Spider-Man: James Gunn addresses race controversy over Zendaya role
'I do not believe a character is the color of his or her skin,' says 'Guardians' director
Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn has weighed in on the controversy ignited by recent reports that the upcoming movie Spider-Man: Homecoming will change the race of a popular Marvel character. (Warning: This article contains potential Homecoming spoilers.)
On Thursday, the Wrap reported that the actress Zendaya, who is half black and half white, will play Homecoming‘s version of love interest Mary Jane Watson — a character traditionally portrayed as white. Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures declined to comment on the report, but it nevertheless generated much discussion online, some of which was not receptive to the potential change.
In a lengthy Facebook post published Friday, Gunn heartily endorsed the notion of casting actors of color to play traditionally white characters, as long as they can capture the essence of such characters. (He did note he was speaking hypothetically about Zendaya, as he didn’t know whether she is in fact playing Mary Jane. Jon Watts is directing Homecoming, which is due next summer.)
“People get upset when something they consider intrinsic to a comic book character changes when adapted for a film,” Gunn wrote. “I get this.”
While acknowledging that he doesn’t expect to change the minds of people who are “flat out racist,” Gunn said, “if we’re going to continue to make movies based on the almost all white heroes and supporting characters from the comics of the last century, we’re going to have to get used to them being more reflective of our diverse present world.”
Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t the first high-profile superhero movie to come under scrutiny for changing (or in this case, potentially changing) the race of a character. The casting of Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch in Fantastic Four provoked an outcry from some, while the casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange led to accusations of whitewashing.
Read Gunn’s full post below.