Fear Of A Black Human Torch

Louis Falcetti writes for Bleeding Cool. Okay not so much writes, but screams.

Call me crazy, but I don't remember the first adventure The Avengers went on being to repel an alien invasion that was co-masterminded with Loki. And I'm pretty sure that Rogue spent some time as a villain before joining The X-Men. And wait a minute, Spider-Man didn't have organic web making capabilities when he started out! He had to make his webs himself! And didn't Watchmen have a different ending? And I don't recall V For Vendetta being such a dull, hackneyed love story when I read the comic!

What's that? You didn't really care about that? Oh well that might be you sound particularly stupid when you decry the casting of a black actor (Michael B. Jordan) in the role of a white fictional character (Johnny Storm) and try to use "They aren't respecting the source material!" as an excuse. Either you care so much about "the source material" that any and all deviations from it render every Hollywood adaptation of comic books completely unwatchable or you use this excuse selectively, whenever you feel threatened by the inclusion of minorities in your previously all white , fictional, superhero adventures.

It was a few hours of daylight here on the east coast of America and already the internet had been blowing up here and abroad about the new Fantastic Four cast. Even though Michael B. Jordan had been cast weeks ago, this new announcement regarding the rest of the team has reminded a reactionary and terrified fanbase that they have a new non-issue to get all hot and superior about.

While it's bad enough when adult fans use their internet speech freedoms to complain about the inclusion of minorities into their narrow fantasy world of fictional characters, the number of comic and "geek" related blogs that have posted insipid, spiteful idiocy is even more depressing. Though it's usually fairly easy to tell which of these blogs are worth your while and which are just neckbeards screaming alone in the dark (PROTIP: If the blog has "GEEK" in the title in some boring, trite manner, like "Cave of Geeks" or "Geek Cave" or "Geekatropolis" or "Geek City" or "Revenge Of the Geek" or "Geekasaurus Rex", etc … it's probably worth skipping) ["Cool" however is perfectly acceptable – Rich] Speaking of "professional", reactionary trolls, has anyone checked Larry's twitter feed today? I'm sure he has some positive and encouraging words to share on the matter. [Not a peep, he's more concenred about its Ultimate-ness. Shame on you, Louis. – Rich]

I'm going to promote an idea here that I doubt many others would, I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt to a group of folks who may be confused and angry about the Johnny Storm casting news. I'm going to let teenagers off the hook. Why is that? Well because I can remember being a teenage fanboy and saying lots of things similar to what I've read on the internet this morning. I remember saying things like "Oh well, of course _______ would put a woman in that role, they want to try to make some of that diversity dollars." Or similar statements proving that I was missing the point completely and coming at a situation from entirely the wrong angle. But that was OK. Because I didn't know any better and it was just empty words at table in the cafeteria or on a BBS. And more importantly because I changed as I got older and started going outside of my narrow circle of comfort.

I now realize that "diversity" isn't a bad word, and choosing to look at the casting of a black actor in a traditionally white role as "marketing" is pretty cynical and defeatist. And it leaves out the more important point that we (folks who read and enjoy comic books) are not just white men aged 18-25 (though I've been on the forums here so maybe that age statistic should be more like 35-50). There are fans of color, just like there are female fans, just like there are LGBT fans and, Christ alive, it's 2014 and we're still having this discussion?

When you rant about the travesty of changing the race of Johnny Storm what you're really ranting about is the loss of your white privilege. I am the last person to use the word "privilege" in a debate, I hate call out culture and I can't stand when someone tries to make me feel shitty about everything that a lot of other white people have done and insist that what I need to do to fix things is to shut up and move out of the way. But privilege is a real thing and when you start freaking about a black Human Torch you're really screaming "MINE. ALL MINE. EVERYTHING HAS TO BE MINE." That's privilege. That's refusing to share. That's why I'll turn a blind eye to an arrogant, know it all teenager who is still learning, still developing a mind and a personality and a life. But I'll happily puke all over the shoes of every middle aged, adult who feels the need to cover their fear and ignorance in statements like "I'm not a racist but…" or "It's about respecting the source material" or any other of the hundreds of empty, fear laden, trite statements that are spilling out over the net right now. You should know better grown ups.

You're fighting to protect the racial purity of a fictional character. You're wrapping your arms around a toy box that never belonged to you and shrieking "GET YOUR OWN TOYS". That's not how it works sweetheart. The harder you fight about other voices getting a seat at the table the dumber you look to everyone else. Perhaps that's why you insulate yourself in little enclaves of fandom, so you can't vent bile into the world without anyone around to tell you to stop. Not because people are trying to control your thoughts or force you to feel a certain way but because (SPOILER ALERT) we're all people and we all enjoy the same things. When you try to draw lines in the sand along things like race or gender you're drawing a dividing line between you and your own humanity.

What would the superheroes you look up to so much say about it? Do you think Captain America would embrace a crowd of bigots shouting at an African American actor for daring to sully their "Whites Only" club of fictional heroism?

On the bright side, whoever runs the Doctor Doom Facebook page has come out against the cast list, but at least that makes sense.


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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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