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How do all of you feel when they race swap characters?

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The first (and only time) that I gave a crap was when they cast Will Smith as James West in The Wild Wild West movie. Mostly because the series was a childhood favorite of mine and I just knew that he would Will Smith the character up. And he did. But then the entire movie was such a dumpster fire that it ended up not mattering. And Kenneth Branagh as Miguelito Loveless? I know Peter Dinklage wasn't a thing yet but, "Hey, instead of a dwarf let's have him be legless. That's almost a dwarf" was not the answer.



Ertha Kitt did play Selena Kyle/Catwoman on the TV show, right?
Oh yes! (Forgot about that, momentarily.)

That's perhaps one of the earliest changing an established character's race... and we know, due to the time period, it wasn't because of a huge social outcry for diversity or political correctness on screen (although it was the height of the civil rights movement).

Eartha Kitt happened to be a huge megastar at that point (even more so internationally than in the U.S.) and she was available when Julie Newmar became unavailable.

Eartha did an exceptional job at making the role her own.
But one unfortunate bit of trivia - when Eartha came on, all allusions to romance and the very obvious sexual tension between Newmar's Catwoman and Batman was dropped. Obviously, they were in no hurry to compete with Star Trek's first interracial kiss on TV.



Oh yes! (Forgot about that, momentarily.)

That's perhaps one of the earliest changing an established character's race... and we know, due to the time period, it wasn't because of a huge social outcry for diversity or political correctness on screen (although it was the height of the civil rights movement).

Eartha Kitt happened to be a huge megastar at that point (even more so internationally than in the U.S.) and she was available when Julie Newmar became unavailable.

Eartha did an exceptional job at making the role her own.
But one unfortunate bit of trivia - when Eartha came on, all allusions to romance and the very obvious sexual tension between Newmar's Catwoman and Batman was dropped. Obviously, they were in no hurry to compete with Star Trek's first interracial kiss on TV.
I recently watched all the episodes of the original 1960s TV Batman show. What a fun kick that was! I loved Julie Newmar's Catwoman, she really reminds me of someone, but...never mind...no one would believe that story

I really dug Eartha Kitt as Catwoman too. I don't know how fans reacted to her back in the 60s? But I doubt anyone thought it was race swapping, just a different actress playing a part as the original wasn't available.



Hey, I wonder where's the one who started the thread

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Hey, I wonder where's the one who started the thread


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Victim of The Night
The first (and only time) that I gave a crap was when they cast Will Smith as James West in The Wild Wild West movie. Mostly because the series was a childhood favorite of mine and I just knew that he would Will Smith the character up. And he did. But then the entire movie was such a dumpster fire that it ended up not mattering. And Kenneth Branagh as Miguelito Loveless? I know Peter Dinklage wasn't a thing yet but, "Hey, instead of a dwarf let's have him be legless. That's almost a dwarf" was not the answer.
I agree with you almost completely except that it didn't matter in any way that the actor was black (Denzel, for example, would have been wonderful) but yes I was a childhood fan and I knew Smith would Smith it up and ruin it and he did, it was awful.



I agree with you almost completely except that it didn't matter in any way that the actor was black (Denzel, for example, would have been wonderful) but yes I was a childhood fan and I knew Smith would Smith it up and ruin it and he did, it was awful.

And there wasn't anything untoward about it in terms of agenda. Will Smith was on top of the world at the time so he was just a "big name actor" to plug into the "franchise role." The whole world loved Smith, so why wouldn't you choose him as a lead? The implied act was not one of "updating" or "checking boxes" or "changing" (e.g., not like the modern expectation that any redheaded character is at risk of being swapped "in the name of").



In this case, the whole approach of the film was wrong. It was just a bad movie and we all recognized that and it was no big deal (these days there is often a moral outcry when updated characters don't sell tickets, as if audiences are obligated to simply show up and watch as an act of solidarity), and we all had a laugh about the goofy mechanical spider.






