As you may have heard, there’s a new Fantastic Four movie coming out this summer, and while the Nerd Internet will certainly argue plenty about when it hits theaters, this movie was starting fights well before a single scene was shot.
Why? Well, because Michael B. Jordan was cast as The Human Torch, Johnny Storm. See, in the Marvel Comics, Johnny is white, and has been since 1961. As you can see from the photo above, Jordan is…not. Since the color of Johnny’s skin is basically the least important thing about the character (his cockiness and sense of humor are things that really matter, and things that Jordan can definitely play), a lot of fans are optimistic about his performance. Then there are the other fans, whose responses to the casting have ranged from cries of “But it’s not like the comics!” to old-fashioned, unveiled racism. Jordan’s known this for a while, but last week he did something about it, and wrote a response to his critics for Entertainment Weekly.
“Some people may look at my casting as political correctness or an attempt to meet a racial quota, or as part of the year of ‘Black Film,’” Jordan wrote. “Or they could look at it as a creative choice by the director, Josh Trank, who is in an interracial relationship himself—a reflection of what a modern family looks like today.”
Throughout the piece, which you should definitely read in its entirety, Jordan touches on many of the arguments his defenders have already used. He points out that Johnny Storm’s co-creator, Stan Lee, likes his casting, that diversity is a bigger part of pop culture now than it was in 1961, and that the comics are always still there for people to read. More importantly, though, he acknowledges that there are some minds that just won’t be changed unless he does what he can to set an example.
“Sometimes you have to be the person who stands up and says, 'I’ll be the one to shoulder all this hate. I’ll take the brunt for the next couple of generations.’ I put that responsibility on myself. People are always going to see each other in terms of race, but maybe in the future we won’t talk about it as much. Maybe, if I set an example, Hollywood will start considering more people of color in other prominent roles, and maybe we can reach the people who are stuck in the mindset that 'it has to be true to the comic book.’ Or maybe we have to reach past them.”
Fantastic Four hits theaters August 7.