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White Power: Can a Brotha Get a Cape Please?

*I make many references to "white people" in this article but I know that not all white people feel the same way about every issue.

There are certain characters in pop culture that seem to connect with audiences of all ages. Han Solo, the loveable rogue from the original Star Wars movies, has a legion of fans ranging from those who saw him in theatres in the 1970’s to those watching him on blu-ray today. I believe that a huge chunk of that character’s success should be accredited to the actor. Harrison Ford’s presence and charisma made Han Solo one of the most important characters in the Star Wars mythos. But would audiences have fallen in love with the character so easily if Billy Dee Williams had been the original pilot of the Millennium Falcon instead of the white All-American Harrison Ford?

It seems that affirmative action policies have finally caught up to the geek industry. There will be a Half-Black Half-Hispanic Spider-Man web-slinging through New York City and a black Perry White giving Clark Kent his orders at The Daily Planet in the new Superman movie. This will be the first time that these two characters will be portrayed by races other than white. The reactions of white fans to these two announcements have ranged from apathy to cross-burning rage.

Black Superman

Most of the rage seems to be targeted toward the Spider-Brotha. I guess audiences can accept a supporting character’s race being changed but the hero must remain white. For instance, the 1989 Batman movie had Billy Dee Williams play Harvey Dent (Two-Face for the noobs out there) but he wasn't as big of a factor as the white Dent in the Nolan movies. Hey, what happened to the black characters in the Nolan Batman movies? Oh yeah, death by pencil and poisioning. 

It’s no secret that Spider-Man is worshipped because of his nerdy origins. Peter Parker, the biggest loser at his high school, gets to become a super-hero and kiss girls. Outcasts will naturally gravitate toward a character like this because they can see themselves in him.  This new Spider-Man, named Miles Morales, is not going to replace Peter Parker. He is just going to take over for a dead Peter Parker in an alternate universe comic. There will always be a white Peter Parker in the regular comic. So what’s the big deal?

Black audiences are used to being marginalized in all aspects of entertainment except for rap and sports. Maybe they’re just spoiled, but white audiences seem to have a problem with being asked to identify with a black main character. Why else did the Princess and the Frog do so poorly despite its good reviews?

Race is tricky and someone will always be offended, but I think white people need to learn that they are not the only race that matters.  

Akira, one of the most influential pieces of art in modern Japanese cinema, is being remade into a live-action American movie. Who did studio executives pursue to star in a film so deeply rooted in Japanese culture? Robert Pattinson, Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield, Joaquin Phoenix and Michael Fassbender. Those guys are not Japanese, and this doesn’t stop with Akira.

The Last Airbender, the M. Night Shyamalan disaster based on the beloved Nickelodeon series, was white washed as well (see first picture). So not only did Shyamalan make a terrible movie, but he alienated his own people by making the heroes white and the villains ethnic.

The Hunger Games, a popular young adult novel series, has an “olive-skinned” female protagonist named Katniss. For the movie version, the studio casted a white woman named Jennifer Lawrence.

So the message being sent here is that only white people can be lead characters because white audiences feel comfortable with them and will then buy more movie tickets.

It seems like only historical dramas like Ray and Ali are allowed to be successful Oscar contenders with black leading characters.

I just don’t get it. If white people enjoy movies where white and black people work together to overcome racism then why can’t they watch a movie where black people are the stars?

(Not only stars. Spike Lee can't get the funding for Inside Man 2)

Some of you may think I’m taking this too seriously, but just think for a second about how alienated you would feel if white people were only shown as comic relief side characters. How would that affect your self-esteem? Would you be strong enough to go after your dreams while the media tries to stuff you in a box?




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