Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Can separate be Equal?
Not to go all Supreme Court rulings on this blog, but the landmark case of Plessy V Ferguson set up a rule of law that stated that it was okay to discriminate as long as the facilities were equal. Now we all know that is impossible to pull off and one group is always going to get the short end of the stick.
But can comic book characters be separate and equal?
Diversity, most importantly the lack of diversity, has always been an issue in the field of entertainment. TV shows and movies tend to continually cater to Whites and often times Black or other characters of color are pushed to the side kick role or that of the sassy Black friend, the super intelligent Asian, or the token gay/lesbian character on the show. Its a racial trope trotted out for the past 40 plus years and its as tired as the think pieces written about it.
But if you dig into comics- especial here recently, there is a new phenomenon of traditionally white characters, who are now Black, or a person of color , or female and it got me to thinking' "Are these characters the equal to their white counter-parts or are they just place holders until the White character comes back to take their place?
This is not a totally new phenomenon. Jon Stewart and James Rhodes have played Green Lantern and Iron Man respectively, even tho Rhodey was given The War Machine armor which essentially made him the Black Iron Man. Stewart, who has been appointed as the guardian of sector 2814, but often times is looked at as the Black Green Lantern because there are no other Black Green Lanterns.
More recently, Sam Wilson, AKA Falcon, has been serving as Captain America. He is essentially still Falcon, but his stars and stripes costume and use of a shield has given him the title of Captain America. But does anyone really view Falcon AS Captain America or is he Black Captain America? Plus, with the reintroduction of Steve Rogers back into the Marvel Universe( current Hydra story not withstanding), does anyone think that Falcon will continue to be Captain America?
Even the Hulk is now the Totally Awesome Hulk, played by an Asian Character Amadeus Cho. And even tho he is still green, he is still looked at as the Asian Hulk and the clock is ticking as to when Bruce Banner will once again become the Hulk.
And as much as I love the character, Miles Morales AKA the Sensational Spider-Man is in the same boat. If Marvel was committed to having Miles BE THE Spider-Man, then Peter Parker needs to go away. Whether you kill him or depower him, he cannot be around. This idea that Miles is the domestic Spider Man and Peter Parker is the International Spider-Man takes away from Miles and makes him the Black/Latino Spider-Man and that is unfortunate.
Hell even the current Ultimates book has been referred to as the Black Avengers because of course, the Avengers are still around. And Marvel doubled down by making A-Force( the female Avengers team).
Look some representation ( typically) is better than no representation and there needs to be a space for these characters. My issue is why doesn't Marvel and DC support and help created new characters of color and push those characters to make them the equal to their white counterparts? The comic universe is large enough to support and love these characters IF they are marketed and given stories that develop the character over time.
I am a fan of all the characters I talked about here. I am also a huge fan of Kamala Khan as Captain Marvel, and America Chavez, as well. But the playing field is not even. If the company is not going to allow the person of color to assume the role full time- not for a couple of years, then they are just place holders to tell a story. To me, that's sad. Many of these white characters have had these roles for 50 plus years. Any and every possible story has been told with them. If you are not going to create new characters, then why not let a new character hold the spot for the next 50 years? Explore their history and background. Allow them to grow and develop without the white character looking over their shoulder ready to pounce and take back their spot as the "Real _____" I love these characters, but they are most definitely separate but not equal and that is a huge disappointment for me.
Friday, June 17, 2016
So Marvel dropped Civil War 2 recently and I am going to spoil a major portion of the plot line and story so if you want to remain spoiler free, you should stop reading here.....
The plot of the book is that a new Inhuman has Minority Report powers. He basically can see when a crime is going to occur and our heroes can be dispatched to heed off said threat before it happens. I mean literally, Marvel is straight ripping off Minority Report! Like Tom Cruise should be mad as shit when one of his Scientology Minions reads it to him. Anyway, the first time, it works perfectly. Our heroes respond to threat, organize their plan ahead of time, and the celestial being that was gonna threaten Earth is dispatched to much rejoicing.
Later, tho when Tony Stark finds out about this new Inhuman and his power, the moral conundrum of "Would you kill baby Hitler?" arises and creates a minor difference of opinion between Iron Man and Captain Marvel. But what to do next is left open with Tony thinking we cannot punish people- even villains for things they may or may not do. Captain Marvel feels that heroes should do whatever they can to save lives and the Earth.
