The other day I posted this tweet:
"Wait they cast a white chick for Tiger Lily in the new Peter Pan? Did they not remember Lone Ranger last year? Or, you know, racism?"
(If you didn’t hear, Rooney Mara is supposedly playing Tiger Lily, who is a princess of the “Native” tribe, in the reboot.)
I got tons of Tweets agreeing with me, and then a lot of Tweets like this as well:
"I agree they shouldn’t screw around with classic characters. Oh wait they cast a Black Guy as Human Torch."
"Are you actually retarded? Black men were cast to play Heimdall and the Human Torch, why aren’t you complaining about that?"
Well, no sir, I’m not “retarded.” Thanks for asking. But from the general tone of the responses (most were civil, for the record), seems like there are lot people upset about black people replacing white people in the Marvel Universe. And they consider that issue a valid counter-argument to my comment about Tiger Lily’s casting. (I guess because they think both have “changing canon” in common?)
I’d like to clear up some stuff here, especially with regards to my initial tweet:
I am not upset about Tiger Lily, a role originally written for a Native American female character in the book, being cast as white because it upsets the canon. Screw canon. I am upset about a role that was expressly written as a female minority being given to white actor instead. And here is why.
Most lead characters and lead actors of movies are white. Period. I even dug up a recent study to back that up, like this is some fucking term paper or something: Across 100 top-grossing films of 2012, only 10.8% of speaking characters were Black, 4.2% were Hispanic, 5% were Asian, and 3.6% were from other (or mixed race) ethnicities. Just over three-quarters of all speaking characters are White (76.3%).
(In referring to “speaking characters”, I also assume that’s counting judges and store clerks and taxi drivers with just a line or two. You see a lot of casting stick minority characters to check the boxes of “yeah, we had diversity, look!” So we’re not even talking about opportunities to carry the whole movie here.)
Another thing to note from the study: “These trends are relatively stable, as little deviation is observed across the 5-year sample.” Gee, no movement towards reflecting the country or world we live in! Fantastic.
Bottom line, actors of ethnicity don’t get a lot of work to begin with. And that very fact creates a scarcity in the number of actors of different ethnicities to choose from when casting. It’s a chicken and the egg syndrome. In what instance can you point out a role where a Native American actress has a chance to be a lead in any movie? Almost none. So why chase a dream that doesn’t seem like it could come true, because the system would never allow it?
It’s a self-perpetuating reality we live with, so the only way to change it is to break the norm, and cast more leading characters with more diversity. At the very least give roles that are intended to be ethnically diverse to ethnically diverse actors, I mean, BARE MINIMUM, PEOPLE.
So for me, the opportunity to give a leading role that could be a Native American, a possible protagonist role that the audience could relate to and live the story through, to a white actor, is kind of shitty and backwards to me. And that’s why I posted my initial tweet.
To compare Tiger Lily being cast as a white women to Human Torch or Heimdall being cast as an African-American is not equivalent, because I don’t think this issue is about violating or adhereing to “lore,” I think it’s about providing more representation. And that’s why I think that the Human Torch being cast as African-American is an awesome thing, because that move evolves Hollywood and storytelling and the Marvel universe.
Remember in the past, lead characters were most likely written as white in the first place, because they were created in an even more white-centric world. Fantastic Four debuted in 1961, segregation was outlawed in 1964. You can’t say that the culture at large at the time didn’t influence the creator’s choices when making these characters! Fast forward fifty years, the culture at large NOW doesn’t match up with the lore from before, and we should be open to changing it.
Tiger Lily, in the book, is actually portrayed in an EXTREMELY racist way. But hey, it could be a great opportunity to re-invent the character as a Native American to be proud of, rather than dodge the issue entirely, and take the role away and give it to a white woman.
Why NOT re-imagine Tiger Lily so that the audience can fall in love with and admire a woman of color? Or reimagine a superhero as an African-American, one among a TON of white ones we see every day? Let’s show the audience that they can live through anyone’s eyes!
We have to make an effort to change the pattern of only seeing stories through white characters’ points of view, so that in the future, diverse protagonists are just a given. So that we can have heroes and villians and judges and love interests of all backgrounds, and not have to point it out as “look how special this is!” Evolving stories and lore is a GOOD THING FOR OUR WORLD.
And bottom line, if you feel so disenfranchised by one role out of TONS of roles being changed up ethnically, if you are saying you can’t possibly relate to a character who is another race from you, well, I think that’s more a problem of your own than anything else. But don’t worry, the stastics say you’ll have lots of other entertainment for your point of view to choose from. Around 75%, actually. Hooray, I guess? :/
So yeah, I guess that’s my expansion on my previous 140 character Tweet, haha. Happy weekend!