Victim of The Night
And there wasn't anything untoward about it in terms of agenda. Will Smith was on top of the world at the time so he was just a "big name actor" to plug into the "franchise role." The whole world loved Smith, so why wouldn't you choose him as a lead? The implied act was not one of "updating" or "checking boxes" or "changing" (e.g., not like the modern expectation that any redheaded character is at risk of being swapped "in the name of").



In this case, the whole approach of the film was wrong. It was just a bad movie and we all recognized that and it was no big deal (these days there is often a moral outcry when updated characters don't sell tickets, as if audiences are obligated to simply show up and watch as an act of solidarity), and we all had a laugh about the goofy mechanical spider.



True story, it is the last movie I ever got up and walked out of.



Errrr, zero problem with it at all. Why would there be?

Unless the character is well known for being white, historically like Bill Clinton or something.
They did this quite a bit in The Essex Serpent even though it was anachronistic. Didnít make any difference to me. I dislike watching a movie or tv show where they easily can have a diverse cast, but they stick with all white actors, which makes no sense.
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I agree with you almost completely except that it didn't matter in any way that the actor was black (Denzel, for example, would have been wonderful) but yes I was a childhood fan and I knew Smith would Smith it up and ruin it and he did, it was awful.
"How do all of you feel when they race swap characters?"

Wow. You really seemed to go out of your way to misinterpret my post and put me on the defensive. I don't know what to tell you. Except to reiterate that it was the one and only time my experience would apply to the question posed by the OP.



Eh, never mind. I guess maybe I misinterpreted your post.



They did this quite a bit in The Essex Serpent even though it was anachronistic. Didnít make any difference to me. I dislike watching a movie or tv show where they easily can have a diverse cast, but they stick with all white actors, which makes no sense.
For me, it all depends on if the characters are established as having definitive qualities.
Ethnicity is both inherent and formative - it's one undeniable factor (among many) that make people who they are.

I will admit to a bias: I care much less when they change a character's race for a movie when I don't care about (or know about or have not followed) a character or story, but I do care when it's a character that I may have grown up with or who's story is part of my history (in that it affected, entertained or taught me).

So, I have to consider, it doesn't matter the character, the story or the franchise - there will be people as dedicated to their characters as I am to mine. (This consideration seems to be one that a lot of filmmakers have forgotten to take into account.)

And this doesn't have to be just about race - it can be about any inherent or definitive characteristic that defines a character - I was angry when they made Dr. Doom into an apparently American business tycoon (with the powers of Electro & Colossus no less!) instead of a European monarch from a fictional Baltic country in the Fantastic Four (2005) movie... and the subsequent movies have only taken him further from the definitive character he once was since then.

Now, I know the history of the west, of the media, of entertainment, and of Hollywood - and I'm all for a rebalancing of the scales for more equal representation - but not by sacrificing established characters to political correctness via forced race (or nationality, religion, orientation, age, etc.) changes.

It depends on the medium or story, but in the realm of comics, creators in the Silver Age were forward thinking and created a lot of diversity since the late 60's which film makers could choose from (but they'd rather change well-known characters, even those nearly a century old, rather than choose from a well-spring of already diverse characters because that's what they think their agenda demands).

I'm also for creating new characters (so that established ones don't HAVE to be altered). Back in the 90's, DC Comics came out with a new "imprint" line of books called "Milestone" (that was eventually integrated into their larger universe) and which featured ethnic minority heroes so that there was greater representation in comics. No problem with this - established characters didn't have to be altered and new characters were introduced.

I sense something underlying here by SOME creators who engage in race changing - I don't think the motive is ALWAYS or ENTIRELY an altruistic one... they not only seem to want to put their proverbial mustache on the Mona Lisa, but there seems to be a desire to hurt or disrespect long-time & older fans because those fans represent something the new, woke creators seek to degrade & destroy rather than honor.

Some who are always looking to be offended have identified "offense" as both their own, standard, knee-jerk reaction to ANYTHING they don't like or don't agree with, and as a weapon. Thus they are ready to try to use it themselves against others at any given opportunity.



