Why Change is Coming and That’s OK: A Conversation Between Fans about Diversity

Written by: flicksandpieces & girl_dreaming

Back in 2010, breaking news in the comic book franchise world was that Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN was getting a reboot, despite the last installment coming only three years before.

The Interwebs were abuzz, and along with many others came a campaign to place Donald Glover (a.k.a. Childish Gambino / of COMMUNITY fame) as our new Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.

And while we’ve come to know and love Andrew Garfield’s take on the iconic character, the response among fans when Glover appeared on a tongue-in-cheek episode of COMMUNITY in Spidey gear varied widely – from outpourings of delight to overtly racist derision.

Likewise, Jason Momoa’s casting and upcoming cameo as everyone’s favorite JL character, Aquaman, gave rise to a long-running discussion this past year with friends, co-workers, and now *co-bloggers* about diversity in the comic book/superhero movie genre. And with the release of official images for DAWN OF JUSTICE, SUICIDE SQUAD, etc – a conversation between we the fans is long overdue.

Diversity. It sounds so college-orientation-cliche. But here’s my take on it, as a fan who happens to work in The Biz:

The increasing minorities of the world are hungry for a superhero that looks Ike them.

That can be a role model to their kids, and an example of an intelligent, strong, successful human being to the rest of the world.

That can serve as an entry-point into non-Western cultures, and can shine a light on wider social/economic/environmental/political problems that aren’t as sexy when it’s not in IMAX.

This is near and dear to my heart because it’s one of my goals as a filmmaker and storyteller. The total viewing audience of your average Hollywood summer release is undeniably bigger than the most lauded documentary. These movies are created to be popular and easily understood across cultural and linguistic boundaries – making them an incredibly powerful vehicle for messages, morals, and yes, propaganda.

For flicksandpieces, the increasing diversity we’ve seen in summer action flicks (like the FAST & FURIOUS franchise, STAR TREK, THE LOSERS, THE MATRIX, etc.) in the past fifteen years or so is a step in the right direction. Warner Brother’s efforts to find a female director for WONDER WOMAN leaves me hopeful. But is the box-office-conquering superhero movie genre doing its part for cause? Is the X-Men franchise, for example, leading the way in diversity as it does so often in comic form?

To revert back to Spider-Man – in the same span of time, there’s been two different versions of the character on the big screen. Both were hugely successful at first, but each subsequent film was less and less popular with the fans.

What can we say is responsible for the failures that led Sony to sell one of their most lucrative properties back to the Marvel umbrella in a bid to restore its credibility? Was it the storylines? Too much studio intervention? A lack of franchise stewardship? …Casting?

Personally, I enjoyed Tobey Maguire. He was the perfect Peter Parker, but not a great Spider-Man. As for Andrew Garfield, his Spidey was excellent, but his Peter Parker felt all wrong.

I’m ready for a different voice.

This is ultimately what our discussion of diversity is about. For both of us, the argument is not that the “look” of a character (especially the iconic ones like Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man) is unimportant, but rather that said image is not what makes the character who s/he is. Yes, there are certain costumes, props, and stylistic features like hair or eye color – but what builds a character has everything to do with their back story, personality, and the way they interact with the universe; and nothing to do with race, gender, or the color of their skin.

The Aquaman from the comics looked like this, and then this, and then this. But rather than cementing one “look”, don’t these updates prove the opposite? Change happens, and that’s OK.

No, Momoa does not have blonde hair and light eyes, and his skin is more caramel (oh yeah) than California-tan. He does not look like the Aquamen we’ve seen before. But the way this character looked in the 50’s is different from the way he looked in the 90’s, and will be different for the kid whose first interaction with Aquaman will be Jason Momoa’s Aquaman.

The same is true for all the superheroes through the ages. Regardless of how they’re drawn or who plays them, it is the characters themselves that remain the same. It’s why they’ve stayed with us, in the zeitgeist, throughout the decades. Nick Fury kicks a whole truckload of ass whether he’s white or black. As does Captain America, Green Lantern; and let’s not forget Heimdall.

Perhaps Donald Glover’s Spider-Man is everything we fans didn’t even know we were missing.

