5 Bullshit Arguments People Make About Switching a Character's Gender/Race

Categories: Geek

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A little while back I wrote an article about why I felt the next Doctor on Doctor Who needed to be female. Not why I wanted a female Doctor, but why things I had noticed in the show and in fandom demanded that a woman be given a chance in the lead role. And then I posted said article to the large Facebook fan page that I help administer to watch the arguments roll in.

There were legion. There were myriad at the very least, but they essentially boiled down to five basic, fallacious premises that seem to crop up whenever anyone talks about non-whiting, non-manning a famous character. Today, let's look at those five and explain why they're bullshit.

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"The Character Has Always Been Gender/Race"
There is an actual logical fallacy named after this reasoning. It's called Appeal to Tradition, and it's utterly meaningless. There is no inherent worth in a thing being done the way it has always been done. If there were then getting a hamburger would involve a lot more than driving through McDonald's.

A side-step on this is the old adage of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". While not quite the same thing, it tends to miss a point. Long-running characters are often broken and fixed all the time. Why else would we have gold and silver ages of comics? Why else would series end and undergo rebirth? Why else would they reboot movie franchises?

What used to draw an audience 30 years ago doesn't necessarily draw a new audience now, and that's important because content creators are more interested in getting that new audience and holding them for three more decades than trying to keep you. It's just a sound investment.

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Being Race/Gender is Inherent to That Character
Sometimes this is true. Steve Rogers could probably never be anything but a hayseed-looking white male. That's part of who he is. He is the symbol of what the majority of World War II-era Americans considered perfection reborn into a more complicated and diverse world. Change his gender or ethnicity and you lose a lot of what makes him endure. Likewise, changing Wonder Woman to Wonder Man would remove virtually everything that makes Diana who she is.

But these are rarer than you think. If a disillusioned Steve Rogers was replaced in the role by a black Captain America to better fit America in the 21st century it would probably work great. If you want an example that goes the other way a white Al Simmons as Spawn would probably make no difference. Hell, the only real reason to have had a black man play Falcon in Winter Soldier was because of Sam Winston's reputation as an early black superhero. His race is not really an essential part of his character as much as his status as a pal to Cap that can hold his own and help him feel the soldierly camaraderie of his past days.

You have to remember that for a very long time the people creating all these iconic characters were all for the most part white men, and because writers are all inherently lazy they made all their heroes white men like them. In almost 90 percent of the cases with a white male protagonist that's as deep as the subject of race gets in the case of someone like Superman.

This story continues on the next page.


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4 comments
Boone
Boone

Change the Black Panther example to "make Wakanda an ethnically diverse African nation which harbors victims of oppression and supports racial equality and actively fights against horrid condition throughout Africa, while their king represents the nation as a steadfast servant of justice throughout the world."

THEN make him white.  

THIS example would be a more accurate analogy to empathizing with anger at a black human torch than yours.  You argument is basically, "heh, go ahead, neener neener it won't work".  When the reality is, you can easily make it a logical and equality related change, just as making Superman an Asian woman could be made that way.

And every person everywhere would scream bloody murder hell about the white Black Panther.

Which exemplifies that this is not an issue of equality.  It is about taking ownership of something.  An action which, to many fans, is inherently disrespectful to a character they love...to a *person* with history and depth.

Further, if race and gender just inherently aren't that big of a deal...then why do it?  Why can't a Latino identify with Peter Parker?  Why can't a white kid identify with Luke Cage?  Why can't a boy identify with Invisible Woman or a girl identify with Hulk?

Ah.  So it *is* inherently important.  Well, in that case, isn't seeking diversity by taking something away from one group a bad thing?  More importantly, isn't that a bad MESSAGE?

Kinda like any conversation you've had about how white people stole Rock and Roll.

If the underlying intent is to support diverse culture and support people in all their glorious differences, then dismissing *any* of them is just precisely the actions one would take to diminish and suppress a culture or a people or an individual.  "Your" things are not important..."mine" are.

You are afraid of that, though.  Because to be truly equitable is to, in some instances, agree with the stereotypical white supremacists, conscious and unconscious.  To come to terms with THAT, and realize that is is, indeed, a fundamental facet of true equality, is hard though.  Demonizing white men is easy.  And, frankly, a little necessary.  IF such is warranted.

Also, you have no real understanding or knowledge of the diversity that ACTUALLY, REALLY EXISTS IN COMIC BOOKS.  You are too ignorant to make these points about this medium.

To reiterate the primary point:  You cannot say one one hand that race/gender/sexuality are things that should be respected, supported, and honored while on the other hand saying those things are not important enough to protect in an art form which has the intrinsic and specific ability to take ink and words and create people...people that other people love.

That is either an inherent disrespect for the medium (in which case, screw you) or an inherent belief that some human beings are unimportant and not due any respect (in which case, screw you twice).

And no, thinking that the move to make Johnny Storm black is disrespectful (first) and actually racist in and of itself (second) and an example of Hollywood nepotism (third) does not make me a racist.

However, calling me that does pretty much make you a bigot.

Maybe you should check your privilege.


Psycho_Bunny
Psycho_Bunny

"Guys... it's not a numbers game. You don't tick off a box for a chick and a black dude and declare your comic/movie/video game "diverse enough"."

I think that's the argument against switching.  Besides, don't heist someone else's work for your own politics. If you didn't write the book,etc...don't screw with the characters unless you've given the courtesy of pretending to ask the person who did do all the work.


Actually, you may have failed to rebuff that one on the second page....I don't know.

Boone
Boone

I should clarify a little on why casting Jordan as Johnny is racist.

Johnny is the Stepin Fetchit.  It is the MOST racist casting choice to make Johnny Storm black.  This is compounded by making his sister white, who is always telling Johnny how he should act and is always being the good example.  Regardless of whether blood twins can look dramatically different racially, you have cast the "good" sibling as white and the "bad" sibling as black (Yes'm Miss Scarlett).  But , y'know...white women are prettier.  Ask the black guys.....

And having a mixed-race romance is entirely too icky.  So, we can't have Reed be black, either.  Even though, all things considered, Reed as an African-American would have had more social impact and likely less complaining from rabid comic fans.

To compound that tidbit, Sue and Johnny's white privilege IS a real and actual part of their character!  Especially for Johnny!  It is NOT for Reed.

Ben is Jewish, but while there certainly are black Jews, that is rare and takes away from Jewish people. Besides, Ben is covered in rocks and you would never see his skin.

Comic fans complain about every deviation from the source.  EVERY.  SINGLE.  DEVIATION.  We just complain less about some than others.

Plus, we experience universe-changing events, alternate realities, and other significant changes all the time, generally rolling with the punches.  After complaining at length.

To be called racist and demeaned for complaining about THIS change is ignorant.  It also, again, does not recognize the actual diversity in comics and that most comic fans are a very big fan of that diversity and take pride in such diversity.

Reality is this:  There would have been less complaining if a black actor were cast to play Reed.  There would have been less complaining if BOTH Sue and Johnny were portrayed by black actors.  There would be less complaining if the WHOLE CAST was black.

It is NOT a complaint born in racism, conscious or unconscious.  It is a complaint born of making a disrespectful choice.  And, ironically, a complaint in making a *racist* choice.

But hey, at least Jordan competed against a slew of other good actors and proved himself in the audition, right?  And some hispanics got seriously considered, right?

Oh...wait....

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@Psycho_Bunny I don't understand. Different writers and artists take different stances on characters all the time without permission from the creators

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