Michelle Rodriguez Made Some Controversial Comments — and She Left a Few Things Out

Michelle Rodriguez is wrong — and right — in her recent comments on race switching in superhero stories. But, both her initial comments and her revised comments leave quite a bit of the story of the role of diversity in the world of superheroes untold.

“It’s not ‘stealing’ when creative minds look at a well-known story and ask, “what if?” or even better, “why not?” If a group of astronauts can venture into space and get blasted by an anomalous force that turns them into people who can stretch beyond belief, become invisible, burst into flames or become the equivalent of living rock, certainly that weirdness can happen to Black people. Especially when racial identity is not key to the story.

Stealing would be systematically casting white actors to play Egyptians without ever thinking about offering the parts to equally brilliant actors of color. Then, only casting actors of color when there is a need for a terrorist, a servant or, ironically, a thief. That part Michelle, admittedly, got wrong.

What she got right was that the time is long overdue for superheroes who look like half of the population (women) and the ever growing number of Black and brown people in this country to have the opportunity to tell their stories.

Heroes that have a different perspective, fantastic backstories and complex villains. Heroes with awesome powers and trials to overcome and, of course, that overwhelming call of duty to save, defend, unite, etc. Maybe she didn’t know – and that’s OK. But not knowing actually illustrates the problem – these characters and stories ARE out there and doing well, but their creators simply don’t have access to the platforms and power to push them into the mainstream.

Now, let’s be clear. It IS lazy to simply gender or race swap in lieu of creating a new hero or focusing on the thousands of characters out there that already exist around which a new franchise can be launched. It means looking at the characters and the thousands of indie titles that are creator-owned that have been filling in the gaps for multicultural audiences for YEARS.

Since last summer, while directing episodic TV episodes, I have been traveling the country on a book tour for my graphic novel series, “Legend of the Mantamaji.” I have seen people of all races and ages excited to see a well-drawn, thrilling story with multicultural characters. At the 2014 New York Comic Con, librarians exclaimed their “kids” (library patrons) would go crazy over my novels. That’s not to brag by any means – it’s to show that the need is real, the audience is willing and a multitude of creators and fantastic stories are out there. The only people playing catch-up are those who actually greenlight the shows and films.

It sounds silly, right? All of this angst over comic books? But think of it this way – comic books and superheroes represent wish fulfillment for people of all ages and backgrounds. We all want to be the hero or the person who makes a difference. When a kid throws a sheet on her shoulders, slides her brown curly hair into a helmet and pretends to save the world, does she see herself defeating the bad guys or does she imagine that she’s a white male to accomplish the deed? What does it mean to all kids and kids at heart when the only toys you can find at Christmas are of the white male characters in your favorite movies? That the women characters aren’t important? That the characters of color don’t matter?

Beyond altruistic reasoning is what really lies at the heart of the matter – money. It’s a fact that films with diverse casting do better than films that lack diversity. It’s a fact that women now make up close to half of the comic convention attendees and that women account for $7 trillion in consumer spending (and those are 2012 Nielsen numbers). African-Americans are projected to have $1 trillion in their buying power bank in 2015. The same goes for Hispanics, and Asian Americans are inching toward $1 trillion. Native Americans have seen their buying power increase 149 percent since 2000.

The money is there, and smart money says that if the full resources of a studio are put behind a great film with a great story and diverse casting that it will be a hit. It just makes sense – and maybe with more Hollywood creators joining the voices of indie creators and fans, we will be able to position ourselves to greenlight these projects – because it really is time.

As an episodic director, Eric Dean Seaton has directed 195 television episodes of 38 different shows, 18 music videos and two pilots for Nickelodeon, as well as two pilots for Disney XD. He has also directed episodes of the NBC/Warner Bros. comedy “Undateable,” TBS’s “Ground Floor,” BET’s “Let’s Stay Together” and “Reed Between the Lines.” “Legend of the Mantamaji” is his first graphic novel series.

Marvel Confirms ‘Halo: Nightfall’ Star Mike Colter Will Play Luke Cage in ‘A.K.A Jessica Jones’

Marvel confirms Jessica Jones cast

From the video game-inspired world of Halo to the comic universe of Marvel, Mike Colter will take on the role of Luke Cage in Marvel’s A.K.A Jessica Jones, scheduled to air on Netflix in 2015.

