To me Jamie Foxx is a great actor. He was great in Collateral, I loved Django Unchained, and he’s the only reason I can sit through Ray without biting my tongue off.
But to some people he’s not a great actor — he’s a great Black actor.
Max Dillon isn’t black. But that doesn’t matter because he’s a gigantic megalomaniac bad-guy with electric powers. His ethnicity doesn’t matter when he’s streaking across electric lines as sentient power.
Jamie Foxx is playing Max Dillon in the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man 2* and that’s where some people get upset.
A similar outcry was heard when Donald Glover, half-heartily, campaigned to be the new Peter Parker**. And that I can understand — more than Max Dillon, at least. I don’t agree with it but I do understand.
Peter Parker is raised in a predominately white school, white neighborhood (at least according to the films, comic books and television shows) and being the sole black kid in that area would change his character a bit — because then he wouldn’t be the only weirdo kid, he’d be the only weirdo black kid.
Of course The Amazing Spider-Man made Peter into a weirdo, emo skaterboy so I don’t see what would be such a big deal about changing his character and the issues he has to deal with that much but at least I understand the logic there. Here though I don’t get it.
The person who brought up this, what he calls a problem*** and I call amazing casting — put it like this: “I mean, what would people say if Luke Cage was white? Or Black Panther?” And I nodded along and smiled and bought my comic books because I’m a problem-avoiding little shit in real life.**** But now that I’m on the internet, watch out anonymous comic book shop guy!
Okay, so there are three problems I can see with this comparison. I mean, ignoring the fact that countless black characters have been “white-washed” (and yeah, caring if a character has been changed from PoC to white and not caring if a PoC character has been changed to white is racist). Ignoring that, focusing just on Black Panther being white = Max Dillon being black, I can see three problems with that.
One, Max Dillion is white, no lie. But what does his whiteness mean? He’s a middle-class guy in a menial job — something perfect for a guy of any race. If Norman Osborn had been cast black and people had been upset I could at least under stand that — because then they’d be saying you couldn’t be black and successful and that’s racism that at least makes (awful, horrible racist) sense. But are the people against someone black playing Max Dillon really saying that people who are black can’t be middle class?
Two, Max Dillon isn’t one of a handful of white characters. Despite the majority of the Marvel U focusing on New York, where I currently live and can’t walk more than five feet without hitting a kaleidoscope of different skin colors, the overwhelming majority of the characters in the comics are white. (And no, having Iron Fist headline a comic doesn’t make you not racist. Having one out of every ten characters not be white males does not equality make*****.)
Three, People don’t care about Max Dillon. Max Dillon isn’t a foot-note in Spidey’s villain gallery but he’s not in the upper echelon either. Hell the Spectacular Spider-Man show took Shocker and made him a completely different character and no one minded. Are you telling me people care more about Electro than Shocker?! Changing a character who no one really cares about, who isn’t one of the best or most famous of the Spidey villains isn’t a bad idea. Taking chances on the people no one cares about is how Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison got their jobs! After all if it’s too dangerous for Spidey to be a minority, why can’t his villain be at least? Get some different skin colors in there.
So those are the three problems that I can see with that comparison, though I imagine there are a lot, a lot more. Whereas Max has no reason to be black, Black Panther is the King of an African country with BLACK being part of his goddamn name. He’s one of only a handful of important black characters — Luke Cage, Sam Wilson, Rhodey WhateverHisNameIsIDon’tLikeHim, the Prowler, like who else? I know I’m forgetting some but those are my favorite black characters in the comics. Here are my favorite white characters — all the rest of them. And third, Black Panther’s actually a pretty big character — changing his race would have much more of an affect on the vax populi than changing goddamn no-one-gives-a-shit Max Dillon’s race.
* If that is going to be it’s name. There are rumors it’ll be something like The Spectacular Spider-Man or something a bit different.
** Two things about this that I think are cute: One, this encouraged Brian Michael Bendis that he was right in his decision to create a half-black, half-Hispanic Spider-Man in the new Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man‘s Miles Morales (whose a 13-year old badass). Two, Donald Glover talked about this incident in a comedy show once where he said half the internet’s reaction was, “Glover as Spider-Man!!!!!” and the other half was, “He’s black! Kill him!!”
*** He also doesn’t think Wonder Woman could be black or Hispanic. He thinks she should be played by Catherine Zeta Jones, who I could see, or the chick from Labyrinth and the first Hulk movie (which ew), but honestly my top choices are Beyonce (because damn girl look at that body), Rizzoli of Rizzoli and Isles (because I like her from Law and Order and because she actively wants to play Wonder Woman), and Gina Carano — who is both an MMA fighter and an actor and seems like she’d be more than the perfect fit.
**** One time I was at a Con and a delivery guy made a joke about how the girls there looked like they should be beaten and I just nodded and took my food back up to the room and then just kinda sat for awhile, dumbstruck, at him telling me that joke and me not telling him to go fuck himself. I did not say anything to him because I am just so awesome.
***** Get this — equal means that they’re equal. 2=2. 1=1. 2 black characters does not equal fifteen white characters. Don’t get me wrong Marvel is more diverse than DC (aside from having the equally awesome Batwoman who is a girl and a lesbian — a two-fer! — and a supremely awesome badass) but just having a handful of awesome minority characters doesn’t make the team equal. Some of the only superhero comics I can think of that have anything resembling equality would be the Authority, the Runaways, and some X-books.