So now that the news has officially broke, Michael B. Jordan WILL be playing Johnny Storm in the new Fantastic Four movie. Like The T-Virus, people IMMEDIATELY jumped on this and declared this an AMAZING victory for "progress" and "diversity", people herald Jordan as the PERFECT choice and controversy broke. Why? Because Michael B. Jordan is African American and The Human Torch is a Blonde Haired Blue Eyed White Boy. Controversy even broke when The Angry Black Nerd stated that White Fans wouldn't like A Black Human Torch with a White Invisible Woman sister. Long story short, ANYONE who disagrees with Michael B. Jordan playing Johnny Storm is basically a racist and afraid of change.
Now before I go on, I should say that Michael B. Jordan is an amazing actor, I loved him "Chronicle" (the only movie I saw him in) and CLEARLY Jordan has a LONG standing career ahead of him. The main argument from The Pro-Jordan Camp is that The Human Torch is a charismatic playboy, a ladies's man and a wise-cracker and Michael B. Jordan fits that bill and therefore personality should matter over race. And (unfortunately) a lot of people immediately say "Well minorities (specifically African Americans) are under represented in comics so it's necessary to include more diverse characters to reflect the real world and attract more readers.". I'll turn that argument into Swiss cheese by the time this article is done.
While I won't deny that there are SOME people out there who will in fact hate Michael B. Jordan as The Human Torch just because he's Black. I'll grant racism there. BUT I am African American and a Comic Book Geek and I am ABSOLUTELY against this. Did your head explode? Good, let me explain why. My opposition to this is solely based on ACCURACY! I don't play favorites. When a movie based on Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series was announced, Jennifer Carpenter was buzzed to play the character of Susannah. Jennifer Carpenter is a great actress BUT she's White and Susannah is Black! When I heard this news, I was immediately livid! Susannah's African American heritage is apart of her character (however, screenwriters can easily take that out) but it wouldn't be faithful to the source material IF Susannah was played by a White actress and not a Black one.
Can Jennifer Carpenter play a legless, foul-mouthed gun totting woman with a split personality? OF COURSE she can (she did...except Debra Morgan has legs) I'm not saying she can't, I'm saying she's not Black and therefore doesn't fit the bill for the character as ACCURATELY as possible. Because as a fan of anything I'd like ANY adaptation to reflect the source material as much as possible!
Am I saying changing the Race of characters is automatically going to cause any movie to suck? Of course not. What I'm saying is that I want the movie to look like the source material. Now with comic books there are TONS of source material we can address, specifically with the introduction of a comic book multiverse that allows writers to explore "What ifs..." in the comic book world. One of those is the Ultimates Universe which has given us The Black Nick Fury (which was BASED on Samuel L. Jackson, not the other way around). Since The Ultimates Universe is acknowledge and popular in comic book fandom, there is a precedent for a Black Nick Fury...and if he's based on Samuel L. Jackson, why the hell NOT get Samuel L. Jackson to play him? And besides...they already did a White Nick Fury...
So don't go feeding me this nonsense of "Oh well Nick Fury is White and they made him Black in the movie." There IS a Black Nick Fury in at least ONE well known Marvel universe. However there is NO Black Human Torch in ANY Marvel Universe, therefore there is NO precedent for changing his Race. Secondly, as far as the "African Americans are under represented in comic books" argument; THIS ISN'T DOING US (African Americans) ANY FAVORS! There are LEGITIMATELY Black characters who AREN'T getting any play and taking a White Character and putting him in Black face isn't helping strike a blow for "progress" or "diversity". How come we can turn The Human Torch Black but we can't have a Black Panther ? OR rather, when they rebooted "The Amazing Spider-Man" why did they decided to give us YET ANOTHER Peter Parker when they could've JUST AS EASILY done Miles Morales? A biracial Spider-Man, DIFFERENT origin story, it's diverse and everything they'd want. So how is changing The Human Torch's race helping us "diversify" comic books, when it's not even legitimate diversity?
Now I KNOW IMMEDIATELY what EVERYONE is gonna say! "But Hollywood Whitewashes Ethnic Characters all the time!". I KNOW AND I DON'T LIKE THAT EITHER! So why are we bitching when Sokka and Katara are played by White People BUT I'm supposed to throw my legs over my head and pollute my trousers with delight when Black People play White Characters? AH-HA! I know what you're going to say! "Oh but Ugo, didn't you like "Man Of Steel" ? Well Laurence Fishburn played Perry White and Perry White has ALWAYS been played by a White guy and Laurence Fishburn is Black, so aren't you being inconsistent ?". Yes, I would be being inconsistent if Perry White actually mattered as a character.
Race or Gender bending ancillary or background characters are fine with me, I could careless and the general public could careless as well. How much does Perry White factor into a Superman story? NOT AT ALL! Hell, "Smallville" took SEVERAL Seasons before Perry White was even introduced! Therefore, if you put Perry White in or took Perry White out, made him Black, made him White, made him Chinese, Indian, anything, it wouldn't matter. Because Perry White's presence doesn't make or break The Superman Mythos. The producers got Laurence Fishburn because he's a good actor and they wanted a strong performer there. Same reason why Laurence Fishburn is playing Jack Crawford in the "Hannibal" series. In the case of the written word personality does beats out appearance IF a character is defined by their occupation or their relation to the hero.
But in the case of The Human Torch, we actually have materials that give a CLEAR depiction of what The Human Torch looks like...and NEWS FLASH, HE AIN'T BLACK! And fans of the comic books aren't given a clear reflection of what they've been reading, not to mention people who don't know the comics who are going to be confused as to why The Human Torch is Black and not White (keep in mind this DID happen when "Green Lantern" came out and fans of The Justice League cartoon complained that The Green Lantern was Black and not White...clearly showing that they weren't aware that there are multiple Human Green Lanterns and Ryan Reynolds was playing the first of The Green Lantern silver age, Hal Jordan). I am NOT saying we need to make movies for non-comic book readers BUT I am saying that we should reflect what comic book readers are reading and seeing and it's NOT Michael B. Jordan.
If Hollywood wants to have a diverse collection of heroes CHANGING A CHARACTERS RACE IS NOT THE WAY TO DO IT! WE SHOULD BE USING OR CREATING CHARACTERS OF THAT RACE! Geoff Johns created Simon Baz, a Lebanese Green Lantern! A BRAND NEW ORIGINAL CHARACTER THAT WAS ETHNIC! He doesn't grab Kyle Rayner and suddenly make him Lebanese. NO! HE MADE A NEW CHARACTER! Same goes for Miles Morales! They didn't change Peter Parker's race, they made a new character! John Stewart is a Black Green Lantern! And instead of attempting another Hal Jordan one, MAYBE they should try John Stewart. MAYBE they should make a Black Panther movie, or Luke Cage, or Static Shock, or have Cyborg in a movie. So why is it that I have to be happy about Michael B. Jordan playing The Human Torch just because I'm Black? If you ask me...