Nerd Racism – A Defense
It would appear that someone had had the audacity of considering an African American actor for the role of the Human Torch in an upcoming Fantastic Four movie. Naturally some people have lost their collective shit. I posit that while this looks like blatant racism, some of the rage is from a different, and while equally irrational, less offensive source.
I mean some of it definitely is racism. But hear me out.
I have to say that when somebody puts characters that I know and love on screen and they aren’t exactly as I’d imagined them, I get a bit miffed. I don’t think the reaction is unreasonable. I think it’s pretty natural. In a way it’s cognitive dissonance. It’s a case of having to reconcile apparently opposing ideas and that is often unsettling. I don’t like the feeling and I will quite happily blame filmmakers for making me feel it.
More than that, though, I think it’s a misplaced sense of ownership. Some people take comic characters to be part of their heritage. As an analogy, perhaps you have a precious toy from your childhood, a teddy bear, maybe. If I replaced it with another one, you would be upset. It wouldn’t matter if the new bear was equally good or even better than your original bear, it wouldn’t be your bear. I think a lot of the feeling comes from that. It’s not MY Spiderman, it’s not MY Batman it’s WRONG! It’s worth noting that many of the people upset about race changes in movies are equally enraged by any departure from canon. These are sacred texts. Just check out all of the angst over Superman not wearing red briefs in Man of Steel.
To illustrate some of this, I relate my own nerd rage to you. I was, personally, pissed about Andrew Garfield getting cast as Peter Parker and the shameful depiction of Gambit by by Taylor Kitsch made me stop watching Wolverine. However I wasn’t fussed about Samuel L. Jackson getting cast as Nick fury. Why not? Because Nick Fury wasn’t a formative part of my adolescence. I didn’t own and Nick Fury comics. I didn’t relate to him or read about him and I didn’t have that sense of exactly who Fury had to be. Fury could be anyone, but Gambit and Spidey? Whooo boy did they kick me right in the hornet’s nest with those.
However, what one does with the reaction may be very unreasonable. I think is someone said to me that they demanded absolute adherence to the character design and mythology of a comic in order to like a film because they considered the material to be precious to them, I could support that. If they start posting all over the internet that the directors can’t tell their ass from a hole in the ground because some character wasn’t cast exactly as they wanted, I’d be less understanding.
I wonder if it would help if they put a little disclaimer on the movies that they were only “Inspired by a Fictional Story”
Heimdal and Nick fury images are property of Marvel Pictures, Catwoman property of Warner Brothers.