These days, when the fate of the world hangs in the balance, the superheroes that end up saving the day are normally straight, white men—at least on the big screen.
While Marvel’s comics have become increasingly more diverse over the years with a half-black, half-Hispanic Spiderman and a female version of Thor, its cinematic universe remains largely male and whitewashed. This is why the backlash to Michael B. Jordan being cast in the highly-anticipated reboot of Fantastic Fouris so disheartening. When the actor was originally confirmed to play Johnny Storm a.k.a the Human Torch, naysayers took to social media to complain about the black actor would be playing a traditionally white character. (When TMZ asked what he thought of the criticism, Jordan quipped: “They’re still going to see [the movie] anyway.”)
Attention, trolls and comic book purists: The idea that Jordan shouldn’t be Johnny Storm because he’s black is misguided, because, you know, comic books are fictional and so are the movies. Anyone can fill these roles and do a great job (see Idris Elba as a Norse god in Thor).
In an essay published Friday in Entertainment Weekly, Jordan slammed people who are having a hard time accepting that in the new movie only three of the fantastic four are white.
This is a family movie about four friends—two of whom are myself and Kate Mara as my adopted sister—who are brought together by a series of unfortunate events to create unity and a team. That’s the message of the movie, if people can just allow themselves to see it.
Sometimes you have to be the person who stands up and says, “I’ll be the one to shoulder all this hate. I’ll take the brunt for the next couple of generations.” I put that responsibility on myself. People are always going to see each other in terms of race, but maybe in the future we won’t talk about it as much. Maybe, if I set an example, Hollywood will start considering more people of color in other prominent roles, and maybe we can reach the people who are stuck in the mindset that “it has to be true to the comic book.” Or maybe we have to reach past them.
To the trolls on the Internet, I want to say: Get your head out of the computer. Go outside and walk around. Look at the people walking next to you. Look at your friends’ friends and who they’re interacting with. And just understand this is the world we live in. It’s okay to like it.
Let’s sum up Jordan’s smackdown in one line: The Human Torch is whatever Marvel says it is. You can see how Jordan does in theaters on August 7.