Johnny Storm is as white as that thing people do where they roll cheese down a hill and chase after it.
Do a Twitter search for “Fantastic Four” right now and you’ll come against some unsavory comments (I’ve even retweeted a few). This, sadly, is about par for the course. Back before Andrew Garfield was cast in The Amazing Spider-Man there was talk, jokingly at first, that actor, writer and occasional rapper Donald Glover would play Parker. Anyone who’s familiar with Glover’s work could tell you that it’s a good idea, but of course fanboys wouldn’t have that.
Likewise, Jordan happens to be an excellent actor. He’s never been less than great in everything I’ve seen him in (He’s utterly heartbreaking in Season 1 of The Wire). Getting him in your film can only be a good thing, yet he doesn’t fit a certain ‘mold’ and that starts to be a problem.
Now it’s true that fanboys are notoriously picky. Any casting decision or deviation from an established character is treated with scorn, which should make viewings of Iron Man 3 interesting (Trust me, without going into spoilers it does a wonderful thing to piss off those people). It even happened when Daniel Craig was announced as James Bond, prompting the launch of the craignotbond website which cited things like hair colour and body type (Even previous roles) to establish why he would be a terrible choice for that character.
I get it, I get being precious over something you love. But if they make a decision you don’t like it doesn’t negate the thing you loved to begin with. Your back issues of Fantastic Four will always be there. Hell they were there after two very bad movies (And one unreleased one that I’ll write about one day) It’s why I stopped caring about remakes. Few are actually needed but when they’re done well they can offer a new experience and if they’re shit well who cares, the original is still there. Both The Fly and The Thing are remakes yet both are arguably two of the greatest horror films of all time. Both the Friday the 13th remake and the recent Evil Dead are also excellent additions (Though the problem with the latter is that it pays too much lip service to the original, but taken on its own it’s a good time). I own the originals along with the remakes proudly. They both stand on their own terms and if I didn’t like a ‘reimagining’ as they’re now called (Like the most recent remake of The Thing, which is technically a prequel to a remake even though it’s also sort of a remake) well who cares, the original is still there for me to watch and I’ll never think of the remake again.
So, fanboys like stuff a certain way, we’ve established that. The problem comes when their problem is the colour of someone’s skin. The Human Torch isn’t defined by the colour of his skin, or even his background, he’s defined by the fact that he’s a man that can set himself on fire and fly around. What about him needs to be black or white? Because the comics did it that way? Comics have a habit of rewriting themselves to suit whoever is working on it for that run, so to suggest that there’s a ‘consistency’ there that casting a black man would ruin is pure hyperbole and again, racist.
Whether they know they’re doing it or not is another matter. Some don’t see anything wrong with what they’re saying and feel that they’re doing the same as they would if say, George Clooney was cast as Spider-Man. That’s a legitimate grievance It makes no sense for an actor pushing 50 to be playing a teenager, much less one whose entire character is the fact that he’s a teenager with occasional teenage problems. However to not see the crux of the argument, that someone should be excluded because of something that superficial, shows a lack of awareness that can only come about from being really quite stupid.
I hope Fox take that step and let Jordan be cast. Why should every super-hero be white (With the exception of Dolemite), shouldn’t it be more exciting that you’re getting a good actor to be in your film? Are you really saying that Justin Beiber would be a better choice just because he’s the right colour?
Geek culture needs dragging into a more enlightened age, lets hope this is the first step to doing it.