By Arturo R. García
You would think that a discussion of comics and diversity on The Nightly Show would be a home run.
You would be wrong.
By Guest Contributor Sunny Huang
Two weeks ago, Big Hero 6 premiered to critical acclaim at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Even earlier, it made a big splash at New York Comic Con. And it will open tomorrow as a likely box-office success — a projected $51 million in its first weekend — in the U.S. But with less than a full day to go, I am surprised by the lack of substantial criticism for it.
Frozen generateda firestorm of controversybefore it was released in mass and niche publications, yet there is little for Big Hero 6, which goes to show just how much Asians and Asian-inspired media are pushed out of the conversation. And the only criticisms that have appeared focus on the film’s episodic storytelling and choice of Fall Out Boy for the soundtrack, instead of its lackluster Asian representation and continued cultural appropriation by Disney. In fact, Big Hero 6 is being lauded for transcending these problems, when it is the very embodiment.
After spending my childhood barely seeing myself and my people represented on screen, I immediately made my brother watch the trailer. As a 20-year old, I was so happy that my 10-year old brother would have the chance to grow up without self-resentment. I was so grateful to know he would have the chance to not loathe his race because he would see characters who looked like him be appreciated. It was a chance I did not have.
When the trailer was over, I yelled at him. Look, look!An Asian character! Another character who’s Asian besides Mulan! From the biggest animation studio today! Do you know how many people like us will see how progressive this movie is?! To that, he just stared at me and said—
What? I thought he was white.
It was then I realized something was wrong. This movie was being marketed as progressive and beyond its time for giving its studio the opportunity to address “its historical reputation for ethnic homogeneity and cultural appropriation.” But if an Asian-American kid could not identify the main character as Asian, as part of his own group, then what else was wrong?
Turns out, a lot. The protagonist’s racial ambiguity just started the conversation.
The film is based off the Marvel Comics characters of the same name, but with major differences—many of them questionable, and some of them outright wrong.
SPOILERS for both the movie and the comic under the cut.
By Arturo R. García
It was easy to approach Marvel Entertainment’s Phase 3 announcement Tuesday morning somewhat skeptically. After all, the 24 hours leading into it were consumed by the rumor that Benedict Cumberbatch had been cast as Doctor Strange.
Then came the news:
BREAKING: CHADWICK BOSEMAN CAST AS BLACK PANTHER #MarvelEvent
— Arturo R. Garcia (@aboynamedart) October 28, 2014
Coupled with the news that Marvel was finally moving forward with a Captain Marvel film, the day ended with not only widespread anticipation, but the question: where do we — fans of diversity in the superhero movie realm — go from here?
Let’s try to answer that question by asking another: Which actors and character/brands benefit from Tuesday’s news?
By Arturo R. García
The Falcon is going to be the new Captain America! Great! But then what?
Oh, you expected this to stick? History says otherwise. But there’s a potential problem ahead.
SPOILERS under the cut
By Guest Contributor Keith Chow, cross-posted from The Nerds of Color
Yes, I am proposing that a major comic book institution change the race of one of its popular characters as it transitions to a new form of media. In this case, I want Marvel Studios to cast an Asian American actor to play the lead in the upcoming Iron Fist show it is developing for Netflix. It seems logical enough to me, though as always, there are fans who are urging Marvel to resist changing his race.
Now, I know the topic of cross-racial casting has come up time andtime again here at The Nerds of Color. And while there are a contingent of fans who don’t think such things matter — or worse, arevehemently opposed to such casting choices — I can’t help thinking that Iron Fist gives Marvel a chance to add even more diversity to its interconnected cinematic universe. Not to mention that this is a case where changing the race of the character has the potential to actually add layers of depth to the story of said character.
By Arturo R. García
After months of speculation, Thursday night brought confirmation: Michael B. Jordan will play Johnny Storm/The Human Torch in 20th Century Fox’s newest attempt to build a Fantastic Four film franchise. And while some geeks reacted as badly as you might expect, this iteration of Marvel’s First Family is worth keeping an eye on for far more interesting reasons.
Kendra on the industry’s expectations of the audience: “What’s the nerd stereotype? The guy who looks like Kevin Smith, or the [brown] girl who’s been loyal to the same comic shop for years? There’s a worry, subconscious or not, that if white males have no one to identify with that the readership vanishes. No amount of trend-bucking — take Miles Morales, for example — is going to change that.”
Arturo on white fans’ reluctance to accept when POC are cast as characters who were originally white: “It’s the natural result when the industry spends decades prioritizing white male characters — you have white male fans getting twitchy over this sort of casting while accepting white-washing or all-white stories.”
- From “Who Gets To Be A Superhero? Race and Identity in Comics” by Gene Demby.
Recommended Reading: The full transcript of a panel interview including Kendra, Arturo, Kelly Kanayama and Alan Yu.