Dear Mainstream Film,
I love superhero stories.
They are tales of ordinary people tasked with doing the impossible. They are the heroic beacons of light in the world. They sacrifice whatever is necessary for a greater good. Hero stories can be light or dark, gritty or fluffy, long epics or short stories. There are many diverse superheroes, and thus many stories to be told.
However, growing up among all these superhero films did leave me with a question:
Where are the black superheroes?
Now let’s look at numbers in terms of movies. If you take every single movie in which a black superhero appeared from 1993-2014, you get 21 films. I’m going to break that down further for you. To get to that 21, I had to include Cobra Bubbles from Lilo and Stitch, Jax from Mortal Kombat and Shaq from Steel.
Twenty-one may not seem like such bad figure…at first. But let’s look at it again. Of those 21 movies, can you guess how many focused exclusively on a black hero as the lead character as opposed to a supporting role? Fifteen? Maybe 10? Haha, not that many, silly! Six. Maybe that number doesn’t seem so bad to you either. But here’s a fun fact. Do you know how many superhero films there were in 2013 that had a Caucasian male lead? Did you guess six? Correct! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_American_superhero_films
So, when you really take a step back, you realize that it took 21 years for black superheroes to do what took Caucasian superheroes seven months.
No offense, but seems a little unequal.
Oh, but I’m not saying you’re just leaving black heroes out. Where is the wonder woman film? She’s more well known than whoever the hell Jonah Hex is, but he needed a movie first. Oh and should I even try to name the Hispanic superheroes or Asian superhero films? Sorry, for some reason I can’t get past Zorro and Kato from Green Hornet… But one thing at a time. I’d hate to overwhelm you with the sheer amount of people you’re ignoring.
Getting back to topic, maybe you didn’t know how many black superheroes are available. Spoiler alert: it’s more than six!
Oh, are you worried that there’s no good comic material? Trust me, I’ll see a Cyborg movie. Oh man, if you came out with a Static Shock movie, you could have my wallet. You could do Super Globetrotters (Okay, that one is for comedy purposes)! How about Luke Cage? Silhouette? Bumblebee? Oh sorry, those last two were black superheroes that are also female. That may be a little much for you.
You’ve also told me that black superhero stories aren’t as widely known. Well, that’s true enough. Maybe some of those names in the last paragraph were even news to you. Hey, you know what you could do? You could put a black actor in a role that was originally depicted as a Caucasian man or woman!
Oooh, think about it! There could be a black spiderman! Or a black green lantern! We could even do a black superman! What? Do you think I’m crazy? The comic books did literally all of those!
Don’t you usually use the comic books to make these movies?
Are you afraid of racial sensitivities or inaccuracy? That’s funny, because you don’t usually care. Johnny Depp played a Native American last year. In 2012, Ben Affleck played a Mexican CIA operative. And even way back in 1961, you had Mickey Rooney play an Asian man. And in each of those cases, you did kinda lean on sterotypes…but hey, that’s not the issue here either. It’s all about staying true to the story.
I’m here to let you know that you don’t even have to change the story at all. For example, if you wanted to do a black Batman with Idris Elba, you don’t even have to change Batman’s story! Idris Elba can still have billionaire parents, a butler and access to unlimited gadgets: none of these things have to do with his race! (Shocking, I know!)
I know you’re not considering this idea more heavily because you’re trying to protect me. After all, they just announced that Micheal B. Jordan, a black actor, will be playing Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four. A lot of people are angry because Jonny Storm is usually depicted as a Caucasian male in the comics. The ones who aren’t mad about that specifically are arguing something like this,
“Sue Storm is played by a white actress. Johnny storm is played by a black actor. They can’t be brother and sister.” <- They actually consider this a fullproof argument. They’re forgetting that it is GENETICALLY possible for two siblings to appear to be two different races or, I don’t know, that people are occasionally FUCKING ADOPTED!!!! But don’t worry, people have got that angle covered too.
^You see, I can’t fight arguments like that. Step-brothers and sisters can’t feel more love for each other than just plain ole brothers and sisters do! After all, every relationship between two siblings with the same two parents are flawless! Just look here:
Because at the end of the day, it’s not the story, it’s not the special effects, but two differently colored siblings that will sink this movie. Oh, but as this person suggested, please feel free to make Ben Grimm black. After all, his character turns into orange stone halfway through the movie.
Sorry, I know I got a little angry back there. And I don’t know why, but for some reason, the Junot Diaz quote comes to mind: “If you want to make a human being a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.” Haha, I don’t even where that came from. Outside of superhero films, I know you do your best to represent the black, Hispanic, female, Asian, lgbtq, muslim populations and every other identity in the spectrum in a prominent and shining light throughout the media. Like in television!
In closing, I’m just asking that you think about some of my ideas. After all, you wouldn’t be alone. Stan Lee said in a recent interview that he’s working on a Black Panther film and thinking about Chinese, Latino and Indian superheroes. But Stan the Man isn’t going to be around forever! So how about you help him out a bit?
Again, I’m not saying you have to make Superman black. I don’t hate on the multitude of fantastic superhero films that you’ve offered to me in the past. I’m also not insisting that my race has been completely ignored in superhero films (six, remember?) I’m just posing the question that has been on my mind since I was a kid in the 90’s:
Where’s the superheroes that look like me?
A 22-Year old Black and Hispanic Male
P.S. Happy Black History Month 😀