The next time our Inhuman has a "vision", it revolves around Thanos and the Ultimates set out to meet the threat... this time however, there is a casualty on the battle field and a death..... James Rhodes or Rhodey, AKA War Machine is killed by the mad titan, Thanos.
Obviously, Tony is upset that his best friend has been killed and this hurt turns to anger when he finds out Captain Marvel used the Inhuman to ward off a threat from Thanos that may or may not have happened in the future. That is your set up for the new series.... After all that tho, I been wondering, why did they kill ANOTHER Black guy in Civil War?
You can go back and check our original Civil War comics podcasts here:
Original Civil War Podcast
We talked about how the death of Bill Foster, AKA Black Goliath, was not really necessary and it seemed that the Marvel powers in charge felt the need to kill someone so they chose a character that nobody really cared about in Black Goliath. It felt forced and the reaction of the heroes at the time was so cliche. For real, like anyone of them cared about Black Goliath.
In looking to make a bigger impact( I guess), this time they kill Rhodey. I mean, ok... I guess. Yes, Rhodey is Tony's homeboy. And, yes, he is a hero in his own right, but does Marvel not see the bad optics here? I mean you take two limited series- ten years apart, and the catalyst for the event is the death of a Black guy. How does someone not have deja vu in the writing room? Nobody thought this might be a bad idea or would look bad based of previous series history? There are many people that coulda been killed besides Rhodey. On top of that, nobody stays dead in comics. NOBODY! So you could kill anyone and retcon it later to fix it. So why Rhodey and Black Goliath gotta die? Its because they are Black and disposable characters. Period. Rhodey, even tho he has a history as Tony's buddy/sidekick, was deemed expendable as a plot device when any number of characters could have fit that role to move the story along.
This speaks to the much larger issue of the lack of POC in comics and other forms of media/entertainment and their relevance. Its become a trope where the Black characters in predominantly white situations in movies and tv, are often the first person voted off the island, kicked out of the house, or flat out killed off. Black people watch these shows with one eye open because we know at any moment, this person of color is about to get killed. I always tell people to date POC characters in media, but don't marry them because you are going to be widowed. Marvel and DC both do not see this. They think its just a point to tell a good story without realizing how fucked up it looks to people on the outside.
Who knows how this plays out in the long run of the series. Maybe Rhodey really isn't dead. Maybe he's a clone. Or a Skrull. Or maybe the power of white, princess love, Captain Marvel will bring him back to life and we all sing Kumbaya with Thanos at the end. Who really knows?! But I know this, when Civil war 3 hits in 2026, every living Black Marvel hero better be looking over they shoulder because Death could be standing right behind them.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
The Producer is back after a 10 day vacation and getting back into the swing of things with this news broke by The Hollywood Reporter that Donald Glover has been cast in the new Spider-Man movie: Homecoming- hitting theaters in the summer of 2017.
Donald Glover to cast in Spider-Man Homecoming
Now this type of casting would not make much of a ripple except for the history that Donald Glover has with Spider man and Miles Morales. Back in 2010, Donald Glover openly campaigned for the role of Peter Parker as Sony was looking to reboot the Spider-Man franchise after the disastrous Spider Man 3 starring Tobey Maguire. Glover did audition tape, had an on line petition, and even Stan Lee himself was open for Glover to audition for the role. I thought this was a great idea at the time. Donald Glover is a great actor, funny, and he has a love for the character. All that being said, not one fiber in my body in 2010 thought it would happen. Sony was already reeling from Spider-Man 3 and to take a gamble on a character as beloved as Spider-Man... Hollywood don't do business like that.
And naturally, White fan boys were losing their minds at the possibility of one of their favorite all time characters being Black. All the typical, "Peter Parker is white", "Why are they doing this?", "Its Obama's fault" rhetoric came out. And this is long before the Sony Email leak/hack where Sony was very clear that Peter Parker HAD to be White( and straight)
So the thought of Donald Glover as Peter Parker died when Sony did the typical thing and cast a British dude, Andrew Garfield, as Peter Parker for the two Amazing Spider-Man movies( how'd that workout for you?)
In the interim tho, Miles Morales was introduced in the Ultimate Universe in Marvel Comics. The character, who is of Black and Hispanic descent, takes over for Peter Parker as Spider-Man in the Ultimate Universe and people fell in love with the character. It definitely gave people of color a Spider-Man that was different and people flocked to him- making him one of the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe.
Since the character became so popular, there was hope by Blerds that Sony would give Miles Morales a run as Spider-Man in the relaunch of Spider-Man( again) after the disaster that was the Amazing Spider-Man. Of course, Sony and Marvel with their new partnership, was not going to take a chance and make a Miles Morales movie so they cast a British dude, Tom Holland, as Peter Parker( sound familiar).