Race-swapping and color-blind casting all seem to be illustrations of how we're a long way from being finished with race issues. We're also a long way from even defining race since most of us have some mixes in our background somewhere. My own genealogy quest gave me some surprises. My take on it is that it depends on whether the apparent visual race of the character is an essential part of the character....e.g., a black mob of klansmen in 1890 Alabama, or a bio-pic about Malcom X portrayed by an asian might not work well. Whether an actor can portray the character when the racial identity of the character is an essential part of what the movie is about seems to be a long continuum and how far you can stray from the bare truth "depends". Sometimes, even reality can make this confusing. -




Anyone remember this one?



This remake of the 80's rom-com with Rob Lowe and Demi Moore was a mess.


Not to mention:



This bastardization of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? only gets mild respect as one of the final film projects for the late Bernie Mac.



Race swapping is ok except when it’s not. JFK can’t be portrayed as black & MLK can’t be portrayed as white. Other than examples like this, race swapping is fine IMO.



Since we're still talking about this dubious topic, we might sketch out some tentative criteria.

1. Is the character an actual historical character with known "race"/ethnicity? This is the most sensitive, but Bob Dylan has been played by a female and an 11-year-old African American in the same film, which no one cared about On the other hand, Anne Boleyn was played by a black actress Jodie Turner-Smith which resulted in controversy. NOTE: If you really want Western culture to be replicated (i.e., ideas, values, principles), then it is probably a good idea to invite POC to imagine themselves as Brittains of yore. On the other hand, some people thought that Oliver Stone's JFK is a documentary (some people even appear to have thought Wakanda was a real African nation), so historical accuracy might count for something too. You be the judge.

2. Is the character fictional, but part of a group which is/was historical actual (i.e., real) with uniform "racial"/ethnic characteristics (e.g., Vikings, Samurai)? This is less sensitive, but is still within the realm of the historical, so the above concerns still apply, just not as acutely.

3. Is the character fictional and part of a fictional group which is - nevertheless - based on/representative of an historically actual group with uniform racial characteristics in a fantasy setting (e.g., Lord of the Rings)? Less sensitive still, and more of a question of respecting the original artwork. EX: George Takei taking a strong principled stance against making Sulu a gay character (because the original character was not gay and the change in the JJ-verse has more to do with Takei's sexual identity/preference than anything that was said of Sulu on the show or in the films).

4. A fictional character in a fictional world or, more or less, in a part of the "real world" which is multicultural, multiethnic, and multiracial
(e.g., modern London is 36% white) such that anyone might plausible have been that person? Who cares? NOTE: Unless, of course, the change is made from black to white, female to male, gay to straight, in which case the Twitter mob will object as a matter of course.

The further we go down the list, the less the change matters -- unless the move is seen as a sort of intentional colonization or erasure of the "other". EX: M-SHE-U started off as a joke about gender swapping characters, but this now appears to be a systemic change to the Marvel landscape. There is an intentional effort to combat toxic/traditional masculinity by erasing male heroes with female heroes and this is upsetting some people. Ditto for Kathleen Kennedy and Co.'s odd assertions that "The Force is Female" and that the Empire is "a white-supremacist organization." Whether you like it or hate it doesn't matter, these are not cases of "random" or "whimsical" flips of race or gender but systematized attempts to change institutional practices of cultural story-telling.



To the OP: if you come here to start a dialogue (fight), use punctuation and paragraphs. Nobody has got the time or the inclination to read that mess.


As for the question, my answer is I do not care. But I think people want to see themselves and their stories in the media and this may be where our society needs to do better.



..JFK canít be portrayed as black...
I have an idea! An alternative history movie about JFK as America's first black president could be intriguing with lots of narrative possibilities AND tons of free press from all of the buzz such a controversial movie would make. Geez, I wish I was a director/producer and I'd make that movie! Guaranteed, no matter how bad it was it would make money.