Today’s post is gonna be about racism. More specifically, it’s about how I’m a racist. Fun times.
Of the many comic book characters that have yet to make it into theaters as contemporary film adaptations, one of the most perplexing is Wonder Woman. As far as I’m concerned, a well-executed Wondy movie would do nothing but make fat stacks of phat cash. It’s a perfect movie. Wondy’s hot, which brings in the kiddie crowd (and also the pervs). Wondy also kicks a lot of ass, which brings in the action flick aficionados. On top of that, Wondy’s a strong female character, which would give girls a reason to show up. That deafening din you hear is the sound of cash registers ka-chinging.
The trouble with any kind of Wonder Woman movie is that the character is a right pain in the ass to correctly cast. Wondy has to be beautiful, but she also has to carry herself with a grace and regalness many contemporary actresses can’t pull off. Wondy also has to be large enough in stature to convincingly beat people (meaning a lot of dudes) down. And she should be able to emote, which means the role calls for a real actress and not just some chick who looks hot in the suit. Some of the rumors that I’ve heard about the casting have been laughably bad. Megan Fox? Seriously? She can’t act and I don’t believe she could beat her way out of a wet paper bag. Jessica Biel could work. Maybe. Gina Carano surely fits the bill physically, but she doesn’t have the acting chops. Besides, I want to see her play She-Hulk.
Then, earlier this week, I read somewhere that a fan movement is trying to get Gina Torres cast as Wonder Woman. It’s really quite perfect. Torres is gorgeous, but she’s also capable of convincing ass-kickery, and she has the regal, distinguished quality Wondy should exude. A home run, I thought. Why didn’t this occur to me before? The answer hit me square in the face, and I was less than proud of myself. I’d never considered Torres for Wondy because she’s African-American.
The problem with being a comics fan is that there is a tendency to get too attached to every little detail of a character’s reality. The way a character talks, how they act in a certain situation, what a character looks like: these can all become sticking points. And that’s kinda stupid. There’s no reason why the fact that a character that is one ethnicity in the comics means he or she can’t be another ethnicity in the movies. Unless said character’s ethnicity is a vital part of why he or she behaves or influences his or her actions, skin color should be interchangeable.
Which is why my inability to see an African-American woman as Wonder Woman bothers me so much. As long as the character is right, there should be no reason why what said character looks like should bug me. As long as Wondy acts like Wondy should act and kicks ass like Wondy kicks ass, it just doesn’t matter what color her skin is.
And it’s not like Hollywood hasn’t done something like this before. Kingpin’s always been a big, fat white dude in the comics, but in the movie, they cast Michael Clarke Duncan. The result? Well, MCD’s performances was actually one of the best things about that movie. By the end of the film, you’re not thinking Goddamn those ass hats for making Kingpin black. You’re thinking, that was a great performance and I’d like to see more of Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin.
I imagine the same thing would happen with Gina Torres as Wondy. I think she’d be great, and I bet it would set the bar for female-led comic book movies. I’m also a little ashamed I let a little thing like skin tone affect my thought process on this. We like to say things like movies are just entertainment, but they can be a barometer for how our society has evolved. And seeing that there are still too few African-American female-led comic book flicks, I think Gina Torres (or any other African-American woman) as Wonder Woman would be an epic step forward.