Diversity in Hollywood has fought its way back to being a hot-button issue in American popular culture, and last night, actress Michelle Rodriguez knocked the internet into a tizzy with some inflammatory comments about diversity in superhero blockbusters. When asked whether or not she would be playing the Green Lantern in the future, the Fast & Furious star told TMZ that minorities need to “stop stealing all the white people’s superheroes. Make up your own.” And yes, that is a direct quote.
She attempted to clarify her point in a video posted to her FaceBook page yesterday afternoon, but the sentiment she displayed the night before was still there. “Instead of trying to make a girl character into a guy or a white character into a black character or a Latin character, I think people should stop being lazy…and should make an effort in Hollywood to develop their own mythology,” Rodriguez clarified. So…Separate But Equal, then?
I understand where Rodriguez is coming from, but I don’t really agree. Having original characters dedicated to disenfranchised peoples (PoC, women, LGBT, etc.) is a goal that fans and creators alike have been fighting for for decades and it’s certainly a change that I’d welcome with open arms, but at the same time, it shouldn’t close off the option of seeing different interpretations of established classic (read: mostly white/male/cis-gendered) heroes. If Thor can be reimagined as a goddamn frog, it shouldn’t be a problem to imagine the character as a woman. If Captain America can deal with a jingoistic impostor in the 1950s and Bucky Barnes’ Batman-esque interpretation, it shouldn’t be a problem to imagine Sam Wilson taking on the role. If we can accept that the Lantern Corp is a universe-wide police force that employs beings of different species and even corporeality, then we can accept a black, female, or gay Green Lantern.
The few characters representative of the disenfranchised have often times been the victims of whitewashing in other forms of media, meaning that options and exposure become smaller and smaller as a result. Michelle Rodriguez thinks that minorities should stop stealing white superhero roles? Here are 12 examples of PoC characters across comics, television, and movies who have been whitewashed.
1. Dr. Baxter Stockman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) – African-American
In the Mirage comic:
In the first cartoon:
2. Terry Fitzgerald (Spawn) – African-American
In the Image comic:
In the 1997 film, as played by D.B. Sweeney:
3. Fox (Wanted) – African-American
In the 2003 comic:
In the 2008 film, as played by Angelina Jolie:
4. Dastan (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) – Middle Eastern/Asian
In the 2003 franchise-starting game:
In the 2010 film adaptation, as played by Jake Gyllenhaal: