We’ve all heard the axiom “Be thankful for what you have.” It’s a mantra that supports maintaining a level of humility and staying grounded. However, there are some instances when it’s necessary to ask for more.
In recent weeks the idea of recasting new actors to play the parts of X-Men for the MCU has come up, but one part has the Twitter-verse roused. That being the role of Storm and who could take up the role this time around.
Since the debut of the first X-Men movie in 2000, we as fans have been privileged with the opportunity to see some of our favorites in live-action. One of those being everyone’s favorite weather-witch, Storm.
Believe it or not, of the 7 X-Men films produced, she’s been in 6. The only non-solo movie she was exempt from was First Class. Needless to say, the character has been well-represented in the movies- for better or worse.
The veteran, academy-award winning actress, Halle Berry, was the first thespian to bring the character to life. Berry played the part of Ororo Monroe, a total of 4-times, though one could argue that her role in Days of Future Past was more of an extended cameo. Her first outing with the character was pretty lite, but after she won an Oscar for her part in Monster’s Ball– the writers fleshed out her subsequent roles in both X2 and X3.
After Days of Future Past gave the franchise a soft reboot, the next actress to take on the role was newcomer, Alexandra Shipp. Unlike Berry’s adult portrayal of the X-Man, Shipp’s version of Storm was much younger, barely more than 18 years of age, if that. It was a version never seen before. Not outside of the Marvel Comic’s Ultimate imprint. A far cry from the take-charge, second-in-command, X-Man fans had come to know.
What’s the problem? Well, it’s not with either actress. They are both fine artists. Halle’s name will forever be etched in history books, and the uber-talented Shipp is bound to have a great career.
The only issue I and many others have noticed is that both actresses have distractingly lighter skin tones. Matter of fact; both women happen to have at least one Caucasian parent. I’m not holding that against them (my mother herself is of a similar heritage), but traditionally, Storm has always been a character with darker skin.
Why’s that matter? Storm may have been born in Harlem, New York but she’s spent most of her life in Cairo, Egypt. Where a person grows up doesn’t necessarily determine their complexion, but keep in mind the character’s lineage. Storm’s mother was originally from Kenya and happened to be a tribal princess from a long line of shaman-types. I shouldn’t’ have to explain why there’s bound to be a lot of chocolate-skinned ancestry behind her. Her father was a black man from America. Yeah, he could have been a lighter-toned man, but from what we’ve seen in flashbacks, he wasn’t.
Storm’s skin tone is an aspect that has consistently accompanied the character since her debut in 1975’s Giant-Sized X-Men as well as every depiction of her throughout animation and video games. It’s as much a part of her as having stark-white hair. Admittedly her hair shouldn’t be as European in texture as it is, but I’ll chalk that up to the same reason she sometimes has cat eyes, or no pupils (magic).
So, why has Hollywood cast the character using actresses of a lighter tone, not once, but twice? To be fair, Berry wasn’t 20th Century Fox’s only choice. There were names like Naomi Campbell and the legendary Angela Bassett floating around for the role, but obviously, neither came to fruition.
In those days comic book movies were still struggling to be taken seriously, so selling a big name like Bassett on the project probably wasn’t very easy. There were also rumors of scheduling conflicts and challenges in pay, but I couldn’t find hard evidence of either.
I think most of you would agree that Bassett had the chops to knock the role out of the water. Due to her pedigree at the time, the role may have probably been bigger in X1. It’s funny that in the end, Bassett did come around to playing a part in a comic book movie, but it was 18-years later in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther. With white hair and an African accent, no less! While Basset may have been a great option, Fox may have dodged a bullet with Campbell. She’s got the look, for sure, but her acting abilities, especially then, were less than impressive.
With that said, Fox’s X-Men line of movies is dead and gone. Those iterations will most likely never be seen again. Kevin Feige and co. plan to relaunch the franchise under the Disney-owned Marvel Studios brand.
With the studio being the media juggernaut which it is now, just about anyone will jump at the chance to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Actresses of all nationalities, ethnicities, shapes, sizes, and complexions are in no short supply.
This is why when just about every large geek-media website started floating the idea of casting acclaimed Joker actress, Zazie Beetz, as Storm- I was a bit concerned. Don’t get me wrong. I think she’s an incredible actress, and to say she’s stunning would be an insult. The woman is dope.
But, like Berry and Shipp, she’s a goddess that happens to be on the fairer side of the complexion spectrum up for a part of a character that has dark skin. If this was the first outing, I wouldn’t have a huge issue, but a third instance?
She’s already a kick-ass Domino in the Deadpool franchise. With the amount of talent available to the studio and how desperate anyone would be just to land an audition- I think it’s ok to see if we can get a little closer to the spirit of what a more source material accurate Storm could be on the big screen.
I mean, what would we be telling our girls? That they can be powerful and beautiful, as long as they land on the right end of the skin tone gamut?
Among the throng of source material-accurate Storm-actress potentials out there, are Kiki Layne and Yetide Badaki. Layne is a 27-year-old stunner of an American beauty that’s best known for her role as Clementine (or Tish) in If Beal Street Could Talk. Badaki is actually Nigerian-born, and interesting enough, already has some experience playing up a deity. Her biggest role comes from the Starz series American Gods where she portrays Bilquis, the Queen of Sheba. She’s also launched a low-key online campaign to capture the gig.
Layne is younger, and to date has no connections to any big franchises that are in any way comparable to what Marvel has or will do. Something I think they prefer. She’s also on the taller side at 5’9”. That’s a bonus because Storm is normally depicted as being the tallest woman in a room.
Badaki, on the other hand, has a more mature look and possesses an organic connection to the character. Having spent time in both Great Britain and as well as her home country (Nigeria), she could probably pull off an accent more readily. It’d be an easier fit for her, I’d assume. Depending on what take Feige wants for the character, either actress could excel in the part.
However, what scares me is that the MCU has already shown us that they’ll bend a bit. Wakanda isn’t Zimbabwe, Morocco, or even Cape Town. There’s no tourism or international influxes of refugees to stir up the gene pool. They are (or were) fierce isolationists that don’t take kindly to outsiders. Do I have to bring up the whole “colonizer” nickname they have for white people? Of course, I don’t. So, tell me, how did they end up with an extremely light-skinned member of the Dora Milaje? If there’s a backstory incoming in the sequel, then great, but chances are it was just a casting decision.
It’s not a big deal at all, except when producers start to think all black people look alike. That we aren’t a multifaceted and diverse sect of people all our own. It’s a dangerous way of thinking and may have led to the casting choices in the teen-sci-fi adventure The Darkest Minds. Did no one notice that they cast Amandla Stenberg as Ruby Daly, but also hired Lidya Jewett to play the adolescent version of the same character? The only thing those two young ladies have in common is their naturally curly hair.
For the first time, Marvel Studios can give us a Storm that’s more like the character we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in every other medium besides the big screen. And they can do it without making a huge fuss over it. No pomp or grandstanding for snaps and pointless ‘Likes’ and re-Tweets.
Just give us a Storm that actually resembles something close to what the character is. Otherwise, what they’ll be saying to dark-skinned actresses is; be thankful for what you have.