Friday, March 27, 2015

Not Blind To Visual Bias

Currently, there is rampant speculation on who will play Green Lantern in the upcoming Justice League movie(s). Even more, which Green Lantern will appear? For those unfamiliar with the character, several in what is known as the “Green Lantern Corps” originate from Earth:  Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner and Simon Baz. (There’s also the original Golden-Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott, but he’s really the Earth Two one, and only an honorary member of the Corps because…yada yada yada blah blah blah. I digress…) As for myself, I want Jordan to appear because that is whom I grew up reading; after all, he is a founding member both in previous and current canon. However, there are rumors that we may see Stewart – an idea I am not opposed to, but against for the previously mentioned reason concerning Jordan. If there were to be a solo Green Lantern/Green Lantern Corps reboot/sequel, a great plot would be Jordan handing the baton to Stewart who then could appear in subsequent Justice League movies as Green Lantern. But I digress…

Here's the “issue”:  Jordan is white, Stewart is black. Naturally, there is the desire to be more inclusive with a “minority” character in Stewart. Okay fine, but why can't Hal Jordan be “black”? Why does he have to be “white”? What really are people more concerned about – his characterization or his visual appearance? If a black actor were to portray Hal Jordan with all the proper characterizations of the comic books, is he not Hal Jordan? Of course he is. Only those who would be unwilling to accept it cannot see beyond his visual appearance. This is the same argument with the new Fantastic Four's Johnny Storm (played by Michael B. Jordan, but traditionally white), CW’s The Flash’s Iris West (played by Candace Patton, but traditionally a white redhead) and recent hypothetical discussions on Idris Elba becoming the next James Bond after Daniel Craig’s brilliant run. Again, if Elba, an outstanding British actor, orders a martini “shaken not stirred,” beds a handful of women and kills villains in the perfect mannerisms of Bond, is he not Bond? It's ridiculous to think otherwise, only because of an inherent inability by some to see past the visual appearance for the more important characterization.

There also is a pervasive gender issue with characterization. Recently, Marvel's Thor became a woman. I know, right? Weird. Not because of the gender switch in and of itself, more so because mythological Thor is a male. But so what? For starters, this is comic books. Second, does this female Thor not have the same characterizations and mannerisms of the male Thor? Yes, she does. My only minor unease with the announcement was that Marvel chose to use an established character such as Thor, rather than emphasize and boost one of the many other female characters already in its pantheon. Nevertheless, it's understandable why Marvel chose to do it:  1) in order to throw us off our high horse concerning gender roles, and 2) to make us rethink our traditional image of a character. Same goes for Starbuck on the television series, Battlestar Galactica. In the original 1970s version, Dirk Benedict played the character; in the remake, Katee Sackhoff – an ironic twist, having been written as a female for the original series. Yet, both superbly portrayed my favorite character as the endearing cigar-smoking gambler, libertine and wanton ace Viper pilot.

Thus, have we really moved that far from the stereotypically biased days of yore in our visual perceptions? As a society living in the 21st century, we like to think we are enlightened and above such backward thinking of looking but not seeing. But until we are willing to accept a Hal Jordan, James Bond or any other iconic character that doesn't fit our traditional and entrenched ideas and images of a character, we'll never move beyond a point where especially gender or race are no longer an issue. Our visual perceptions will not allow it unless we start training them to ignore such biases concerning a character, and actual people in general.

©2015 Steve Sagarra

No comments:

Post a Comment