Hollywood’s penchant for switching the ethnicities, or “race-bending,” comic characters, a phenomenon that saw to the revamping of Nick Fury – and now Jim Gordon in The Batman – for film audiences (notwithstanding Marvel Ultimates), has support in The Suicide Squad director James Gunn.
Gunn discussed his position in response to an Instagram comment made under a photo posted by the director in honor of actor Idris Elba, who plays Bloodsport in the film.
In their comment, the fan opined that Elba “might have nailed it, but I can’t help but think Tom Selleck would have [been] perfect” for the role, to which Gunn replied that “Tom Selleck is 75 years old and white. Would have been unusual casting.”:
In response to Gunn’s comment, one fan began debating the merits of race-bending with another fan and stated that Gunn should “make new black comic book characters or bring back old ones. Making white characters black isn’t solving the problem.”:
Gunn then responded by informing the fan that race-swapping was done “because 95% of all superheroes have historically been white [o] it makes sense as we start adatpting them to film in the modern era that some characters who were originally white become another ethnicity to more accurately reflect our world.
“In most cases,” he continued, ” it would not make sense to take a character originally another ethnicity and make them white because there are already so nany white superheroes.”
The fan would then ask “why not start creating new black superheroes?”
“I feel like that would help diversify superheroes even moreso than just taking white ones and making them black for no reason other to make them a different color,” he said. “Black Panther did great right from the get go, and I’m sure there’s more old superheroes that were different ethnicities.”:
This would prompt a lengthy response from Gunn, who began by stating that “people aren’t making movies about unknown superheroes,” and added that “it’s innately discriminatory to think what makes a character a character is his or her ethnicity and not his or her personality.”
Gunn then put forth a rhetorical question, asking the fan “What is it, if not racism, that David Ayer for casting Will Smith as Deadshot, and John Watts, for casting Zendaya as Mary Jane, got thousnads of times more shit for those choices than I did for making Drax and Mantis aliens instead of humans in Guardians?”
Gunn then emphasized that “in most cases, these are great casting choices,” and further supported his stance on personality by noting that “Will Smith is a lot like Floyd in the books, he just happens to be black.”
He then explained that “it isn’t done for no reason, it’s usually done to more effectively reflect our world and to cast the best actor for the role, regardless of race,” and put forth the example that “if David Ayer thought Mark Wahlberg would have made a better Deadshot, he probably would have cast him.”
However, the supporting reasons for Gunns stance are not a simplistic and clear-cut as presented.
Though Drax and Mantis’s MCU backstories do depart from their comic origins, Gunn is a little off base when it comes to”Mary Jane”, as Zendaya does not play the role of Mary Jane Watson, but rather a new character who fills the archetype of Peter Parker’s love interest. The character’s initials being “MJ” is a sly nod to this fact.
More notably, race-swapping is not a signature move in Gunn’s film making arsenal, as most of the changes he has made to established lore, usually origin stories, always have some basis in the source material, save Peter Quill’s relation to Ego The Living Planet in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
While Daniela Melchior plays a very different, gender-switched Ratcatcher in The Suicide Squad, it has been confirmed that she will be the second person to have taken on that mantle, with many speculating that the original, male Ratcatacher will make an appearance courtesy of Taika Waititi.
Furthermore, though the casting of Will Smith as Deadshot may polarize fans, it was undoubtedly a popular decision. As can be seen in The Suicide Sqad, WB did not recast Smith’s role when scheduling conflicts prevented him from appearing in the film, effectively keeping the role of Floyd Lawton warm for whenever Men In Black and Gemini Man star chooses to returns.
Conversely, the race-bending of Deadshot in the upcoming Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League title is genuinely confusing, as Lawton has already been show to exist as a Caucasian male in the Batman: Arkham-universe.
What are your thoughts on race-bending/swapping characters, especially Deadshot? Were you OK with Will Smith’s performance in 2016? Answer and expound in the comment section.