Michael Jordan is an incredibly talented actor, and one I'm pretty sure could play pretty much any role you gave him and knock it out of the park. I was particularly excited when he announced that he'd be playing The Human Torch in Marvel's Fantastic Four movie, because if Jordan is amazing on his own, Jordan as a superhero has to be even better. However, some commenters on the Internet decided to be jerks and complain, in an disgustingly racist fashion, that since the character was originally written as a blond-haired, blue-eyed white guy and Jordan is, if you hadn't noticed, none of those things. Because, you know, movies based on books have never completely rewritten characters and entire storylines for the big screen. But in a seriously awesome move, Jordan penned an article for Entertainment Weekly on Friday, responding to all the haters — and he made some really good points.
While Jordan has said that the constant criticism doesn't bother him anymore, we still need to take a step back and look at what people are taking issue with: a black actor playing a white character. Nevermind that white actors are cast in roles meant for other ethnicities all the time and have done for years (I don't need to remind y'all about Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in Pan, do I?). Any attempt to make the Marvel universe more diverse is something that should not only be welcomed, but encouraged. Unfortunately, some people don't seem to see it that way. Thankfully, Jordan seems to have a good head on his shoulders about it, and his response to critics only further illustrates that.
I can see everybody’s perspective, and I know I can’t ask the audience to forget 50 years of comic books. But the world is a little more diverse in 2015 than when the Fantastic Four comic first came out in 1961.
Let's be realistic, here: no big screen remake of a book is ever going to be entirely faithful to the original. Major plots will be left out or rewritten, and characters you envisioned one way when reading will be embodied in entirely different ways. And that's OK. In fact, it makes the movie more enjoyable, as you're able to appreciate it as a companion to the printed word, rather than a direct adaptation of it. Maybe having a black superhero in 1961 wasn't commonplace, but in 2015, we can do better than that. We SHOULD be doing better than that.
Some people may look at my casting as political correctness or an attempt to meet a racial quota, or as part of the year of “Black Film.” Or they could look at it as a creative choice by the director, Josh Trank, who is in an interracial relationship himself—a reflection of what a modern family looks like today.
Frankly, Jordan's right. The American family has certainly changed from the "man and wife with two children" set-up over the years, and most open-minded people understand that the word family means a million different things these days, and looks just as many different ways. Some families are homosexual, some families are made of single parents, some families aren't related by blood but rather by choice, and some are interracial. It's only fair for filmmakers to modernize stories by ensuring they're a reflection of the world we live in today, not more than half a century ago.
This is a family movie about four friends—two of whom are myself and Kate Mara as my adopted sister—who are brought together by a series of unfortunate events to create unity and a team. That’s the message of the movie, if people can just allow themselves to see it.
Instead of complaining about who's playing what role, why aren't people paying attention to what the movie's actually about? I guarantee you Fantastic Four is not about ostracizing someone over his or her race, and more about — as Jordan points out — teamwork and unity between people who are choosing to work together despite any differences they may have. If that's not something we should all learn from, what is?
People are always going to see each other in terms of race, but maybe in the future we won’t talk about it as much. Maybe, if I set an example, Hollywood will start considering more people of color in other prominent roles, and maybe we can reach the people who are stuck in the mindset that “it has to be true to the comic book.” Or maybe we have to reach past them.That Jordan is willing to take on such a monumental task willingly, to shoulder the burden of society's continued close-mindedness, says so much for his strength of character, and only makes me all the more certain that he's not only a wonderful choice for the role of The Human Torch, but as a role model for the audiences, young and old, who will likely be going to see the movie.
To the trolls on the Internet, I want to say: Get your head out of the computer. Go outside and walk around. Look at the people walking next to you. Look at your friends’ friends and who they’re interacting with. And just understand this is the world we live in. It’s OK to like it.