The Human Torch is a member of Marvel’s Fantastic Four. The Fantastic Four sometimes referred to as Marvel’s “first family” because Johnny Storm (the Human Torch) is the brother of Sue Storm (the Invisible Woman), and they were one of the first modern era heroes in the Marvel Universe.
Johnny Storm is, and has always been, a white character.
In the last failed attempt to make a Fantastic Four movie, before Marvel reclaimed the film rights, black actor, Michael B. Jordan, was cast as Johnny Storm.
Many long-time Marvel fans were angry about this and were consequently labeled as “racist.”
But what those people failed to see is that it was racist to change is race, in the first place. Why would you do that? Just to force diversity into the story? Was it marketing? Did they figure black Marvel fans wouldn’t see the film if there wasn’t a black actor in it?
What indicated it was even more obviously forced is that Susan Storm was played by a white actor. Obviously, you can have mixed race parents who end up with a seemingly white or black child, but now you’ve called even more attention to race when it’s really not something that matters.
Fast forward to the Hallmark Channel’s 2020 slate of Christmas specials, and you will see the same sort of thing. Watching a few of this past year’s Christmas movies would leave you believing that every small town in America has a prominent gay couple, a transgender couple, a black couple, and an amazing balance of diversity all across the town.
Meanwhile, we are inundated with commercial websites, television advertising, and streaming films that force minorities, gays, and transgenders into absolutely everything you see. It becomes obvious quickly that either Hollywood has never visited the United States or they have an agenda that supersedes the art.
This country, and this world, is full of people with all sorts of different physical characteristics and core beliefs, and it’s fine to represent them. But to continually, and awkwardly, shove it down the throat of the American audience threatens to backfire because it makes things like your otherwise innocuous visit to U.S. Bank a political moment because you can’t help but notice the marketing department is trying a little too hard.
Often, when I point this out to people, some say, “it doesn’t matter.” They’re just characters, and they could be anyone. There’s no agenda there.
But if it doesn’t matter, then why do it? Why go out of your way to place characters awkwardly in a show or ad to the point of over-representation? I mean, if it doesn’t matter…?
And this is why it matters. Because it doesn’t matter. Whether or not people are black, gay, asian, white, or anything else doesn’t matter when I’m banking.
If I go to U.S. Bank’s website, I just need the website to work. It needs to be an intuitive experience, and I need to be able to conduct my business. Who’s pictured on the site is irrelevant.
But it’s made relevant by the sheer number of pictures of gay couples and black couples. It didn’t matter until they made it matter by vastly over-representing those two groups – one of whom actually represents about 4.5% of the country while the other represents 13%.
If accuracy was being sought, it is about those percentages of the time that we would see the corresponding representation. But instead, as corporations fall all over themselves letting people in various aggrieved groups know their money is welcome here, we make things like being gay or black – things that don’t really matter – suddenly matter.
Instead of moving society beyond a time when those trivial details matter to anyone, we’re constantly pulling people back to make them matter over and over again.
This is why we are a long way from moving forward as a society.