That leads to the news today... on top of the previous cast leaks of Zendaya and Laura Harrier in unknown roles. Plus, even though its whitewashed, they cast for the role of Ganke Lee- Mile's best friend.
So where you going with this, Sony/Marvel? Donald Glover at this point is way too old to play the role of Miles Morales- who is a teenager. Once this leaked today, all the stories about him wanting to be Spider-Man are going to pop back up. That is on top of him doing the voice work of Miles Morales on the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon. Are you casting these characters of color for significant roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Could Zendaya and Laura Harrier possibly both play love interest of Peter Parker as Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy?
Are you casting Donald Glover as Jefferson Morales, dad of Miles Morales, and introducing Miles Morales in this movie? That would be great, but you do realize there needs to be a huge payoff for that! People, including myself, are not gonna be satisfied with seeing Miles Morales name get called in class. We are going to want to see him in a movie AS SPIDERMAN! Do not try to get cute with this and play this game. Fans of the character want to see Miles giving a chance to be Spider-Man in his own movie- not playing Peter Parker's sidekick.
I hope ya'll know what you are doing because you are playing a high stakes game of chicken here. By casting people of color for this film, the expectation is they will have significant roles in the movie- playing characters that casual and comic book fans will be familiar with. Be careful... Ya'll just earned back some trust based on Hollands performance in Civil War. Don't throw it all way trying to be clever.
Thursday, June 2, 2016
Let me first say that the Black Family unit is one of the strongest things on the planet. Black families are strong and resilient and need to be to deal with the racial and social injustice this country places on us daily. All that being said, lets look at some of the lyrics to the classic sitcom, Good Times- which ran for six seasons in the 70's. Sing along if you know the words....
Temporary lay offs - Good Times.
Easy credit rip offs - Good Times.
Scratchin' and surviving - Good Times.
Hangin' and a-jivin' - Good Times.
Ain't we lucky we got 'em - Good Times.....yeah....
The tv show Good Times is back in the news cycle recently because Black-ish did an homage to the show in a dream sequence involving Dre( played by Anthony Anderson). In his dream, Dre dreamed that his family had been transported back in time and took the familiar roles of the characters in the sitcom. Junior plays JJ, Dre plays Keith, Rainbow plays Thelma and so forth.
What Black-ish accomplishes in that episode tho is to brilliantly point out how ridiculous parts of Good Times were. Yes, the foundation of Good Times was that family trumps all and you have to stick together. However, looking back, the show is either misnamed or grossly used Black people as props to exploit real life pain of families living in poverty. Think back to some of the episodes and what the Evans family was dealing with: JJ got a venereal disease, Penny gets burned with an iron, there was a lady who ate cat food, James dies ( leading to the best GIF ever by the way)
How these issues were made into jokes and dramedy is tragic. On top of that, it reinforced the idea that Black people are gonna be "happy" no matter what bullshit they went through. Um to quote myself, "Fuck that!" How are these Good Times when the power is cut off, my dad is unemployed, and I'm hustling to survive? And even when there were times when the family was going to make it out- the show kept pushing them back down( James dies, Thelma chooses to stay instead of moving to LA, Keith tears his knee at his football tryout) to keep them broke, but happy! Well they had Black Jesus to keep hope alive, right? Man, get the hell out of here with that bullshit!
When were the Good Times? I grew up black and poor in the 70's around other black and poor people and even tho ends were tight all around, it never resulted in eating cat food, iron burns, and venereal diseases. And even tho we loved our hood, we for damn sure knew there was something better out there and did what we could( legally) to try to get it. And the early seasons of Good Times attempted to have the Evans family try to make it- of course only to be denied jobs, loans, and opportunities and stay broke, but happy! In later seasons, they show shifted to JJ, played by Jimmy Walker and the shenanigans he would get into- still resulting in being broke and happy.
Using pain for jokes is an old, tired TV trope- especially when it comes to families of color. The underlying belief being, " Yeah, we broke, but we are together". But real families do live like this and there is no thought to the psychological, social, and emotional toll this takes on individuals and their families. TV loves to play it for jokes and we laugh at their pain because its not ours. Yet people still wonder why often times people in this communities act out in anti-social ways.
Maybe the show should be renamed Bad Times. Or Struggling. Or See our Pain. It for damn sure should not be called Good Times!