June 2nd, 2010


Black Spider-Man Sets Intertube Users ON FIRE!

About a year and a half ago, I posted about the rumor that Paterson Joseph, a black actor, was being considered for the role of the Doctor--who, need I remind you, is a shape-changing alien--after David Tennant stepped down, and how much of fandom flew into a reactionary racial panic that the Doctor must always be white. "We're not racist," they cried, "it's just that if the Doctor is played by anyone who isn't white we'll boycott the show forever!"

Well, now we can relive the good times with the news that writer/actor/comedian Donald Glover, who plays Troy on the marvelous NBC sitcom Community, is lobbying for an opportunity to audition for the role of Peter Parker in the proposed Spider-Man reboot. While the merits of rebooting the franchise with an aged-down cast is debatable in itself, Don Kaye, the author of the SciFi Wire article I linked to, raises the valid point that there's nothing in Parker's background that means he absolutely has to be white. Does the fact that he's white in the source material necessarily mean he has to be white on the screen? Well, if Orson Welles can play Othello and Jake Gyllenhaal can play a Persian prince, the answer seems to be no.

Not that fandom understands this. The comments section of the SciFi Wire article is an at-times hilarious reminder that "I'm not racist but" tends to be little more than verbal throat-clearing before launching into a racist diatribe. Here, for your amusement, I present you with but a taste of the charming thoughts clogging up the intertubes.

The first is from "sam," who seems to be retarded in some deeply fundamental way that compels him to hit the caps lock at random intervals and confuse race with gender:

Scrap it NOW! This is a completely ludricious IDEA. Why not have Megan Fox play him why you're at it. Spider-woman! ABSOLUTELY STUPID

Of course, there is a Spider-Woman character in the comics, but that's neither here nor there. No, I'm far more frightened that he's put out the idea of having Megan Fox play her. Now that it's out there, it means it's going to happen. Please, someone stop her career!

Anyway, back to the racial panic user comments. A user called "chris," in a prime example of how nobody learns grammar and punctuation anymore, writes:

Peter is not a Black kid he is White. Im not racist by any means but if Peter is cast as Black then will Stone Cold Steve Austin play Luke Cage in the Power Man movie? Sweet Christmas I didnt think so either. Stay true to the source material thats what made the first so great. Marvel and Sony dont do it cause its the cool thing to do right now.

Love the idea of an eye for an eye: If a black guy plays Spider-Man than a white guy has to play a black superhero, just to make it fair. Yeah, that makes sense. Also, since when is it the "cool thing to do" to cast non-white actors in ostensibly white roles? Is this a trend I haven't noticed in Hollywood, and now suddenly all the actors of color are getting tons of work? Cool. Maybe I should read Variety more.

"theDudeinLA" is so distressed by the very idea that someone who isn't white wants to audition for the role that he has some kind of public meltdown, posting this comment, reprinted here in its entirety:

No, no, no NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Havok502002" writes:

I won't go see it... Peter Parker is a white guy... always has been, always will be... has nothing to do with race, has to do with the character that has been around for 50 years... let's make James Bond Latino next or shaft can be Zack Braff.. give me a f'n break...

I particularly enjoy how Havok502002 says Parker has always been white and will always be white, but it's not about race. Thanks for the clarification! He also forgets there was a similar fandom outcry over casting blond-haired Daniel Craig as James Bond, and he turned out to be the best actor in the role since Sean Connery. (The idea of a Latino Bond is unlikely, though, as Bond is a British character and there's not much of a Latino community in the UK, at least not like there is here in the US.) As for Shaft, he seems to forget the whole point of the character, the whole dramatic thrust, is that he's a black P.I. trying to work in a white-run law enforcement system that doesn't trust him. Peter Parker, on the other hand, is a poor kid from Queens who gets bitten by a radioactive spider. Apple, meet orange.

"stavenborn" writes:

I'm cool with this....as long as Michael Cera gets to audition for the role of Black Panther.

Done and done, my friend! I would love to see something like that! Oh wait, you were being sarcastic? Sad now.

"lvsammy" weighs in with an idea:

remember the backlash when they talked about a black James Bond? If someone wants him in the movie you could have him as a good friend and comic relief.

Yay! Because he's black, let's not make him the hero, just the good friend and comic relief! You know, like Pete on Smallville--because that worked out so well! "Obi Window Washer" agrees:

Sorry no, he's funny as Troy on Community but Spider-Man is a character you can't frak with. But I would like to see him in a co-star role. Perhaps as Ben Reilly Curt Conners; assistant (who in the Ultimate Marvel U is African American).

Yay! Now he gets to run around assisting a white guy! Way to keep those Hollywood stereotypes going, Obi! Maybe he can also espouse words of wisdom, and then die protecting the white folk.

"Cory" is another barely mentally balanced commenter who doesn't seem to realize he's having a public meltdown:

PETER PARKER IS F**KING WHITE! Have people lost their minds? Peter Parker is as white with brownish red hair as what Wally West is to The Flash. This is racist!!! Leave it to Floppywood and the whole Obama log sucking crew. In the comics Peter is white and white only. It's defying the nature of the comics.

Why don't we make Jonn Jonzz the Man of Steel for that matter. How about the the blue guardians of OA as Batman. The race factor will destory man untimately on planet Earth.

Floppywood? Obama log sucking crew? Defying the nature of the comics? What? Comics have a nature? Anyone open to the idea is fellating the president? His code is too dense to decipher. Someone call in Robert Langdon! However, I do like his strangely detached final sentence though. I think Cory fancies him/herself as someone akin to the Watcher. I guess that's easier than having feelings. Well, any feelings other than a deep concern that Hollywood liberals are going down on Obama so they can make Spider-Man black. Or something.

Razor R. confuses the idea of an everyman with a white Anglo-Saxon protestant:

Not just no, Hell NO! Peter Parker's origins is a nerdy WASP who becomes Marvel's everyman character. This is a stupid as making Luke Cage a white guy.

Though something tells me that if Luke Cage were to be played by a white guy, people like Razor would hail it for its progressive stance and say it was about the best actor getting the role, not about race. (C.f. the casting of The Last Airbender.)

Did I mention this is all about a black actor who just wants to audition for the role? He hasn't been cast, he hasn't even auditioned yet, and people are already going bananas, going so far as to accuse the studio of political correctness--a term that has no meaning anymore, if it ever did--and, er, whatever that Obama log sucking thing was about.

Of course, not all of fandom acts like knuckle-dragging neanderthals worried that the strange tribe over the next hill will steal their fire and take their women. Some in the comments section here are actually open-minded, like "captainwhat," who also can't resist applying a verbal smackdown:

I'm fine with giving Donald Glover the audition. If he happens to be the best out of them, give him the role.

Wait, this is being written online so I suppose I have to mention skin color, political preference, or some crap about "altering the mythos" that makes me comfortable sleeping at night.

"TOTS" writes:

He's the best choice so far over those other schmucks that were mentioned earlier. In my opinion, I wouldn't mind.

It's heartening to see not everyone's world is crushed by the idea of a black actor wanting to audition for the role of Spider-Man, but I find all these public meltdowns both funny and alarming. There's such a sense of ownership involved--"Spider-Man is ours and you can't have him!"--that speaks to an unhealthy sense of entitlement. As if it's not about equal opportunities, but about taking something away from them. Which obviously it's not.

I said it about the Doctor Who controversy, and I'll say it again about this: I'm just surprised that people in this day and age are still saying "I don't have a problem with black people, I just don't want to see them in my favorite roles" with a straight face.

What's In a Name?