Thor and racial casting… From a crippled conscience


(WARNING, harsh concepts, adult issues, and total disregard of any shred of political correctness ahead… Veer left to avoid. Veer right to meet Rush Limbaugh… I don’t suggest veering that far right, really.)

I was baited into a conversation about the casting choices made by Marvel and Paramount on their soon-to-be blockbuster, Thor.

The bait? A well written blog that I had no business commenting on to begin with. That’s how I roll. (Remember this offhanded mention of my handicap for later, it will be informative and amusing.)

The problem: Thor is based on the Marvel Comics’ franchise of the same name which depicts the arrogant Norse god, Thor (big surprise) being sent to earth and having to go through some crazy adventures where he meets a satanic clown who turns into a giant, violating monster, a mousy newspaper reporter, a couple of mutants and three hundred spartans who were running an illegal radio station on a large boat off the coast of Narnia…

Ok, maybe I mixed some properties together, but you get it. The word Norse was mentioned so I can go on.

There’s a character in the story (and in the original legends and myths) named Heimdall(r) who is the Norse equivalent of Gabriel. He’s all seeing, all knowing, all hearing, all everything and he’s got this great big horn. Now, not to invite a race riot or anything, but he’s described as the whitest of all Asgardians. The importance of which, I’m assuming, is the typical Anglo-Saxon lean towards color association in which white is related to light and divinity while black is mysterious and dangerous. So, lets assume that in a more absolute translation, he glows or something.

Marvel, in a late casting release, has revealed that

The character

The actor

First filler! YAAAAAY

YEP! FILLER!!

=

This is filler. If you found this.. YAY,!… Oops… not done. 

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

Now… I’m not one to cause trouble (pfffthahahahahaha)… but… What?

Let’s go with this by historical sources… The Norse are from the Scandinavian countries. To the best of my knowledge, there wasn’t a single African, African American, African Scandinavian or ANYONE of darker complexion than a light tan in that area until the large slave trade was established. The scandinavian people burn when they get too much sun, so, really… there were far more red people than any color… other than ‘WOW-player’ white

I am a large supporter of diverse casting. I celebrate when a cast in an American movie has all the races and colors represented in the country itself. I was happy when I saw Nick Fury being played by Samuel L. Jackson. Same for Kingpin being played by Michael Clarke Duncan. Will Smith as Robert Neville in I Am Legend was a stroke of genius, really…

The thing that these roles had were ambiguity. Nothing in the incarnations of the stories they were in NEEDED them to be of a certain race.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have Patrick Stewart playing Othello in a racially inverted version of the play… All other actors were African American while he remained his usual caucasian self. It’s an example of the story being changed as a conceptual piece to invoke thought. This use of casting is effective and purposeful. It shows a point.

Thor’s casting, however, is off on a few levels.

Firstly, and most obvious… These are NORSE gods. They come from a set place. They come from a set pantheon.

If there was a pantheon of Asian gods being played in a movie and one was (arbitrarily) Danny Trejo… there would be massive response from the asian community and the entire world would agree that it’s ridiculous casting.

Same for any African gods being played by us Whiteys (I can say that. I’m taking it back)… or South American having an Australian cast (oh, maybe Hugh Jackman can be Quetzalcoatl!)… If the racial change makes no sense, it’s just cheap and should be viewed as an insult to the public’s intelligence. I’m certainly looking at it as such. For a company to think a simple minor casting can appease for their other very real oversights in populating films with believable diversity is completely belittling.

Secondly

The character, Heimdall(r) is the Norse/Marvel equivalent of a sidekick… Seriously… He’s not so much a Robin to Thor’s Batman, but he’s third tier AT BEST, who’s been capture AND DIED multiple times. It’s kind of funny that they choose this character to be the African American Norse god as it’s the same damn character being played by minority (is that still PC?) actors since the dawn of cinema.

And… the African American community is ok with this…

Like there’s some victory with an African American actor being cast in the same place they’d be cast if there was any other plot.

Furthermore, there’s only a single other African American actor in the ENTIRE DAMN MOVIE… and this actor is uncredited in the movie, meaning he will likely be a pointless character that gets killed off quickly. WHOOHOO! Yes we can! CHANGE!! YAAAAA- wha? oh… shit… that’s the same place black actors have been for decades? Damn.

I can only figure the big support of this casting decision is because of the opposition. A bunch of dick-like, assholish, anal reaming, fucknugget white supremacists have decided to boycott the movie. Whoohoo… so… what does that take out of the gross? Half of Alabama? Not a big deal. (To all my friends in Alabama… you’re the good half… I think.)

But, I see that some people are looking at this like it’s some good thing…

They see it as changing the Norse mythology to fit our American sensibilities…

But… This version of Thor doesn’t actually uproot the Asgardians from racial identity… it absolutely entrenches it. It creates the contrast against the other, cast-to-source characters, THOR, the title character included. Random placement of a racially diverse actor (late in the game, keep that in mind) is not ballsy.

An African American Thor would have been ballsy…

A bi-racial relationship between Thor and an African American female actress, that would have been a little gutsy.

Heimdall is the single safest character to cast as someone of a different race. Not gutsy, not ballsy, it’s a bitch move made by a bitch mouse-eared company wanting to create a little controversy.

Controversy, you ask? Of course you did… How did I know?! I’M MAGIC, GODDAMMIT!

NUMBAH 3!!!

It’s controversial to white supremacists because the Norse people, or, at least their blood, is instrumental in their beliefs. Read Mein Kampf… (I’m sure someone will take that out of context, so, just to ensure that I’m labeled a neo-nazi and a racist, I’ll reiterate) Read Mein Kampf. Reading the thoughts of ridiculous, insane shit-heads helps us to remember what happened, why it happened, what they were thinking so we can better fight against it in the future. Ignoring it ensures the cycle.

