Remember that time when Hollywood said that movies with diverse cast members don’t do well? For those that have forgotten, there were two huge movies Exodus: Gods and Kings and Gods of Egypt that were both critically panned not just because their stories were poor but also they forgot that the roles would have lent favorably to a more diverse casting in consideration of the setting. Of course we aren’t even going to talk about Ghost in the Shell. However, there was a small indie film (pun of course!) called Star Wars: The Force Awakens, that did record breaking numbers with a lead cast of a Black man and a woman. There have been other movies (The Fast and the Furious series, Mad Max: Fury Road and Wonder Woman among them) that have clearly proven that the myth of diverse casts and leads don’t equal dollars. If fans have paid any attention, one of this year’s big super hero movies has a very diverse cast and it’s a huge change from where the comic book started nearly 60 years ago.
Let’s take a look at how some of the casting broke down shall we?
THERE ARE POTENTIAL SPOILERS SO IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE DON’T READ PAST THIS POINT
When the cast was originally announced one of the biggest discussions that cropped up when Zendaya Coleman was cast as ‘the possible love interest’ of Peter Parker in the movie. Certain fans were outraged that MJ was going to be a Black woman and it wasn’t right for the movie. Really people? We are still doing this? We are still getting mad that every time someone like a Michael B Jordan gets cast as Human Torch, Idris Elba, as Heimdall or Jamie Fox…oh wait, he was a bad guy so it’s ok…where was I? Oh, yeah, that when a minority gets cast as a predominantly white character that “it’s not my comic anymore”thus a small group of people (called a minority…get it?) gets angry. The rest of us are ok with it because we get tired of not seeing people who looks like us getting a fair shake at these roles. For those of you that hate watched this movie, Zendaya did a good job and I am sure that some of you were surprised that her role was a little more minimal than who Peter’s main love interest was.
Oh yeah…so Michelle wasn’t Peter’s love interest this time out, was she? It was Liz Toomes, played by Laura Harrier. How many of you “This-ain’t-my-comics” hate watchers lost your cool when you found out who her mom and dad was? Makes me wonder as well if they went ballistic on those Cheerios commercials a few years back. By the way Garcelle Beauvais is STILL FOOOOINNNEE at 50. Don’t know who she is? Look her up.
What was also really progressive about how updated this movie was, is that everyone in Peter’s circle were ALL members of the debate team which meant that unlike that Peter Parker of the 60’s who was seemingly the only book worm, all of his contemporaries were as well. Also they were well adjusted just like this kid:
Big change considering what we have always gotten from Flash Thompson in the last 55 years. Flash has ALWAYS been portrayed during the early years of Peter’s career as the jock, the B.M.O.C., the super star, etc. and so on, but who would have thought way back when that today’s Flash would be portrayed by Tony Revolori (the same kid that played Zero in The Grand Budapest Hotel), son of Guatemalan parents? Who would have thought that today’s Flash would be a brainiac as well? That’s not in the comics I remember, but I loved the fact that even though he was a brainiac, he still managed to 1. not only be a DJ with a fly ride he borrowed from his pop but 2. he still gave Peter grief and was well liked by his peers. So, what changed about Flash’s base character? Not a thing.
Of course there is still the sticky issue of Jacob Batalon,who is a Filipino-American actor, playing Ned Leeds. It’s not so much of him being Ned Leeds that is the problem, it’s the fact that he resembles Miles Morales’ best friend Ganke Lee (who is Korean in case you didn’t know) in the comics. Which means, if Marvel ever gets around to doing a Miles Morales lead Spider-man movie, how are they going to account for both Spider-Men having best friends who just so happen to have Asian ancestry and “look so much alike”? Of course, Marvel could take Ganke and go in a totally different direction.
Then of course there is the issue of Tom Holland himself. I wonder how many of the haters out there realized that like the last actor to play the role, Tom is British. I really don’t remember seeing the inter webs exploding because 2 out of three actors playing the role weren’t American. Sure, Marvel could have cast a native of Brooklyn or Queens so that they could have gotten the accent right but the bottom line was in my opinion, Tom brought a lot to the role that I think was missed by Garfield and was lost by Toby Maguire by the time Spider-man 3 released.
Let’s remember, if you are angry that the supporting cast were all minorities but not mad that a Brit…wait…hold on…if you are mad that ANY of these people are in the movie and can’t acknowledge what a brilliant job they did as well as the fact that the movie did well at the box office, then you are doing it wrong.
Let’s not forget that one last little thing…
Yes Aunt May as played by Marissa Tomei and not by British actress Rosemary Harris(who sounded nothing like a New Yorker in the original Spider-man films). Pay attention…in the comics for as long as I can remember, it’s never really been intimated as to the Parkers’ ancestry as that has never been front and center of who Peter Parker is. However in the movie, it’s hinted at that Aunt May is Italian. So how about that, boys and girls! Peter has an Italian auntie which mean things are really going to go down come the next movie! Can you imagine the earful he got when May saw that suit?
Yes I know I may have missed a few such as Bokeem Woodbine being the Shocker and a few others, but the point of this is to show, that yet another of this year’s best movie was probably its most diverse. I am hoping this means that Marvel Studios has learned from its huge whitewashing gaffe with Dr. Strange. Now, if Marvel Comics can translate diversity success into its comics as well, they can probably start firing on all cylinders again.
Dear Hollywood and hate watchers, diversity DOES sell. Diversity IS what America has been built on and the success of movies like these has been due in part that everyone from every walk in life has a character they can relate to in this movie. So, let’s start seeing more of these movies including eventually a Miles Morales Spider-Man as well.