So, we issue this challenge to the directors, producers, and executives, all the way up there: Let’s try casting based on merit and performance, and not on looks. Maybe we could avoid the volatile fan fervor that seems to switch from love to hate on the wind.

We recognize the power you wield as decision-makers, and the intense pressure that must go into every one. We recognize the very valid desire to take the path of most assurance.

But, like someone’s Aunt said that one time, “With great power…”

We’re waiting.

#truefandom

Title Art

Liebster Award Question #1 and #2: How did you decide on the title of your blog? What is one word that sums up the heart of your blog and why?

(Yup, I’m mashing up the questions. Because I can. Take that society.)

I had been thinking about starting a blog for a while; someplace I could share the stories of things I’ve seen and done as a fan trying to live the dream. (I haven’t written them yet, but believe me, I’ve got stories.) 😉

I didn’t want to do film news and reviews – there are thousands of sites already dedicated to those things, and that seemed to narrow the scope of possible subjects too much for me. I wanted the blog to be both a reflection and a conversation about what my friends and I talk about – pop culture; The Biz; film theory and history; and the latest things that have inspired us. I wanted it to be a celebration of fandom that was positive, inclusive, and passionate. The closest I could come to capturing that idea was by making it “true”.

I wrote more extensively about this process in my About Page — Who?.

Oh I can’t believe it.

Oh I can’t believe it.

The Liebster Award.

I started this blog in July 2014, and only just recently starting posting actively, and so was happily surprised to have been nominated for The Liebster Award by the very gracious Melis, whose blog Infinite Daydreamer I discovered in the #Press’verse and connected with.

We had a discussion about the nature of The Internet, and how the (relative) anonymity of life online levels the playing field – where I can listen to anyone in the world, and where anyone in the world can have their voice heard. We don’t have to be super-famous (yet), or have money, or power and influence. Technology is the great equalizer; The Internet the great democratizer.

Back to the award — insofar as I’ve researched, The Liebster Award is a phenomenon among the online writing community, whereby those nominated go on to welcome and recognize others, and so on. It has its basis in the definition of “liebster”:

liebster | lieb’ste | (German) noun. Dearest, beloved, darling, welcome; adjective. Kind, pleasant, valued.

In reading about it, I came across the opinion that this is something negative – as the award operates much like a chain letter, forwarded person to person across the interwebs. “Not I,” said Kai.

I think The Liebster Award is a solid example of how the interwebs facilitate the formation of worldwide communities. The relationships here are based on a different kind of connection – sometimes more deep, open, and honest than their face-to-face counterparts. I think The Liebster Award is a genuine gesture of goodwill and friendship; a way for us little people to recognize each other; to connect with someone we might never meet in person.

The catch: To accept the award, you must have less than 200 followers subscribed to you; answer a list of questions; and go on to nominate others. The specifics vary, but these are the ones I was nominated with, and so will I follow.

Now, for those of you who are actively following me (all three of you), you’ll know I just started on a new show, and I’m actually in a different city, hence my short hiatus. So, I’ve decided to split up my posting process and answer each question individually, followed by my own nominations. Stay tuned.

P.S. If anyone knows the song I referenced in the title, my hat is off to you. I literally can’t say those words without thinking the tune in my head. Brings me back..

#truefandom

Three chords and a TED Talk

Three chords and a TED Talk

This fan writes songs about talks that move him. Inspiration from inspiration from inspiration.

#truefandom

TED Blog

Singer and songwriter Nigel Gordon writes songs on his guitar inspired by TED Talks. Singer and songwriter Nigel Gordon writes songs on his guitar inspired by TED Talks.

Many people feel a burst of inspiration after watching a TED Talk. Some take action by volunteering their time or making a donation. Nigel Gordon, on the other hand, has an individual reaction: He writes songs about TED Talks he loves.

A singer and songwriter, as well as an entrepreneur, Gordon got his introduction to TED when a friend sent him Sir Ken Robinson’s “How schools kill creativity.” “I’ve been a TED addict ever since,” he says.

In 2012, Gordon heard Sugata Mitra’s talk “The child-driven education,” which tells the story of what happened when Mitra embedded a computer in a wall in a slum in India, and came back to discover that kids had used it to teach themselves a wide range of subjects. (Mitra would go on to win…

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