Race Reversal Character Roles

A fan image depicting Michael B. Jordan as Superman. This image was created by popular digital artist “Bosslogic.”(Photo public domain)

In the ever-expanding realm of film making, nothing is ever certain, and as time passes, films themselves evolve. Be it the shift from black and white to color, the the transition from practical effects to CGI, or even the introduction of digital animation; the film industry always has a new change on the horizon. While the majority of these changes are  universally accepted as beneficial for the industry, some are more controversial.

Following the recent resignation of Henry Cavill from his role as Superman, speculation has exploded as to who should now bear the mantle of the beloved caped crusader. Among those being considered for the role, no name stood out more prominently than Michael B. Jordan. Jordan is a young up and coming actor who has carved out quite the name for himself in the last several years. Praised for his renditions of “Killmonger” in Black Panther and “Adonis Creed” in the Creed franchise, Jordan cemented himself as an instant fan favorite. But, it’s not Jordan’s youth, credibility, or fame that makes him the most hotly discussed candidate for the role of Superman—it’s something so much simpler than that. It’s the color of his skin.

Since the announcement of the possibility of a black man portraying Superman, the Internet has been set ablaze. Arguments against the “dangers” that such a casting would cause have flooded in from all perspectives—for many, this reversal of race in traditional characters is a terrifying prospect that they are simply not ready to embrace. For others, this is the positive change in Hollywood that we always needed.

“I think these race-reversed characters are perfectly fine,” said Andrew Stepanian, a freshman at Leesville. “It all depends on who can play the role best—if that’s Michael B. Jordan for Superman, then I don’t see a problem.” The idea of merit playing a larger role than race, gender, or orientation in the casting process is gaining serious momentum in the United States, allowing actors more expanded opportunities than ever before. By eliminating race as a factor of selection for a part, black actors can potentially play a much larger role in a predominantly white film industry—a huge step in the right direction for Hollywood as a whole.

Despite the immense support for race reversal characters, there is an equal amount of resistance against this new notion.

“I really think the role of Superman is meant for just a white person to play, the same way Black Panther should be played by a black person,” said Edgar Faulkner, a Leesville junior. “It’s not a race thing, it’s a history thing; there’s just certain characters and roles that specific people should play.”

The majority of people opposed to this young idea are not necessarily racist or non-progressive, they simply wish to uphold the historical integrity of their favorite characters. Between movies, TV shows, and comics, fans can become wholly immersed in the lives and affairs of certain characters. When one finds themself so invested in a character—when they have such a distinct image of that character ingrained in their mind—it’s easy to understand why they would want the character on screen to match the character in their mind. “In a movie; like the live action Aladdin coming out, for example—it would be cool to see native Arabic people in those roles instead of white people playing roles they don’t really understand,” said Faulkner.

Amidst outcrys both for and against this new concept, one must take a step back and analyze the reality of film in America today.

“I feel like most people have a problem with it[race reversed characters] because a famous character like Superman has always been a white character; he’s written as a white character in comic books, he’s always been played by white actors; so of course people will have an issue with a black actor playing his role,” said Asis Johnson, a sophomore at Leesville. “I would love to see a black actor play such a huge role, he[Jordan] already has played such huge roles—he’s Killmonger, he’s Creed—I would love to see him further his career, but of course that’s going to cause problems in America.”

Some harsh realities of America still ring true even in the film industry today—not all roles are distributed equally, and not all successes are granted their proper accolades. “I think roles should be granted based on ability. I know it’s not because women don’t ever play male roles, you hardly see black actors win Oscars, and, well, a black man has never played Superman,” said Johnson.

While the turmoil surrounding Hollywood’s next big evolution is heated at the moment, the doors it threatens to open have huge ramifications for the future. The question of reversing character races in film can (and undoubtedly will) extend to questions of reversing characters’ gender, sexual orientation, or anything else. A progressive Hollywood overhaul is just on the horizon at a scale with which our nation has never seen; and looking back to what opened the floodgates of this movement for change, we may just find Michael B. Jordan and his role as Superman.


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