Yesterday, we reported that actress Zendaya was rumored to be PLAYING THE ROLE OF MARY JANE in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming film. Admittedly I expected to hear a lot more vehement outcry from fans on this one than we ended up getting (if you look at the comments in that article, everyone is being surprisingly civil — even those who aren’t too happy with her being cast. Go LRM readers!), but of course, there were a few bad eggs who couldn’t overlook the fact that Zendaya isn’t a redhead.
If there’s one person who isn’t one to stay quiet on social media, it’s Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. He took to Facebook to express his two cents on the knee-jerk reaction some fans had to the casting rumor — it’s also worth noting that James Gunn stated he still has no idea which role Zendaya is playing, so he has no clue if the rumor is true.
Gunn started out by stating that he understands the frustrations fans have when they feel a fundamental trait of one of their favorite characters gets misinterpreted in the translation from script to film:
“That said, I do not believe a character is the color of his or her skin. When Michael B Jordan was cast as Johnny Storm I didn’t understand the uproar. The primary characteristic of Johnny was not, to me, that he was white, or that he had blonde hair, but that he was a fiery, funny, big-mouthed braggart of a hero. I was happy that he was going to be played by one of the finest and most charming young actors out there.
“Yesterday, a rumor broke out that the character of Mary Jane was being played by a young black woman, Zendaya, and all hell broke out on the Internet (again). I tweeted that if people find themselves complaining about Mary Jane’s ethnicity they have lives that are too good.
“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.”
The man definitely has a point. As much as Mary Jane’s red hair is an iconic trait, I agree that her personality and relationship with Peter Parker is leaps and bounds more important than the color of her skin and hair. Then again, I’ve never been a person to get bent out of shape of a character from a book has a different hair color than what was described.
It all depends on how much you weight those physical traits as important aspects of the character. At the end of the day, comic book fans have had their favorite characters butchered in the past — it’s not as though that’s never happened. However, in recent years, we’ve lived in a world where our favorite characters are treated with a great deal of reverence, and where that’s been most important has been in their personalities.
Marvel Studios is one that has proven themselves more than capable of understanding that distinction over the years, and given their involvement in Spider-Man: Homecoming, we can likely rest easy knowing they’ll get the core of her character right.
Spider-Man: Homecoming hits theaters on July 7, 2017.
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RELATED: ZENDAYA PLAYING MARY JANE WATSON?
SOURCE: James Gunn