Race + Comics: Is Bane Getting Racebent?

By Arturo R. García

Okay, so we know Tom Hardy can play someone who’s physically intimidating, based on his role in Bronson. But is casting him as a biracial Central American national problematic? … It could be. Assuming that’s the case at all.

In the next Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, Hardy will be playing Bane, introduced in the comic-book world as a native of the fictional Caribbean country of Santa Prisca. The character was developed as a less-privileged mirror to Batman/Bruce Wayne, growing up in prison, serving the life sentence his father escaped from. Bane later goes on to terrorize Gotham City, and famously break Wayne’s back. Years later, Bane finally meets and battles his father, Sir Edmund Dorrance, a British assassin.

So on the surface, it appears that parenting plot-point could be used to hand-wave not just the character’s relatively light-skinned appearance (seen at right), but Hardy’s casting. The character’s mother, presumed to be Santa Priscan, has never been featured in any media.

But it’s worth noting that when Bane has been included in a cartoon format, his voice-acting was done by two mixed-race New Yorkers: Henry Silva (Sicilian and Spanish; in the clip below, he comes in at 1:07) and Hector Elizondo (Puerto Rican and Basque), and the character is played as a POC.

It is possible, of course, that we don’t get any backstory for Bane at all in Rises; he could just be portrayed as a Mysterious Thug who just happens to have a British Accent. But while one can understand director Christopher Nolan and writer David Goyer, the team behind the latest Batman film series, wanting to re-team with Hardy, who gave them a well-received turn in Inception. But in the bigger picture, there’s almost no way for this move to be more than another missed opportunity: if the character’s English side is played up, half of his presumed racial identity will be effectively erased for the general public; and if Hardy is asked to affect a “Central American” accent for the role, it would only highlight the overwhelming whiteness of Nolan’s casting choices in this series, especially if the rumors of Rachel Weisz getting cast as Talia al Ghul, a character with a multi-racial background, are indeed true; no POC women have even been connected with the role of Talia so far.

Worst of all, the casting and potential white-washing involved in the Hardy decision will lead to yet another round of racial drafting, like this comment over at the Comics Alliance thread on the casting:

What’s the problem with Bane being white? Heimdall is black.
And just because someone’s white, doesn’t mean they can’t be South American, right? Have you seen the Brazilian football team?

The problem being, of course, that when we see the Brazilian football team, we see them – not Brits hired to play them. Somehow that would be seen as “acceptable casting,” while casting Idris Elba as Heimdall … well, you know how that goes.

Top image courtesy of MovieBuzzers
Comic-book image courtesy of Comic Book Movie