Colter is certainly no stranger to taking on fantasy driven worlds as he is currently starring in the Xbox Originals series Halo: Nightfall as Jameson Locke.

His newest role, however, will have him starring alongside Krysten Ritter as both actors will attempt to bring the story of Jessica Jones to life.

Jones is the super-powered heroine whose life changed after she was in a car accident that left her doused in chemicals.

Jones went into a coma but when she awoke she eventually realized she had super powers.

As Luke Cage, Colter will be playing Jones’s super strong husband who was once locked up for a crime he didn’t commit.

Luke Cage casting confirmed

Cage’s unique experiences create several emotional layers to the character and showrunner Melissa Rosenberg says she has faith that Colter will bring that to the life.

“Mike embodies the strength, edge and depth of Luke Cage,” Rosenberg, who is also the executive producer, said, as reported by Marvel.com. “We’re excited to have him bring this iconic Marvel character to life.”

It’s an important role for Colter as he will essentially be introducing the mainstream media world to Cage.

“Fans have longed to see Luke Cage and in Mike we’ve found the perfect actor,” said Jeph Loeb, Executive Producer and Marvel’s Head of Television, as reported by Marvel.com. “Viewers will get to meet Luke Cage in ‘Marvel’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones,’ and experience why he is such an important super hero in the Marvel mythos.”

With comic book-inspired films and shows reaching an all-time peak in popularity, now is as good a time as any to release the Jessica Jones series.

Of course, many blerds might argue that this is about more than just adding another comic book adaptation success to Marvel’s resume.

This is yet another project by the comic giant that will bring diversity to the gang of Marvel super heroes in mainstream media.

It’s a mission Marvel has been pretty adamant about after casting Black actor Michael B. Jordan to take on the role of the traditionally white character Johnny Storm, known best as the Human Torch.

Then there was also the announcement that The Falcon will take over as the new Captain America, marking the first Black Captain America in the comic’s history.

This was a particularly important portrayal of a Black character, according to Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Axel Alonso.

During a recent interview with CBSN Alonso explained that, “the significance of an African-American man dressed in red, white and blue is not lost on the public.”

“It’s caused a lot of interesting debate, but this is the world in which we live,” Alonso added.

Marvel has also made other serious shakeups to boost diversity by introducing a female Thor and a Pakistani-American teen as the new Ms. Marvel.


Ethnic Diversity in the Dragon Age’s Fantasy World

I’m going to assume that everyone here has seen the second movie in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of “The Hobbit,” generously titled The Devious Cashgrabination of a Beloved Story. Do you remember the scene in Laketown, where we find out that this sleepy harbor area is actually the most diverse place in all of Middle Earth? Here, allow me to refresh your memory.

I’m going somewhere with this, stay with me.

A year ago, a fan asked BioWare writer David Gaider about the lack of ethnic diversity among humans in Dragon Age’s fantasy world, Thedas:

To see Dragon Age fall back on that trope of “Humans Are White, Fantastic Races are POC” was really disheartening and just plain tiresome, to be honest. This has been a thing for as long as I can remember in fantasy, especially sword and sorcery fantasy in fantasy counterpart versions of medieval Europe like Thedas. People of color, if they exist at all in these settings, are typically either Orientalist Yellow Peril monsters from the Forbidden East, or dark barbarian hordes from the wastelands outside the pristine lily white lands of the heroes, always threatening the white status quo somehow. At best, we’re noble savages who can teach the white heroes ancient wisdom and life lessons about how to be better people. This, despite so much history available about the diversity of medieval Europe, how it was much less white than people generally believe it to be. I know that Thedas really relies on the fantasy counterpart culture idea, but in a land of blood magic and dwarves and darkspawn, the idea that societies are racially and ethnically homogeneous is…weird? Squicky? F***ed up?

I’ve cherry-picked the most interesting part of Mr. Gaider’s response:

“I suppose you’re correct that, on some level, there seemed to be less thematic need to address issues of racism within human societies with there being such a visible ‘other’ for them to deal with. Perhaps one could say that skin color isn’t such a big issue in Thedas when there are elves and dwarves and qunari who are so much more different among them … or perhaps that’s a cheap way to look at it? Something to think about. That said, I don’t think the societies in Thedas are as racially homogenous as you believe — or, at least, they’re not intended to be. How well have we shown that in-game? Probably not very well.”

Read more from Troy L. Wiggins at afrofantasy.wordpress.com