“It’s so stupid. It’s like, stop stealing all the white people’s superheroes. Make up your own, you know what I’m saying? Like, what’s up with that?”
— Actress Michelle Rodriguez, to L.A. paparazzi over the weekend, in remarks that went viral (she later posted a “what I meant was” video)
MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ doesn’t get it. But she doesn’t have to. Not everyone gets the comic-book thing going on in pop culture right now.
But while listening to her paparazzi-enabled denial of being involved in a Green Lantern franchise reboot, I realized that Rodriguez couldn’t give a damn about comic books and the movies inspired by them — and how their creators and guardians are trying to make them slightly more diverse than, say, the Academy Awards (which only occasionally show respect to comic-book films; see: an Oscar for Heath Ledger’s Joker performance).
So a Puerto Rican/Dominican actress is telling minorities to stop trying to “color in” white superheroes? And she’s saying that minorities should just make their own superheroes?
As Ledger’s Joker said: “Where do we begin?”
First, the Green Lantern angle: Let’s not punish Rodriguez for not being a comic-book expert. If she took a Green Lantern 101 course, though, she’d learn that if there is any comic franchise that can justify multiple diverse options to take on a mantle, it’s the Green Lanterns, whose human ranks include Hal Jordan (who’s white), John Stewart (who’s black), Kyle Rayner (who’s Mexican American) and the recently added Jessica Cruz (the Latina Lantern whom Rodriguez was rumored to play).
A Latina Green Lantern would make sense, given the lengths that Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment have gone to in ensuring that the Justice League movie franchise is diverse.
They “get” it. A Justice League movie that reflects the growing diversity of the world isn’t about being politically correct; it’s about business, and realizing that a Justice League loyal to its predominantly white comic-book roots isn’t capitalizing on all the dollars that could be spent from fans who will see the film. That’s not to say that fans of color wouldn’t see a Justice League movie that had a social makeup similar to the comics. (Look at the billion-dollar-plus box office for “The Avengers.”) But WB’s current JL roster is a team trying to represent everyone.
The “minorities in Hollywood” debate as it applies to comic-book movies is partly about having enough people behind the scenes of superhero blockbusters who grew up reading comics prior to the ’90s — people old enough to realize that minority groups weren’t given fair attention during the heydays of some of the most well-known comic books out there.
Sam Jackson is the leader of the Avengers. A Black Panther movie is really going to happen. (And hey, Marvel and Sony still haven’t denied that Miles Morales will appear on the big screen.) I’ll take that and file it under “things I thought I’d never see.” Attempts at progress are evident.
Maybe Rodriguez has franchise fatigue. The “Avatar” actress is about to star in “Fast and Furious 7” — the latest installment in one of the most diversely cast film franchises. That could explain her blindness to the importance of minority roles in superhero franchises.
It’s also silly to presume that because Rodriguez is a Latina veteran of action films, she would be geeked up to jump onto a superhero franchise looking for a hero of color. She made it clear that’s not in her future. But by her glossing over the efforts being made to diversify universes that began, in some cases, more than 70 years ago — and to compare diversifying efforts to stealing white heroes — she’s making it obvious that she hasn’t given the situation much thought, especially when it comes to fans of color who appreciate the efforts.
It’s certainly not her fault that if a strong Latina role is needed, she’s one of the first people whom fans want to cast. So why not just move on? Do you want a Latina Green Lantern? Call Rosario Dawson. I’d pay to see her charge up a Green Lantern ring. Plus, she loves comic-book culture and continues to return to roles influenced by it (“Sin City 2,” and “Daredevil”).
Despite the latest wave of superhero films since the turn of the century, many people, of course, will never be into the genre. Rodriguez seems to fit that description.
But hopefully, new heroes of color are indeed being created who one day will be adapted to live-action entertainment. Maybe a future winner of the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity will sign a major movie deal to adapt her or his work. And the launch of Milestone Media 2.0 holds much promise for new minority heroes.
But until then, diversifying the adaptations of formerly all-white comic-book universes will continue. With or without Michelle Rodriguez.