Yesterday, The Wrap dropped a big scoop on Spider-Man: Homecoming involving the identity of Zendaya’s character in the film. According to the report, Zendaya is set to play Mary Jane Watson in the film, making the her the first nonwhite actress to portray the character. As per usual, whenever the casting of a traditionally white character is given to a person of color, the internet’s reaction can get pretty interesting to say the least. Examples that come to mind are Michael B. Jordan’s casting as Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four as well as Tilda Swinton’s casting as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange.
James Gunn, director of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and the upcoming sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 had his own two cents on the matter. The director shared his thoughts via his Facebook page:
For me, if a character’s primary attribute – the thing that makes them iconic – is the color of their skin, or their hair color, frankly, that character is shallow and sucks. For me, what makes MJ MJ is her alpha female playfulness, and if the actress captures that, then she’ll work. And, for the record, I think Zendaya even matches what I think of as MJ’s primary physical characteristics – she’s a tall, thin model – much more so than actresses have in the past.
Whatever the case, 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. Perhaps we can be open to the idea that, although someone may not initially match how we personally conceive a character, we can be – and often are – happily surprised.
Gunn also responded to a fan question on his Twitter account:
If you’re complaining about the ethnicity of Mary Jane your life is too good. https://t.co/b6XDUpRQ3i
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) August 19, 2016
In his Facebook post, Gunn also mentions that he had read the film’s script and has met Zendaya. He neither confirmed nor denied that the actress is indeed playing Mary Jane Watson. I for one agree with Gunn’s sentiments and believe that audiences are continuing to have an open mind towards these types of casting decisions. One of the most important things that studios such as Marvel and DC should commit to is to diversify their films’ casts so it can further reflect the world around us. It’s not a matter of social justice, but rather a promotion of empathizing with another human that may look different from yourself. I am excited to see what Zendaya brings to this role when we finally see Spider-Man: Homecoming swing into theaters on July 7, 2017.
Source: James Gunn via Facebook