Is race swapping in the media minority biased?
Owned and published by UMHB, The Bells is a biweekly publication. This content was previously published in print on the Opinions page. Opinions expressed in this section do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff or the university.
Published in the September 14, 2016 issue of The Bells
In the past few years the world of entertainment has seen dozens of comic book and video game adaptations for television and cinema. With all the new comic adaptations, filmmakers are exploring all casting options, even if it means using race swapping. This happens when a classic comic book character’s race is swapped fora different race on a television show or in a movie. For instance, the traditionally white Johnny Storm from The Fantastic Four comic was portrayed by black actor Michael B. Jordan in the 2015 film.
Race swapping is not to be confused with whitewashing, which is when you take a character that is a minority and cast a white actor in their place.So why is Hollywood race swapping characters in upcoming films? Well, most of the comics that are being adapted to film were written in the Golden Age of Comic Books, which lasted from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. During that time, it was hard to represent all races, because of the country’s mindset. But today, comic books and their film adaptations are enjoyed by people of every race, gender, and generation. Since there is a more diverse crowd buying comic books and movie tickets, it has become more noticeable that minority groups are not represented in primary roles. Race swapping seems to be a positive change that moviegoers and comic book lovers are excited about.
Just one look at the much-used hashtag #RepresentationMatters can prove this. It is filled with heartwarming posts of children who talk about how there is someone on the screen that looks like them, and tales of people pursuing a career in the arts because they feel there is now a place for them in the mainstream media. Some recent casting, that has race swapping fans excited, include the addition of Candice Patton as Iris West in The Flash, which airs on The CW, Tessa Thompson as Valkryie in Thor: Ragnarok in 2017, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The list continues with Jamie Foxx as Electro in The Amazing Spiderman 2, Idris Elba as Heimdall in the Thor films, and Zendaya Coleman who is rumored to be Mary-Jane Watson in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming. These are just a few characters that have been race swapped. But all these actors have something in common. They all are the same race. And while there are other minorities that get roles, they are not as common. So this begs the question, are we race swapping to a certain demographic? Personally, as a dark skinned Latino, I feel underrepresented in today’s media. Most minorities that are cast, unless they have already established themselves as a noteworthy actor, are on the light skinned side.
But even though race swapping may be flawed, and somewhat controversial, it is wonderful to see more minorities represented on television and movies. With the adaptations growing every year, it will be exciting to see some popular characters come to life. And hopefully with that the representation of minorities in media will continue to grow.