Legendary comic book writer Chuck Dixon recently explained what bothers him about race swapping in modern entertainment.
Dixon’s explanation came during his latest episode of his ongoing YouTube series Ask Chuck Dixon.
Ablo Show asked Dixon, “Hope this finds you well. This might be a dumb question, but have you ever thought about doing a fantasy type character like a Conan or an Elric type character in a pre-colonial Africa type setting. I’m from South Africa so I may be a little biased, but I feel pre-colonial Africa is underused as a fantasy setting.”
“Fantasy, sword and sorcery/deviltry and stuff like that of Robert E. Howard always intrigued me and I always felt sword and sorcery went great with the more slob hero (thanks for the new phrase by the way) gritty pulpy revenge like tales. The type of stuff I always thought you did great, your take on Frank is always fun,” Show concluded.
Dixon responded, “This is such an awesome question and it’s one I’ve asked myself over and over and over again. We’re seeing now, and it’s all due to this sort of woke period in entertainment – we’re seeing a lot of gender and race swapping of characters.”
“And generally, here in the United States, when they race swap a character they replace a white character with an African American. If you notice, they never replace an Asian or Native American character with African American, it’s always a white character. And I don’t know what the point of that is,” he says.
Dixon continues, “In some cases, it’s okay. The Equalizer with Denzel Washington I thought was great. Hey, it’s Denzel. I mean Denzel’s going to play Macbeth. That’s fine with me because Shakespeare is malleable that way. So, I don’t care. Shakespeare’s plays aren’t historical dramas. They’re not historical recreations. So I feel it’s okay to play with them.”
Dixon then explains what he takes issue with, “But the thing that bothers me about it is that replacing a white character with an African American character – I don’t care about cultural appropriation that’s nonsense. What does concern me is, aren’t there any interesting African American characters on their own? Aren’t there any characters who build upon that heritage? That build upon that history in a positive way?”
“I mean we see a lot of negative stories if they do a historical story from an African American perspective. It always has to deal with racism in some way as if that’s the only thing that matters in African American history. And it’s not because African Americans are part of the American story. And they shouldn’t be represented simply as a platform for discussing racial disparity or the history of racism in America as if America were unique – the existence of racism only occurred here. I think it demeans that heritage,” he elaborates.
Dixon then talks about the plethora of opportunity with stories set in Africa, “The same for pre-colonial Africa. Talk about a rich tapestry. Talk about true diversity. You’ve got a continent. It’s a pretty big place and many of its peoples were separated by either war or terrain or geographical distance. In central Africa you have tribes that rose up with entirely different cultures than the tribe 20 miles down the river. Different language, different gods, different culture.”
“So, you’ve got this quilt of mythology and history and heroes and villains to draw from. My only question is why don’t they do it? Even Lion King is Hamlet rewritten. You mean there’s not an African story. I can’t believe that,” he contends.
As for whether he would do a story set in pre-colonial Africa, Dixon answered, “Would I ever do this? No, I wouldn’t have an interest. I mean I think anybody should be able to write anything, but if someone was gonna write an African version of Conan, I would prefer it was an African, personally, because I would want their perspective of this.”
“Similarly, if you were to write an epic story of the Monkey King you would want a Chinese person to write it. I wouldn’t want to see a movie of Mushashi Miyamoto written by a white guy. Some of these things are so bound to culture, I prefer to see what a person of that culture thinks of it,” he says.
Dixon did reveal his plans for his own Conan-type character, “Personally, Sergio Cariello and I have talked for years about a Conan-type character set in pre-colonial America. I mean like 40,000 years ago with Native American characters in a Neolithic setting, nomadic Neolithic setting.”
“Wooly mammoths, and dire wolves, and giant beavers and all the rest,” he added.
The creator of Bane then returned to what bothers him about the race swapping, “If you understand what I’m saying is – by recasting white characters as black or African American [it] is demeaning because it implies that they don’t have a culture of their own.”
He adds, “And it’s just so wrong. It’s just so wrong.”
From there, Dixon critiqued the stories that are constantly repeated in modern entertainment, “But I see this all over the place. We see the same historic events told over and over again in movies as if no other historical event existed. They don’t mine history for all of the interesting things they can do. They’re constantly revisiting the Trojan War. They are constantly revisiting King Arthur, which didn’t even exist. As much as I like Vikings, they’re constantly making things about Vikings. There’s other eras to talk about.”
However, he did praise Netflix for distributing the German production ‘Barbarians,’ “I was so pleased when Netflix did a really good series about the Romans in ancient Germany at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. At least it was something we hadn’t seen before.”
Returning to Africa, Dixon states, “Like I said, Africa has a rich heritage. It also has enormous population of possible entertainment consumers. And you can say, ‘Oh well Black Panther.’ But Black Panther was all made up. It was all made up by two white guys. Wakanda doesn’t exist. It’s a sort of pastiche of African culture. It’s not real. It’s a lot of stereotypes and clichés thrown together. You know, powerfully and successfully, but that’s just the thing isn’t it.”
“Black Panther was so enormously successful across a wide audience. I mean the movie made a lot of money. So it’s obvious that the public would be accepting of a pre-colonial African Conan-type story. I certainly think so. I certainly would watch it. I mean just the vistas alone. I mean you live in South Africa. You know you’ve got some amazing landscapes there. Just absolutely spectacular stuff to set historical fantasy against. So, why not?”, he asserted.
Closing out the question, Dixon reiterated, “It just really annoys me when they feel this need, I guess, virtue signaling or whatever to misrepresent history in this way. And again it’s a sort of hollowing out, or ignoring, or neglecting the fact that Africans and African Americans have this incredible history.”
“I would love to see a black Conan. I don’t want to see a white Shaka Zulu though,” Dixon concluded.
While Dixon says he would not be interested in doing an African version of a Conan-type character, he did team up with Kelsey Shannon for the IndieGoGo crowdfunded book Jungle Comics.
Dixon described the book as “an all-in jungle adventure like the kind I loved as a kid. What we’re doing here is taking all the best parts of a cliffhanger adventure and putting them in an action-packed story that turns the genre on the head. EVERYTHING you’d want in a feral jungle fantasy in a way you never expected to see it!”
What do you make of Dixon’s opinion on race swapping in modern entertainment?