Superman stood for truth, justice and the American way. He fought for others who could not fight for themselves, and I thought that was awesome.
The Incredible Hulk also made me want to be a superhero. Bill Bixby was my idol. He helped everyone. It did not matter your race or socioeconomic placement in the world. He changed lives for the better, and I thought that was amazing.
I used to read the Captain American comic book series and had the chance to read about Sam Wilson, The Falcon. He was a black superhero who was a sidekick to Captain America. I loved the things he did. He was fast, strong, and not afraid of anything or anyone. When he was featured in 2014's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," it was like I was a kid again. I had always hoped he would get his own movie.
On that note, when I heard actress Michelle Rodgriguez's comments about minority superheroes, all of these childhood memories came to mind. Even her "apology" on Facebook was just as misguided. Either she doesn't follow superheroes very often or she's conveniently forgetting some facts about how minority cultures have played a part in these mythical characters.
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Her "Fast and Furious" co-star, Tyrese Gibson, created his own comic book series and superhero character Mayhem in 2009. How she managed to decide Hollywood and celebrities were being "lazy" about creating their own characters is not only bizarre but incorrect. Had she and Tyrese never talked about his three-part comic book series before?
Michael Jai White played the role of Spawn in the 1997 flick by the same name, but it was not well done and crashed at the box office. Once a movie with an ethnic main character fails to have success at the box office, similar movies are scraped for a longer period of time.
Even when actors like Idris Elba took on the role of Heimdall, the brother of the warrior Sif, he took so much flack for it in the 2011 and 2013 "Thor" movies. Even though he only had small roles, the critiques rolled in harder than the compliments.
Samuel L. Jackson may have done a better job at opening people's minds in his role as Nick Fury from the 2012 film "The Avengers." Originally, Nick Fury's 1963 character was a white soldier in World War II. But in 2001, Marvel made the decision to create a black version of Nick Fury inspired by Mr. Jackson himself. Marvel's design helped the less hesitant at least get more comfortable with seeing the superhero with a different look before just sliding an actor into the role who didn't look anything like the animated character.
People like Rodriguez, and Hollywood in general, have this thought that African-American movies have difficulty “crossing over” to mainstream audiences. That is the reason there has been difficulty in getting African American movies produced and promoted. The entertainment business is very fickle. Movie executives cannot afford to miss on a project, and losing money on a project can cost many people jobs.
Most movie executives are going to go the safe route because of being in self-preservation mode. I understand where they're coming from, but it does not bode well for creativity in the industry. It is much better to be a trendsetter and break new ground than play it safe. Brushing off artistry for money only creates an environment where we see the same repetitive films over and over again.
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Every blue moon, Hollywood will surprise me. It has been reported that Chadwick Boseman ("42" and "Get On Up") will be starring in 2016's "Captain America 3: Civil War" as Black Panther. He is also supposed to get his own feature movie in 2018. But in order for that 2018 film to get proper media coverage, I'm pretty sure Hollywood will be eyeing those box office statistics from "Captain America 3" to see if the 2018 project is worth it.
For those who don't know, the white male characters Alan Scott and Hal Jordan were the original Green Lantern. However, Green Lantern fans were also pretty familiar with the black retired marine version named John Stewart. If she was going to make a statement about creating African-American characters, Marvel already did that with John Stewart and a host of others mentioned above.
But what's even more odd is that she never seemed to be this irate when white actors played ethnic characters onscreen: John Wayne played Genghis Khan; Elizabeth Taylor played Cleopatra; and Burt Lancaster played Jim Thorpe.
This has happened for decades. The fact that people of color are getting the opportunity to play traditionally white characters is a start, but it's not like this trend has completely changed the industry’s thought process nor has it been as widely accepted as people from the majority population taking on minority characters.
She is right that Hollywood should develop new characters, but that shouldn't deter African-American professionals from playing traditionally white characters. Great acting should transcend race. Race can sometimes be the focal point of a character’s background, but that's not usually the case in Marvel and DC characters.
Even gay actors play straight characters and vice versa. Great actors make you forget about race and sexual orientation. Denzel Washington starred in the 2014 film "Equalizer," a traditionally white character from the 1985 to 1989 TV series. Both the film and TV show did well despite the physical differences, primarily because Washington was a good actor and the movie was well done.
To be frank, Rodriguez's comments cut deeper because she is of Latina descent. She of all people should know the struggle for people of color in the film industry. It is hard to find enough roles for ethnic actors, especially in blockbuster films. Apparently she's oblivious to the struggle that minority consumers demand and many minority actors have been vocal about seeing in the entertainment industry.
Overall, I believe Rodriguez meant that Hollywood should be held accountable for developing better ethnic characters, but that is not how she communicated it. It is important to be grounded and have empathy for others. Understanding the struggle of others is how to develop as a person. This includes actors who have a voice to speak for minorities in their field. The entertainment industry has a ways to go before roles are equitable, but if well-known artists cannot properly explain the importance of diversity in the entertainment industry to executives, the only way Hollywood will pay attention is seeing how minority (and majority) consumers spend their dollars to support these projects.