Director James Gunn, the man behind ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ has spoken up about the controversy sparked by media reports in relation to actress Zendaya Coleman joining the ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Cast.
In particular, criticisms were expressed over a change regarding the race of a popular character from Marvel.
As reported by The Wrap, Disney star Zendaya, whose father is African-American and mother hails from German and Scottish ancestry, will take the role of Mary Jane Watson- a character typically portrayed as white.
While Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures declined to comment on their decision, such change has brought on discussions online, some of which have shown unreceptiveness towards Zendaya’s portrayal of the character.
Gunn shared a lengthy message on Facebook, keenly promoting the idea of casting individuals of color to take on roles that are often portrayed as white, given that they are capable of capturing the essence of these characters. He emphasized the fact that he was merely speaking hypothetically of Zendaya, who may or may not be playing Mary Jane as Jon Watts will be helming ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming.’
“People get upset when something they consider intrinsic to a comic book character changes when adapted for a film. I get this,” Gunn stated, while adding, “I do not believe a character is the color of his or her skin. … For me, if a character’s primary attribute - the thing that makes them iconic - is the color of their skin, or their hair color, frankly, that character is shallow and sucks. For me, what makes MJ MJ is her alpha female playfulness, and if the actress captures that, then she’ll work.”
The 46-year-old director also shared that he does not necessarily expect to make a significant on people who are “flat out racist.” Nonetheless, he expressed his support for diversity in casting actors and making films.
“If we’re going to continue to make movies based on the almost all white heroes and supporting characters from the comics of the last century, we’re going to have to get used to them being more reflective of our diverse present world,” Gunn wrote.
‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ has not been the first superhero film to be criticized for changing, or possibly changing, a character’s race. Actor Michael B. Jordan, who joined the ‘Fantastic Four’ remake as Human Torch, came under fire for playing a character that is traditionally white and was previously portrayed by ‘Captain America’ star Chris Evans.
Meanwhile, actress Tilda Swinton joining the ‘Doctor Strange’ cast as the Ancient One also provoked an uproar among Marvel fans and resulted to accusations of “whitewashing” the character, who is traditionally portrayed as Asian.
“Anybody calling for more accurate representation of the diverse world we live in has got me standing right beside them,” Swinton said in response to the controversy. “I think when people see this film, they’re going to see that it comes from a very diverse place, in all sorts of ways.
The ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ release date is set on July 7, 2017.