6 Jul 2011

RACE & HOLLYWOOD MOVIE CASTING


There has been a steady rise in movie adaptations from books over the past decade. These include the successful Lord Of The Rings franchise, the popular Harry Potter films and the newcomers to the big screen, Twilight, just to name a few. Even comic books have not been left out of the action. Books such as Spider-Man, Dare Devil, The Incredible Hulk and Ghost Rider have joined comic book-film veterans such as Superman and Batman on the big screen over the last decade.
Mr Mark Millar
Mark Millar, an incredibly successful comic-book writer attracts Hollywood’s attention every time he writes an independent comic. He is the creator of ”Wanted” whose movie notably starred Angelina Jolie as a member of a group of elite assassins. More recently, another of his creations hit the big screen under the title ”Kick Ass”. Impressively, Kick Ass was adopted into a movie before the completion of the comic-book. He also created books titled ”Nemesis” and “Superior” which already have Hollywood buzz around them. This rise in movie adaptations from books has been credited to the lack of creativity by the Hollywood writers. Either that or the authors of these books are much better story tellers than the script writers in Hollywood. That may be a harsh assessment but it is not the focus of this post. The focus here is casting of actors for the movie adaptations of these popular books.
These books attract a huge following among fans and thus there is need for the movies to measure up to their high expectations. It goes without saying that it is very difficult to create an accurate visual interpretation of how millions of fans perceive a book but nothing worth doing is ever easy. This, however, is no excuse to completely deviate from the core concept of a book. The release of the live action adaptation of the Nickelodeon animated series titled “Avatar: The Last Air Bender” was met with harsh criticism. The audience and critics crucified the movie with one notable complaint standing out. The “racist” casting of the movie. Hollywood has made a habit of adopting Japanese stories to fit American audiences and in so doing, change the race of the characters. The following of Japanese animation and manga books is very faithful and it is sad that Hollywood does not recognise this. This, again, is a slight deviation from the point of this post.
Amazing Spider-Man
starring Andrew Garfield
I had a lengthy argument with a group of friends once on whether it was right for the casting crew of the “The Amazing Spider-Man” (Sony Pictures reboot to the original Spider-Man film franchise) to allow black actors to audition for the leading role. Some pointed towards the lack of prominent black heroes as a reason to have a black Spider-Man. There were even calls for a black “James Bond” as the new secret agent of the U.K. As I recognise the lack of many prominent black heroes in Hollywood movies, I do not think this is the way to go about it. I do not feel that changing a core aspect in the creation of a character is the way to solve the minority problem. Just as we condemn the casting of white Americans and Europeans in Asian movies, we must also condemn changing of a white character’s race to black. We cannot have a white skinned “Shaft” so why should we encourage James Bond or Spider-Man to turn black? How long will BET (Black Entertainment Television) be seen as a step in the right direction when creation of “WET” would be met with so much opposition and condemnation?
The solution here is simple. Instead of acting as victims all the time why can’t new black heroes be created? Will Smith’s characters are all new and influential. He is a living, breathing example of what the solution is to the minority issue in movies. How much better would it be to have a brand new super-character of his/her own heritage, background and origin? Would we really be satisfied with a black young man shooting webs and crawling up walls when we all know that it is probably a favour gifted to a minority race? Its your choice.

8 comments:

  1. Unlike Luke Cage or Captain America, race is not a core characteristic of Spidey. Place a Latino, Chinese, black or Indian guy in the exact same circumstances as peter Parker (including having a white uncle and aunt) and you still get the same Spider-Man.
    And anyway, the casting of Donald Glover was more about injecting freshness into a seemingly tapped out franchise than affirmative action.

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  2. I guess when you read the first issues of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man after Ultimatum drawn in that manga style you realize an Asian Spidey is feasible. I just think we should create our own instead of poaching from existing heroes.

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  3. Even though I enjoyed Idris Elba as Heimdall, I agree with you that it's better to create original heroes long term. Probably why I'll take a glance at DC's Mr. Terrific #1 when that chucks.

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  4. And I'm working on my own. Tell a simple story very well. Invincible could have been a hit if he was black and its a simple original story so there's lotsa hope for new heroes.
    Plus James Cameron has original ideas that all come from the SIMPLEST premise and hit big time with fans.

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  5. Mel, you're light years ahead in your assessment of the impact of skin-colour stereo-typing in the entertainment industry, and by extension the World. Sure, what you've said has been said before but it still needs to be said many a time over and in many ways : that skin colour is not the barrier, the barrier is our own mental prison.

    Thus, yes - why should there be a BET ? Sometimes in attempting to find where our skin belongs, we end up only entrapping ourselves further. Imagination, creativity, wealth, success, true peace etc. are all colour blind. We have all been put on an equal footing more or less ( i.e. no one human being has everything and in the same breathe, no one human being has absolutely nothing ) so it’s really up to us to think beyond the confines of the physical ( read : skin colour ) and reach instead for intuitive meaning. Therein lies the true Super Hero !

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  6. Thank you, I've been bothered by this for a while.
    You have summed up a lot of my thoughts perfectly, I couldn't have said it better. I hope this will all come out clearly through my work.
    I don't like "creative handouts." Ill enjoy it better when I see originality as a solution to that "inferior" mindset.

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