There is one thing to being tone deaf to your audience, and there is another being just completely stupid. Collider went with the latter on Thursday.
Making a living on the Internet, I read a tremendous amount of blogs in a day. As one would be safe to surmise from my blog, I look at a lot of pop culture blogs along with my work. A frequent stop in my browser is Collider which serves up a lot of movie news each day. When I saw a story about an actor rumored to be cast as Johnny Storm/Human Torch in an upcoming reboot of the Fantastic Four movies, I was of course interested.
The story noted that Michael B. Jordan is said to be up for the role in the film to be directed by Josh Trank. Trank and Jordan worked together previously on the indy super-hero hit, Chronicle, which was a fun, albeit slightly flawed, film. The issue with Jordan taking on the role of Johnny is that he is African American, and both the Storm siblings – Sue Storm/Invisible Woman being his sister – have always been portrayed as Caucasians. In fact, Collider itself had noted on Wednesday that actress Allison Williams from Girls was up for the part of Sue.
Let me show you why this might make them being siblings a tad unbelievable on film.
Now, there are a couple ways this could be explained through adoption or step-siblings, but it’s still a little jarring. Part of the dynamic of the Fantastic Four has always been about family with Johnny and Sue Storm also having a heated sibling relationship. As I said, it could be explained away, but when you’re trying to reboot a franchise, you kind of want to start off on the right foot.
And this is where Collider comes in.
In the article by Michael Goldberg, in his third paragraph, he begins with the following:
Of course, the real noteworthy item here is that Jordan is black and in the comics Johnny Storm is white. This fact will undoubtedly infuriate geeks who are racist and/or horribly OCD.
So, let me see if I have this right. My two options for having issues with this casting rumor are that I am either bigot, or I suffer from a disorder? There’s no third option for I would just like to see the source material honored? One of the two extremes and that’s it? I couldn’t possibly just like to see the family dynamic, a core aspect of the Fantastic Four played out as it should be, either I have a white hood in my closet, or I need to be in therapy.
You know, there isn’t much that I read on the Internet that makes my jaw literally drop, and I do mean that in the sense that my mouth fell open when I read that line, but Collider succeeded.
Was I over reacting? Possibly. So I sent the link to two other writers I know and let them read the article, and both concluded, nope, pretty darn insulting to your audience.
As my day wore on, this still bugged me. How can you work for a site that is all about movies, and even go so far as reporting on casting rumors, and think it’s ok to suggest your audience is either racist or OCD if they get worked up about something like this? I finally decided maybe I should reach out to the editorial staff, but when I went to the masthead I discovered that Goldberg is actually the Managing Editor. Okay, so perhaps I should go to his Editor-in-Chief, Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub. (He lists the ‘Frosty’ on the Contact Us page, blame him, not me) When I checked his Twitter stream, somehow I doubted I was going to get very far:
people who aren’t on board with mixing it up regarding casting…GETOVER IT.
— Steven Weintraub (@colliderfrosty) May 2, 2013
if they’re smart, they’re going to get 4 different people to play the FANTASTIC FOUR. Make them represent the world. Not white America
— Steven Weintraub (@colliderfrosty) May 2, 2013
Well, okay, obviously I am totally wrong, and siblings should be of different races. How could I be so foolish.
Here’s the thing, if the filmmakers wanted to make both of them African American, I would have no problem with this. If they wanted to make Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic African American, I would have no problem with this. Ben Grimm/The Thing, same thing. I don’t care if you change the race of a character because at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter, and in most cases doesn’t form who they are. For instance, Michael Clarke Duncan played Kingpin, a traditionally caucasian character, in the 2003 Daredevil movie. While the movie sucked, he was one of the few shining things in it. No problem with that. BUT SUE AND JOHNNY ARE SIBLINGS! I don’t care if they cast Martians in the two roles so long as they are of the same race as their sibling relationship does indeed form who they are.
The movie is setting itself up from the outset to change the family dynamic of the Fantastic Four if it does end up casting these two. While the series is about super-heroes, it has always had a strong family element to it, and this is basically saying from day 0 of production, “eh, not that important.”
Somehow I am in the wrong for this. Somehow I am either a racist or need to be in therapy because I care.
While Collider could have simple said, “You know what, that comment was uncalled for. We’re sorry,” its EiC instead decided to just keep on the same path.
I didn’t bother contacting the editorial team at Collider because from the EiC’s tweets, it’s pretty obvious he wasn’t going to be receptive to anything I had to say, so why waste my time? I’ll do the next best thing and vote with my virtual wallet. Collider, like pretty much every other site on the Internet, is supported by ads. If I don’t visit the site, and I don’t see their ads, they make less money, so that is exactly what I shall do, and I shall stop visiting their site. There are plenty of movie news sites on the Web, and somehow I doubt many others will decide it’s a wonderful idea to insult their audience in the way they chose to.
And I lied… I would care if Sue and Johnny were played be Martians. I am completely racist against Martians.