Sorry I just had to go there with this post’s title. As many people have all heard, Michelle Rodriguez set off an internet firestorm when she told TMZ that minorities should stop “stealing white superheroes.” The full quite courtesy of the Huffington Post website is as follows:
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Because of this whole ‘minorities in Hollywood’ thing … It’s so stupid. Stop stealing all the white people’s superheroes. Make up your own.”
To her credit, she later clarified her statements on her Facebook page with the following statement (NOTE: I did get this exact text courtesy of CBSNews.com):
“I stuck my foot in my mouth once again,” she said. “I said people should stop trying to steal white people superheroes. And I guess it got taken out of context, because a lot of people got offended.”
“What I really meant was, ultimately at the end of the day there’s a language, and the language that you speak in Hollywood is successful franchise. And I think that there are many cultures in Hollywood that are not white that can come up with their own mythology. It doesn’t matter what culture you come from. I’m just saying that instead of trying to turn a girl character into a guy or instead of trying to turn a white character into a black character or Latin character, I think people should stop being lazy and people should actually make an effort in Hollywood to develop their own mythology.”
“It’s time to stop. Stop trying to take what’s already there and fit a culture into it. I think it’s time for us to write our own mythology and our own story — every culture,” she added. “So that’s what I meant. And I’m sorry if it came off rude or stupid — that’s not what I meant. Cheers.”
Now she does make a few valid points. A lot of the characters are well-established and as such should be represented as they were originally created. There are a lot of comic purists, and I can be one to a certain extent, who believe the characters should translate exactly from the comics page to the silver screen. On the other hand, many of these characters were created in an era that was a product of its time–majority white. In addition, many of the characters were representative of their creators or what their creators aspired to be. All due respect to Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Bob Kane, Steve Ditko and all the other comics legends, but I wouldn’t expect them to create a black female superhero in the 1940’s because that wasn’t their reality or necessarily what they could relate to. I will give Jack Kirby and Stan Lee credit on being forward thinking and creating the Black Panther. I think it’s important that the pie should be expanded in terms of the superhero genre to reflect more of the way the country is now.
That gets to my next point. In her apology, Michelle Rodriguez notes that, “it’s time for us to write our own mythology and our own story.” Here is where she misses the boat, people of color have been making their own mythology for years but it just hasn’t hit the mainstream as widely as their Caucasian counterparts’ has. For example, in 1993 Milestone Comics was created by the late Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle and Michael Davis to address that very issue–the lack of diversity in comics. They created such memorable characters as Icon, Rocket, Static (from the Static Shock Cartoon), Shadow Cabinet, Xombi, Hardware and so many more diverse and interesting characters.
It wasn’t just their skin color that made these characters stand out, it was their personalities and struggles that did. Unfortunately Milestone went defunct in 1997 but it has recently been resurrected by Reginald Hudlin (Django Unchained) and many of the original creators. You can read more about it at this link:
Furthermore, there are other creators of color who are currently doing their thing like Brandon Thomas (The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury) and Brandon Easton (Shadow Law). So, I think that she should have done a little more homework before making her statement on Facebook. The other thing that Michelle Rodriguez fails to recognize is that even if there’s a plethora of minority superheroes on the market, movies headlining them will have to be greenlit by a movie executive. In this current risk-averse climate where a lot of movies are either reboots, book adaptations, or comic book movies, many execs would be less likely to approve a project with little known superheroes. They would rather greenlight a film with an established track record (i.e. Superman or Spider-Man) than say, Miranda Mercury or Icon. Not that the latter books aren’t awesome, it’s just that they aren’t as well known to the wider non-comic reading audience. Also, you have to look at the execs who can greenlight a film. With the exception of Kevin Tsujihara at Warner Brothers, the rest of the CEOs of the major studios are Caucasian men. Without people of color in position to greenlight a film, it’s less likely (although not impossible) to see a superhero movie with character of color at the center.
I think that there is progress being made but we still have a ways to go in terms of seeing superhero films with people of color prominently displayed. I am looking forward to the Black Panther movie, although it has been delayed because of Spider-Man. I am also looking forward to the new Suicide Squad movie with Viola Davis and Will Smith. I am curious as to what you all think.