Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Breaking the boundaries of superhero typecasting

A reboot of the Spiderman film franchise is under way and amongst those who are being consider for the prime spot as your friendly neighborhood web slinger is an actor named Donald Glover,best known for his work on the hit NBC sitcom "Community" and as a writer on 30 Rock. Technically,he's not on the list of top contenders but there is an internet campaign,fueled by Twitter and Facebook to get the guy an audition(which is what he really wants,a shot at the role).

I say,go for it,buddy-if it gets him in the door to at least meet with the director and helps him land the part,great. Casting a part like this should be based on talent and just because Glover is a comedian,that doesn't count him out. Folks had their doubts about Michael Keaton playing Batman and he turned out to be one of the better actors to tackle that caped crusader persona on screen.

Sadly,the ugly talk of race comes up here,with cranky pedantic questions like "Well,could Tom Cruise be Blank Panther then?" No,he couldn't,any more than Tommy Lee Jones should be Wonder Woman. The guidelines for something like this are really about the writing of the character and what traits are determined to define him/her.

Certain characters in all forms of fiction are sometimes given by their authors inherent physical/emotional traits that either work for or against them. This is done to either heighten the action of the story and/or to add more depth to the pretend players on the stage.

When it comes to comic book characters,those key identity factors are boilerplate basic for the most part but occasionally you get a character specifically written as a certain outsider type in society whose power off plays his/her perceived setback-Daredevil is blind,Professor X is in a wheelchair,etc.

A lot of the classic superheroes we know and love were originally created as white due to the standards of the time frame in which they were created but could easily be switched over to other races. Superman,after all,is a refugee from a dying world who fights to protect his adopted planet and it's people. Plenty of actors could slip into that role and be believable regardless of their ethic origins.

With Spiderman,it's even easier due to his costume that covers him from head to toe. As fashion guru Tim Gunn points out,it could be anyone under that suit. Spiderman has a real Everyman quality about him that even the gang at The Electric Company was clued into years ago. Just keep him in New York and fans should be fine with that:

Another important point in casting anyone for a movie should be suitability in terms of talent and persona. Some people just shouldn't play certain roles because they are not right for them,period. Nicholas Cage being Superman? A bad idea that was fortunately nipped in the bud. He's too weird and off beat to pull that off. Megan Fox as Wonder Woman? Hell to the no-she's much too bland and cookie cutter to successfully play the Amazon princess in all of her glory.

Some folks were not thrilled with Halle Berry as Storm in the X-Men movies or as Catwoman-why? Because she didn't have the powerhouse charisma required for either one of those roles. I personally would have cast Angela Bassett as Storm and in the case of Catwoman,not even Meryl Streep could have saved that sorry mess of a movie.

It didn't help Berry's case when in one scene,she imitated Eartha Kitt's growl. Granted,the writing on the Batman series in the sixties was rather hokey but Kitt overcame that with her own sense of sass and style. Charisma can make weak material sing but you have to have it on hand in the first place:

In the end,what matters is that we get a good version of the story with the perfect storm of great writing,acting and visual eye candy. Adding diversity to the casting is fine,just as long as it done for the right reasons and not as a gimmick,which would be an insult to the actors and the audience.

Also,fans should not get overly attached to character appearances,unless it is crucial to the plot. Giving Quasimodo a straight spine,for example,is worth complaining about but arguing over a blonde being cast instead of a brunette on a sci-fi/fantasy series is not. If the movie or TV show is thematically in sync with the source material,get it over,seriously.

Good luck to Donald Glover,and hey,if the internet can bring Betty White an SNL gig,who knows what other pop culture goodies a fierce fandom can give to us all. However,always hold in mind that with great power comes great responsibility. Use your powers wisely,fervent Facebook followers!:

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