Casual Racism: The Superhero Edition

Henry Cavill has been cast as Superman!

Let’s just get this out of the way now: Henry Cavill just got cast as Superman in Zack Snyder’s upcoming reboot of the franchise. And I’m pretty damn excited. But that’s not what I’d like to discuss. What I’d like to talk to you about today is the immediate backlash of fans and non-fans alike to the fact that Mr. Cavill is not American.

Now, generally, these “complaints” have come about in sort of a joking way. They’re casual little quips on twitter or message boards or comment sections of online news purveyors. They’re little things that are almost clever but not really. Like “I wonder if he can speak english… haw haw haw.” Now, that’s not a direct quote. I’ll admit I’m sort of paraphrasing based on multiple similar posts I’ve seen around the web in the past few hours, but I will say one thing: if you actually posted that, you might be functionally retarded.

This post was never meant to become something preachy about how casual racism is still racism and you should feel bad about it. Should you feel bad about it? A little. It’s not like you’re a KKK member or a genocide advocate (if you are, yes, you should definitely feel bad). And I’m not going to pretend that our society’s hatred of anything not politically correct isn’t upsetting, especially for a comedy writer.

What I’m saying is that the three biggest [American] superhero icons (Batman, Spider-man in the upcoming reboot, and now Superman) are being played by British people. And it doesn’t actually matter. First and foremost, these people are actors. They act. They become characters. I could understand the backlash if the characters were twisted to fit those actors. But Superman being played by a British guy is not going to change the fact that the character will still be an alien rocketed to Earth, raised in Kansas, and primarily basing his operations in America. It will not change the fact that the character is truly the ultimate immigrant. That’s just who Superman is.

You want to be upset about something? The new Captain America movie, initially titled “The First Avenger: Captain America” is now being marketed as simply “The First Avenger” to some foreign audiences. From a business standpoint, I get it. You can pretend that Captain America isn’t an American imperialist icon all you want, but that was pretty much the point of the character when he was created. Other countries probably don’t like that. After all, he’s an American soldier leading other American soldiers against foreign adversaries (yes, he’s also a superhero, but that won’t be the primary focus of the film and it won’t be how the character will be portrayed). So I get that. You can also pretend that they only made that decision so they could somehow fix that god awful title. But, ultimately, it seems to be part of a growing trend: being ashamed of our country.

I don’t consider myself to be someone with any sort of political agenda. I don’t follow a specific party. I have no loyalty to anything but the Bill of Rights. So, from an observational standpoint, it seems like the media is frequently engaged in the act of making us apologize for being American. We are portrayed as rude, fat, ignorant, war mongering.

Well, fuck that. America is pretty damn kick ass. And I am sick of apologizing for being awesome. It isn’t rude to speak to your mind. It doesn’t make you a terrible person to eat what you want to eat. We only have a short time on this earth so I have no intention of stopping anyone from doing what they enjoy and if they want that heart attack, more power to them. Furthermore, ignorant people exist everywhere on earth. They aren’t geographically localized. And war is inevitable. I’m sorry to say that we don’t live in a world where a military isn’t necessary. Do I understand the point of most wars? No. And, from what I’ve seen, a lot of the people around me don’t either.

So here’s what it took me seven hundred words to say: don’t be upset that “American” icons are being portrayed by non-American actors. The only “true” Americans live on reservations and had their cultures nearly destroyed hundreds of years ago anyway. Be upset if and when those characters, those icons, are misrepresented, dumbed down, broken, or otherwise apologized for.

3 Responses to “Casual Racism: The Superhero Edition”
  1. yakofujimato says:

    Do you even understand the word ‘racism’?’ You clearly don’t, the British are not a “race”, they are an ethnicity. So perhaps you may want to understand what a term means before you go on the internet and pretend to be an intellectual!

  2. yakofujimato says:

    And as for “true Americans”, you clearly don’t understand that ‘Native Americans’ also came to North America and are not really “native”.

    Are you in 4th grade or so?

  3. Ash says:

    Sorry for responding so late, Yakofujimato. I haven’t logged in for a while so I wasn’t aware my post had gotten any comments. With regards to your first comment, I share my opinion on racism with that of the United Nations: there simply is no distinction between racial discrimination and discrimination based on ethnicity. You can feel free to disagree, that’s just my perspective. From a writing standpoint, the word “racism” is far more powerful, which is why I chose to use it. And I don’t understand why I’d have to be an “intellectual” to write this post. It’s fairly straightforward. No big words. Though I can understand why a reasonable argument on the internet would be strange and therefore infuriating to you.

    Regarding your second comment, you may notice that in the post I also put the words “American” and “true” in quotes. I did so because I believe the distinction to be arbitrary at best. I’m sorry if this upset you. And I am not in fourth grade. I believe we learned about Native Americans in second grade in my school district. Perhaps yours is just slow.

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