Why It’s Not Really About Superheroes

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After being asked by TMZ whether or not she’d be playing the part of Green Lantern, Michelle Rodriguez thought that was “the dumbest thing [she’d] ever heard. Because of this whole ‘minorities in Hollywood’ thing. It’s so stupid….stop stealing all the white people’s superheroes. Make up your own.

Fans took to social media in response to Rodriquez’s comments. Of course, she posted a video on Facebook clarifying her statement she made Friday night.

Here is a quote from her video:

What I really meant was, ultimately, at the end of the day, there’s a language. And the language that you speak in Hollywood is successful franchise. And I think that there are many cultures in Hollywood that are not white that can come up with their own mythology…instead of trying to turn a girl character into a guy or instead of trying to turn a white character into a black character or Latin character, I think that people should stop being lazy, and that people should actually make an effort in Hollywood to develop their own mythology.

Let me be the first to say that I admire Rodriguez for taking roles that many women probably either wouldn’t take or wouldn’t be cast in. But what Rodriquez fails to realize is that there really aren’t “many cultures in Hollywood that are not white.” I have yet to see accurate depictions of Asians, Middle Easterners, Africans, Hawaiians, Native Americans, Aboriginals and other POC in major, big-budget films. The sad fact is that we don’t see many people of color being cast as major characters. In a Time Magazine interview, Fresh Off The Boat star Constance Wu talks about how important it is “to see Asians in those leading roles because it changes…the anglo-heteronormative status of TV.” Having a few people of color in a movie is not diversity, it’s tokenism.

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ZAHARA in Spider Stories

Throughout the centuries, people of color have created long and rich histories of storytelling. However, these story lines have not been adequately embraced by Hollywood. The underrepresentation of people of color in comics doesn’t stem from “laziness” on the artists’ part. There are plenty of comics that do an awesome job at illustrating diversity, including the
cartoon Spider Stories by Nigerian-American brothers John and Charles Agbaje.

In regards to comic-based films, recreating traditional superheroes into figures that people of color can relate to is not “stealing,” it’s a cultural cohesion vital to sustaining diversity. While superheroes are fictitious, thriving in a world of crime and chaos, they often create racial discourse in pop culture. So until the billion-dollar movie franchises in Hollywood can get it together, America can’t claim to be a melting pot.

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