Does that make Comic-Con the equivalent of a KKK meeting?
Michael B. Jordan, the charismatic young actor from “Fruitvale Station,” has been cast in the reboot of “Fantastic Four,” in the role previously played by Chris Evans. As Evans is now one of the central figures in the Marvel “Avengers” franchise, it’s clearly a star-making role — and one that many fans perceive as white.
It’s common for fans of entertainment franchises to take to Twitter upon the announcement of any casting that deviates from an all-white universe — including, recently, the casting of a young black actress to play a role in “The Hunger Games” that was at the very least coded as black. No matter! White “Hunger Games” readers perceived all the characters as white, and they were really angry they were going to be forced to look at any nonwhite people at the movies. The same thing happened when Idris Elba got a supporting role as a Norse god in “Thor,” and when Samuel L. Jackson played a role that had been white in comics in “The Avengers” franchise.
This is the exact reason why casting minority actors in the sort of big franchises that have built-in audiences is at once difficult and important — fans who have pictured the plot of a novel in their minds, or who have looked at the all-white Fantastic Four on the page, are entitled to be mildly surprised at a casting decision, but self-righteous anger is a bit excessive.
The sort of franchise fans whose tweets get quoted in industry stories after big casting decisions see themselves as incapable, apparently, of empathizing with anyone not of their race; in order for a character to be understandable onscreen, that character must be white. […]
Michael B. Jordan’s character is going to be a black superhero, not a black person whose behavior is somehow impossible for viewers who’ve seen a million white superheroes on film to parse. Once he and other characters help erode ingrained prejudice in white viewers, maybe those viewers will take a chance on minority characters they don’t already know. Maybe they’ll rent “Fruitvale Station”! At the very least, one hopes that eventually castings of nonwhite characters in big-budget movies will become so unremarkable that no one would ever be moved to tweet angrily about them.