The Nordic blood is said to be pure, Aryan, perfect in their eyes. It’s where it started, for Christ’s sakes. SO, casting a black man as a freak’in Norse GOD was SURE AS HELL GOING TO START SOMETHING. No matter how pointless it is to tell the supremacists that there is no ‘great race’, that we are all equal in terms of the color of our skin and the only way an individual can be any better equipped for life is through intelligence and ambition, seeing any one of a different race playing anyone in their ‘Aryan’ group is blasphemous to them.

Is that obvious instigation a REASON to cast that way? Only if you want to make money… and lots of it. Race has become a lesser argument in this country… but it’s still the easiest one to make. Push some kind of ‘new edge’ in the racial arena and you get kudos. That edge doesn’t have to be very sharp, or extremely poignant… hell, it doesn’t have to do anything other than piss some people off. You’re still going to make money off of the countless other people who will see the movie just to spite the dickheads boycotting it. It’s a counter-attack. We support what our enemies oppose. Evidenced HERE

Simple.

Human.

Psychology.

People… You’re being played. And you sound like Rebecca Black’s vocal cords mixed with someone hammering on a bag of live cats.

For the sake of continuity, intelligence of story, point of origin, collective protection of source material, and countless other reasons… Mythology should be kept as it is or altered in a completely different form which further symbolizes it. Change it from Norse to something new. Marvel took the Norse gods and suited them to their purpose… but, they didn’t change that they were NORSE. This doesn’t do that. It further exemplifies a soulless use of the public’s paper-thin racial tolerance and people’s acceptance of it really does worry me. It shows there are more problems that need to be dealt with.

The comics ADDED to the Norse mythology, bringing them into the future but it didn’t change what had already been written to any great extent. This isn’t adding, it’s changing, it’s altering the history of a character…

How is he black? Seriously? Explain it. Give me a single simple example of why the character is black and I’ll shut the hell up. As a writer, this is the single biggest problem I have with this… There’s no GOOD GODDAMN REASON. It’s bullshit.

I am equally disgusted by movies that cast white actors as middle-eastern, native american, hispanic and latin-blooded characters… I’m sure there have been many attempts at casting white actors as black characters… but that always ends in a little laugh and the general disregard of their career as of late.

Even more subtle is the casting which plays on the racial stereotype of similarity in features… Let’s play spot the chinese people in the movie ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’… (For those of us not in the know, Geishas are japanese.)

Does this mean I’m boycotting the movie? No. I watched Gladiator, loved it… I watched the Mummy, loved it… Prince of Persia I refused to watch simply because his hair looked ridiculous. Spawn and 300 were also movies that were miscasting their actors. (Spawn had an African American character that was replaced by a white actor because the producers felt the audience wouldn’t accept three African American lead characters in a comic book franchise movie. And 300? Don’t get me started… they were SPARTANS, not SCOTSMEN!)

Am I not going to enjoy Idris’ performance? Of course I will. He’s an incredible actor with vast amounts of potential and I put no blame on him (beyond his ridiculous statement defending his role  as read here: “There has been a big debate about it: Can a black man play a Nordic character? Hang about, Thor’s mythical, right? Thor has a hammer that flies to him when he clicks his fingers. That’s okay, but the colour of my skin is wrong?”… ok… so… wait, Jesus walked on water… I have yet to see a woman play Jesus in any large scale media establishment. Or how about a black superman? Chinese batman? Hell, An INDIAN AQUAMAN?! Yeah, thought so… Racial diversity indeed.)

Touche, Chuck Lorre...

I grew up with a different type of discrimination. My people were always cast as invalids. Whatever strength us of the handicapped persuasion have gained in our lives has rarely if ever been shown since most able-bodied actors who play us couldn’t win against me in an arm-wrestling contest… so they flop the hell around when in their chairs… It’s just embarrassing. It’s like a racially miscast actor trying to get an accent that they just can’t grasp… it’s grating to my eyes, instead of the ears.

There are no action heros in a wheelchair… None… Are you telling me that someone in my condition couldn’t shoot a gun or handle a sword? I’m more capable of handling a one-on-one confrontation than most ‘able-bodied’ people of all races. Same for romantic leads… Sadly devoid of palsy victims. I smell a hit with ‘Seizures in Seattle’…

But if a production company cast Heimdall as being in a wheelchair for the same lack of reasoning, I’d be pissed as hell.

– Aaron Shively

P.S. I’m still waiting for a Jewish Superman… as it was supposed to be, ya know, before DC fucked the creators.

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About Aaron Shively

I have been working as a freelance writer and artist for the last decade. In that time, I've done everything from ghostwriting to toy design and everything in between. I am currently working on a novel series called 'Myth' which has held my attention for the past sixteen years. I have spent my time developing the world, character and story and am now ready to funnel all the preliminary material into the manuscript of the first installment, 'of Men and Monsters' Bookmark & Share

Posted on 04/19/2011, in Personal, Philosophy, Rantings, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Oh God !!!

    What a great post – because you said it when so many others wouldn’t. I saw the ad here for the first time tonight, but will now look closer.

    Keep telling it like you see it !!!!!!!!!!!!

    🙂

    • I have no big problem with the casting beyond the fact that people are treating it like such a positive thing. If there wasn’t high emotions on either side, this post really wouldn’t exist. lol.

      Principles, to me, in this case, are far more important than the blind act of equalization.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

  1. Pingback: Is that? No, it couldn’t be. You’re right, it’s not. | to Write, Perchance to Dream

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