How Thor breaks down racial barriers in Asgard

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Dusty Ayres, Apr 13, 2010.

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  1. Hermiod

    Hermiod Admiral Admiral

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    I'm not bothered about Heimdall. Personally, I'm just going to complain that all of the Asgard characters are played by humans.

    What bothers me is why people want to see Will Smith as Superman. What purpose does it serve other than saying "look at us, we're not racist, we cast a black man" and generally making people think that they've done something good ? Let's all give ourselves a pat on the back because we're soooooo progressive.

    Directors don't cast Will Smith in a role because it's some progressive move, directors cast Will Smith because they want to make money. You're not doing anything clever by casting him.

    If, on the other hand, you cast some black unknown then why are you doing it ? It's just casting a black guy to stir up controversy and create publicity. You'd be exploiting whatever poor sod you ended up casting. For the rest of his career he'd be known as "the black guy who played Superman".

    Like it or not, the visual depiction of a comic book character is as important to that character as how he is written. He is not a character in a play or a book, he's a character from a visual art form.

    In this thread I've read one argument against doing the reverse, casting a white man as T'Challa for instance, is that being black is part of their character - and that is the problem. Until you stop making black heroes for black people and start making black heroes that everyone can identify with you will always limit the potential popularity of that character.

    All you do with this kind of casting is temporarily manage a symptom, not cure the underlying cause.
     
  2. Aragorn

    Aragorn Admiral Admiral

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    I saw Anthony Hopkins playing Othello. Maybe it was his "prequel" to The Human Stain. :p
     
  3. CaptainCanada

    CaptainCanada Admiral Admiral

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    That's not really it. T'Challa's backstory clearly requires that he be a black African; comparatively, nothing in Superman's backstory (or Peter Parker's) requires him to white, just American (Kryptonian-American, in the former case). There are plenty of white characters where being white is essential.
     
  4. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ^
    Exactly. Superman's not even human; the fact he's a white Cary Grant-type is simply a matter of obscene conveinence on his part.

    I just think Will Smith's star power has the right persona for Superman. He can be cool, but not unwholesomely so; decent but likeable and charming. So yes, he's not 'too bad a Superman' at all.
     
  5. Hermiod

    Hermiod Admiral Admiral

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    There is something in Superman and Spider-Man's backstories that makes them being white essential - their visual depiction in their first comic book appearances. People arguing otherwise don't seem to really understand what differentiates comic books from other media.

    There's a reason why a comic book character is always said to have been created the writer and the artist. To dismiss the role of the artist is extremely disrespectful.

    Casting a black man as Superman or Spider-Man is just patronising them. We'll make ourselves feel better by throwing the black man a bone instead of actually doing something that might make a real difference.

    Apart from anything else, I just don't see him playing Clark Kent. You have to be able to play both.
     
  6. Hartzilla2007

    Hartzilla2007 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well except that Wilson Fisk is usually a little chunckier than Duncan was in that film, but that's something that is fixable.

    Didn't Smith already kind of play a Supermanish character in Hancock?
     
  7. Hermiod

    Hermiod Admiral Admiral

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    I could accept Duncan in the role mainly as Kingpin isn't nearly as huge a part of our culture as someone like Superman or Spider-Man. From the interviews etc nearer the time it was clear that they didn't cast him to make any kind of statement. There is, after all, nothing imaginative about casting a black man as a criminal no matter how powerful and well connected that criminal might be.

    Well, once he'd sobered up, yeah.
     
  8. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    There have been cases of characters which were originally black being played by white actors, also - Tigh was black on the original Battlestar Galactica, and the remake replaced the black male Boomer with an Asian female Boomer. But then race was - obstensibly - not important to the backgrounds of any of these characters, however it affected casting decisions (on the original the two white male leads each had their black male friend, but one disgresses...)

    Who's doing that? Chances are even a non-white Superman is going to wear the blue tights and red underpants. He's not going to look exactly like the chiselled face and muscular body, but then not every Superman actor has lived up to that anyway.

    I think I can see him as pretty nebbish, really.

    Indeed he did.
     
  9. Hermiod

    Hermiod Admiral Admiral

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    The key difference here is, though, that these characters are just the same people in name only. I don't remember the original show's Tigh being a hard drinking hateful bastard or Boomer being a Cylon.

    You're all doing it by ignoring the difference between comic books and ordinary books. You can't apply the same rules to King Lear as you do Superman because they're not from the same art form.
     
  10. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    But if we feel compelled to stick with the original drawings, simply for continuity's sake, then we're going to be stuck with all-white casts whenever we adapt a comic book created before, say, 1975--which applies to pretty much every classic comic book series.

    Just because, say, Curt Swan felt obliged to draw the Legion of Super-Heroes as white teens way back in 1958 doesn't mean any new movie version has to follow suit, out of some misguided sense of "respect" to the original artist. Who is to say that Swan wouldn't have made Cosmic Kid a Eurasian if he had been allowed to do so back in the fifties?

    Times change. What was mandatory fifty or seventy years ago shouldn't constrain contemporary versions of the same material.

    Granted, recasting a truly iconic figure like James Bond or Superman carries certain risks. But characters like Heimdell or Alicia Masters or the Kingpin?

