I’m completely bored now of the whitewashing debate. That is not to say I am a racist.Yes I am aware as a thirty year old white man I’m not allowed to voice an opinion. I just believe when it comes to comics and genre based TV/movies there is so much more to complain about. Lets remember no one is forcing anyone to watch or read anything.
In recent weeks it has been Iron Fist on Netflix and Ghost in The Shell taking all the hits. I don’t see where people get off on saying Danny Rand shouldn’t be white in the Netflix show because the character never should have been white in the first place! I’m sorry did you create him? Nobody said you have to read and like Iron Fist. If you want a Asian Kung-Fu comic try Shang-Chi who debuted a year before Iron Fist in 1973. Admittedly recently Iron Fist creator Roy Thomas made some rather uneducated comments. But I don’t think the case of Thomas and artist Gil Kane creating Iron Fist in the first place as white American can be considered racist. Comics are a product of their time. They were working from page to page to earn a living. Look at whos popular in comics, Batman and Ironman are both rich white guys. Thomas and Kane were sticking to what sold. Marvel were undoubtedly cashing in on the impact Bruce Lee was having on cinema screens. But like I mentioned earlier they already had an Asian kung-fu comic. So where was the harm in trying something different. People see Iron Fist as the story of a foreigner going to a foreign land and stealing from them. Maybe I’m being narrow minded to see Iron Fist as a story about a young man achieving greatness in the face of adversary. Isn’t it equally stereotypical to say only Asians can be good at kung-fu? Nowhere is it mentioned anywhere that the people of K’un Lun are Asian. It’s a mystical city they could and should be fucking any race! These are all reasons why I stand with the creators of the Netflix show in their choice for keeping Danny Rand white American. I might be bias as an Iron Fist fan but if they were to change a character who has existed for forth three years why bother adapting it in the first place? Why not make Shang-Chi? Recently and rather refreshingly Daniel Wu star of Into The Badlands spoke up about the Iron Fist whitewashing debate. He called people ‘precocious’ saying their argument was misplaced, as Iron Fist has always been white. He went on to say he doesn’t buy into “cultural appropriation bullshit that only Asians can do martial arts.” He did concede Marvel had the chance to do something different by casting an Asian American, “But they didn’t so what can you do?” I think it speaks volumes when a creator defends a supposed case of whitewashing. That is exactly what happened recently when Ghost In The Shell creator Mamoru Oshii spoke out about Scarlett Johansson’s casting. When he says “Major is a cyborg, her physical form is an entirely assumed one… There is no basis for saying that an Asian actor must portray her.” For me it just highlights the fact that the arguments are misguided and skirting the real issues. There is so much more inequality on comics and movies to complain about.
Genre TV and movies seem to bare the brunt of the whitewashing debate. More so than every other Hollywood genre. But it is very easy to make the argument that genre TV and movies is also actively looking to make things equal more than any other genre. Look at one of the hits of last year Rogue One. Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang and Forest Whitaker all played significant roles in a Star Wars movie! Marvel could greatly shift the balance of things if and when Chris Evans steps away from the role of Captain America. Anthony Mackie or Sebastian Stan? Both would certainly bring something different to the Captain America role. Both characters have wielded the shield in Caps absence so Marvel couldn’t be accused of whitewashing. No doubt if they choose Stan over Mackie the accusation would be thrown anyway! I’m not just saying it for the case of being impartial but I think Mackie would certainly bring more to the role. Stan has the tortured potential hero of Winter Soldier down to a tee. The argument could be made that having him take the shield would be a more complete story arc, but I see more potential in Falcon taking the role. They would be able to move away from the man out of time angle with Mackie. Sam Wilson is a modern man, he has a certain swagger which would make for a very different leadership role. Its been promised the landscape of the MCU will be very different after 2019. Anthony Mackie as Captain America first in a solo movie then leading a new generation of Avengers would certainly be a huge step forward. It is a big step Marvel could have taken a few years ago when Spider-Man became part of the MCU. Why didn’t they look to cast a Miles Morales? Peter Parker has years of fandom behind him and therefore is more instantly recognisable as Spidey and therefore my bankable. But Miles Morales in a short space of time has built a strong following in this day and age it would have been great for the MCU to make the move. Maybe after what happened with Tilda Swinton’s casting in Doctor Strange was met with negative reviews they decided against it. In this case Marvel thought they were being brave by giving such a high profile role to a women only to have the whitewashing card thrown in their face!
There could come a time when too much negativity in the whitewashing debate will lead to a feeling of pandering. Why change a characters race for an adaptation of a comic? Why not just tell an original story if you are going to make such changes. There a times when it works and times when it doesn’t. In comics when Marvel launched the Ultimates in 2002 making Nicky Fury African American was a move that worked for a new era. Going forward it also proved a move that would work for the inception of the MCU. Now if the change of race had been made in the movies without the change in the comics proving a success I don’t feel it would have worked. You couldn’t adapt the original Nick Fury war stories for the silver screen with an African American actor. It is just a sad fact of history that a man of colour wouldn’t have had the status of Nick Fury. When DC relaunched with the New 52 they made Wally West a black character, why? It is a move they have since gone back on. So if they wanted a black speedster why not create a new character alas Miles Morales?
I understand I may have said something here that may be viewed as controversial. I’m simply throwing some ideas out there. I often feel the argument is misguided and loses its focus easily. At times it gets thrown around to easily without people really thinking about all the aspects. Whilst comics and movies often find themselves under the spotlight like I said they are often at times making huge steps to address the balance. To anyone who reads comics and regular goes to the cinema this can make you feel proud and part of something important.