This week there was a conversation started on twitter called #whitewashedOUT. It spoke of how many Asian Americans and other people have color have been white washed out of roles meant for them. Did you know there are more white people that have won Academy Awards for portraying Asians than there are Asians winners?
Superhero films, while more diverse than most, still contribute to the white washing problem (Tilda Swinton’s role as The Ancient One). Let’s look at 5 upcoming roles that can add more color into the superhero casting palette.
Namor is Marvel’s version of Aquaman (despite being about 20 years older) and is the king of Atlantis. The fictional underwater kingdom has not been revealed or hinted at in the MCU but they could make a push for it in Phase 4. In fact, now that Inhumans has been indefinitely suspended a Namor film could fill its spot. Namor has a prominent role in the Marvel comic book universe. Besides being the ruling monarch of the oceans, he is a member of the Illuminati (a secret organization of superheroes dedicated to protecting Earth) and the one to find Captain America’s body in the frozen tundra. Namor is also an immensely powerful being that has a fascinating rival with Black Panther. Marvel will undoubtedly tap into this property to cash in on film.
Namor is traditionally portrayed as a tall lean man with sharp eyes and jet black hair. This is the perfect character to finally introduce an Asian American MCU hero. Many prominent Asian countries are groups of islands, makes sense that an Oceanic Kingdom would have people of similar features. There are plenty of prominent Japanese and Korean actors that have well known names and comic book accurate features to play Namor, my personal choice is Daniel Dae Kim (Lost, Hawaii Five-0). He is a familiar face with the right features and athletic build to play Namor.
DC Comics has casted Jason Momoa (part native Hawaiian) as Aquaman; don’t let them be the only company pushing for diversity. Marvel can easily join the party to get more Asian American representation in films.
The upcoming Green Lantern Corps film has had all kinds of buzz. The latest reports tell us that there will be three human lanterns in the film. First, Hal Jordan, most famous GL and veteran pilot, second is John Stewart, African-American architect and former Marine, the third is reportedly Kyle Rayner. A young artist thrust into the role of GL after an emergency. The character of Kyle Rayner was revealed to have a Mexican-American father, unfortunately we’ll probably get some jacked white guy for the role.
Many fans (and producers) out there will probably look for someone like Joseph Gordon Levitt to fill the role of Rayner (coincidentally his initials contain GL) and while I agree that he could play the role to perfection I’d rather see more representation on film. There are many comic book artists (and artists in general) that aren’t your typical white guy. In fact, there are plenty of latino and Mexican comic book artists, Humberto Ramos of The Amazing Spider-man fame is a name that comes to mind. There are plenty of Mexican-American actors out there that can shine in a superhero role. Find them Hollywood. They are capable of overcoming great fear.
Spider-woman is an Avenger that is formerly an expert Shield spy. Oddly enough her powers don’t quite resemble Spider-man’s…anyway. Spider-Woman a.k.a. is traditionally drawn with straight black hair. You know, the kind you rarely find on Caucasian women and always find on Asian women. Jessica Drew is a more recent addition to the Avengers roster (2005’s New Avengers) and can fit in nicely in the MCU’s Phase 4. She’s also a friend to Jessica Jones and Captain Marvel (where she could make her debut!)
Much like Kyle Rayner, there is nothing inherently white about Jessica Drew. In fact, her physical appearance makes her portrayal by a POC less likely to draw ire from fan boys! Also, as a super SHIELD spy a woman like Jessica Drew is required to fit in any type of crowd in any part of the world. A woman of racial ambiguity (like Chloe Bennett or Shay Mitchell and NOT Emma Stone) is able to do that much more effectively than a spy like Black Widow. Casting a POC in a fictional role doesn’t need justification but c’mon Marvel I’m making the argument for you!
In the DCEU that we’re currently stuck with we know that Jason Todd has died at the hands of the Joker. We can also presume that Dick Grayson has left the cave and become a hero in his own right (I’d wager a much better and morally stronger hero than his mentor). Batman is over 40 years old and is in need of a new Robin. Before we introduce Damian Wayne in this universe let’s bring in the most over looked former Robin, Tim Drake. Drake is traditionally the smartest and hardest working of the Robins. He also has considerable fighting skills. There are probably over 5 million people living in Gotham, surely he can find a young ward with potential that isn’t white.
Drake is a detective at heart and uses his smarts as often as his skill to defeat opponents. Non-white actors like Osric Chau (Supernatural), Jake T. Austin (Disney & voice of Blue Beetle), or Tyler Posey (Teen Wolf) have the charm and athletic ability to pull of being the Boy Wonder.
Fant4stic made waves by casting Michael B. Jordan as Mr. Johnny Storm so we know Fox is willing to change the status quo when it comes to race and casting. Let’s look at the property from another angle (we all know it’s going to be rebooted soon). Why not have an Asian Mr. Fantastic? Let’s look at Reed Richards. He is a genius. He’s from New York. He has stretchy powers. Anything in that list indicate he has to be white? NOPE. An actor like Steven Yeun has the acting chops and name recognition to lead a good Fantastic Four film. Besides, Steven Yeun might have an opening in his schedule if you know what I mean.
If Fox Studios wants to be even bolder they can keep Susan Storm white. Steven Yeun has already been in on onscreen biracial relationship but it would be a big step in normalizing Asian-Americans on screen if an Asian Mr. Fantastic and a white Invisible Woman got married and had biracial superpowered children. Just a thought Fox. If TV can do it you can do it too.
Bonus: The Wrecker
If you read through the list and wondered why I didn’t have any African-Americans on the list I sincerely apologize. To be completely honest, African Americans have better representation in superhero films than any other race that isn’t white. But I still agree with many that it’s not enough. So let’s look at a fun character that can be played by a big black man. The character is The Wrecker and that big black man is Terry Crews.
The Wrecker is a physically powerful super villain out of Thor’s comic book that is also known as a bit of a doof. If anyone can play menacing, powerful AND goofy it’s Terry Crews. Also, The Wrecker is the leader of The Wrecking Crew and Terry’s last name is Crews! It’s the perfect match. I hope one day we can see witty banter between Hemsworth’s Thor and Crews’s The Wrecker.
There are dozens if not hundreds of characters whose identity is not rooted in the color of their skin. I read a tweet this week that said there are more heroes in the MCU played by white guys named Chris than there are POC heroes. That is a mind blowing fact that needs to be rectified.
Let me know if you have any other great suggestions for heroes and villains that can be portrayed by wonderfully diverse actors. Hit us up in the comics or @geek101podcast on twitter!
EDIT: Update made to reflect Kyle Rayner’s Mexican heritage.