    Let's be honest. Nobody but a handful of hardcore fans are going to notice, and even less are going to mind.

    Audiences have changed, too.
     
  11. Hermiod

    Hermiod Admiral Admiral

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    ^As I have said, I am only arguing for truly iconic characters. Not Alicia Masters or the Kingpin or Heimdall. I had no problem with Michael Clarke Duncan especially.

    The clinic patient in House's "Humpty Dumpty" is a good example of how I feel about this. We white folks can sit here thinking we're helping and we're doing good, but all we're really doing is patronising people.
     
  12. CaptainCanada

    CaptainCanada Admiral Admiral

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    No, characters' visual appearances get changed around all the time in adaptations, so it's not the same. There backstories are their on-page histories; Superman's an alien, there's nothing in there that requires that he be a white alien; Peter Parker's an ordinary American teenager, again, nothing specifically requiring that he be white; T'Challa is the ruler of a mysterious African tribal nation.

    Conversely, there's nothing especially important in the backgrounds of, say, Luke Cage or Bishop that require them to be black either - but there are so few black superheroes that it's not really the same thing to change them to another race.
     
  13. Hermiod

    Hermiod Admiral Admiral

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    ^Again, you disrespect the artist. Superman is drawn white therefore he is. That's all there is to it.

    You can't make double standards here. You have to support casting Steve Austin as Luke Cage too if you think the artist doesn't matter.
     
  14. CaptainCanada

    CaptainCanada Admiral Admiral

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    No, I don't. You miss the point - while Luke's backstory is for the most part race-non-specific (the cultural genesis of the character, much less so; he's clearly a product of the 1970s blaxploitation cinema), there are other reasons why casting a white (or other race) in that part would be a bad idea. As I already stated, there aren't many black superheroes, and you can't close your eyes and pretend that there aren't longstanding cultural reasons why turning a black hero white sends a bad message.

    Once again, characters' visuals are changed all the time in adaptations. I generally prefer if they resemble the version I'm familiar with from the comics, but it's not impossible for it to be changed and to work very well.

    The comics themselves gave Nick Fury a race-swap in the Ultimate Universe, for instance, which is now making its way into all the other-media adaptations.
     
  15. Trent Roman

    Trent Roman Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Bishop, no, but Luke Cage? Cage finds his origins in Blaxploitation, and his background draws strongly on the racial dynamics of New York. I suppose there's nothing there plot-wise that demands that he's black, but thematically a white Luke Cage would be like trying to have a white Shaft. Yes, any prisoner can be experimented on, but changing Cage to white obliviates the echoes of Tuskeegee and so forth which have always resonated about the character.

    Oh, and I still don't think this is a good idea. Asgard should look like a racial relic, because it is. It's the pantheon of a limited ethnic group, and should reflect that visually, just as non-European pantheons should be allowed to retained their cultural uniqueness (explicit exceptions like Quetzacoatl notwithstanding, of course).

    Fictitiously yours, Trent Roman

    EDIT: Came in a little late, it seems.
     
  16. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    No offense. But I think you're being too literal here. And holding comics books to a different standard than any other medium.

    The stage is a visual medium, too. And King Lear is a British character who was consistently portrayed as a white guy for over six hundred years. Superman's only been around for about seventy years. And yet he's more sacred than Lear for some reason?

    Just because Superman used to be drawn one way doesn't mean that's set in stone forever.

    You just use a different color of ink . . . .
     
  17. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ^
    It also has more relevance to the plot. Lear is King of England when that was essentially a white nation; Superman is an alien who is white... because.

    He's also drawn as bigger and more strongly chinned than Christopher Reeves, at least in my experience. What of it?

    Maybe, but that wouldn'e be true to the comic, where they plainly aren't big on Norse-style clothing, and thus do not visually represent that ethnic group.

    Really, I'm struck by the irony implict in demanding people stay faithful to something which ran roughshod over its source material. It'd be like saying the new Planet of the Apes film needs to remain consistent with the Burton feature; but I disgress...
     
  18. Hermiod

    Hermiod Admiral Admiral

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    And turning a white hero black sends the same message on top of the "we think Black people are children who need to be talked down to" one.

    White kids are allowed to have heroes who look like them too.

    The only way to resolve this properly is to create new black characters who everyone can enjoy or promote the existing ones like Marvel have been doing with Luke Cage. He's been a very prominent part of Marvel's recent major crossover storylines, after all.

    You used the magic word - "adaptations". I'm not talking about the Ultimate universe or some What If. I'm talking about the front page of Action Comics #1. The classic image of Superman is of a white male and there's nothing wrong with that that needs changing.
     
  19. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Wait, what?

    There's not exactly a shortage of these. Nor does that look to change anytime soon.

    Look at last year - action-adventure spectacles like Transformers 2, Star Trek, Termiantor: Rise of the Salvation Army, Harry Potter: Not This Again, Avatar...

    Not exactly a shortage of heroes for white kids, is there?
     
  20. Hermiod

    Hermiod Admiral Admiral

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    I treat comics differently because they are different. They aren't movies or TV or plays or books. They're comics, they stand alone as a unique medium.

    Shakespeare didn't work with an artist in creating his characters, comic book creators do.

    You can't easily cast someone as big as Superman with someone who can act, I concede that.
     
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