Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Fantastic Four Nerds--No Chill

by Nani Lawrence, Writing Intern

There’s great demand for superhero movies lately. Some studios have even remade modern hero flicks, like Spider-Man.

This week, the new Fantastic Four movie releases to theaters. Promotion for it, since its announcement, hasn’t exactly gone smoothly.

Fans of the original comic book criticized some (mostly only one) of the casting decisions. Twentieth Century Fox cast Michael B. Jordan, of Fruitvale Station and That Awkward Moment, as Johnny Storm AKA The Human Torch. The original comic book character had blonde hair, blue eyes, and seemingly most importantly, white skin.

Fans understandably long for a perfect representation of their childhood heroes. Everyone knows every book in the past adapted well to the screen, and it’s easy to fit the entire likeness into only a few hours. Unluckily for them, those two movies with Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, and Ioan Gruffud never came to fruition about a decade ago.

The actor portraying The Human Torch penned a letter calmly addressing the outrage, as did director Josh Trank.

For his part, Jordan saw the re-imagining as more realistic. Showing a diverse family reflects what many real families look like today. The world generally accepts more diversity now than when the comic came out, he said. “Plus, if Stan Lee writes an email to my director saying, 'You're good. I'm okay with this,' who am I to go against that?"

Similarly, Trank showed immense respect towards fan’s feelings, while still defending the decision. He said:

I get it. I have a lot of friends who are older than me who are comic fans and it’s really hard for them to be on board with a change like that. ‘Fantastic Four’ has been theirs for longer than I’ve been alive. It hasn’t been mine. It only speaks to the greatness of any story that has been told for decades or centuries that people still want to tell that story. But you can’t just keep telling it the same way over and over again. And I think it only helps the world to be more honest with young kids, to show them the world that they go walk outside and see.

Bringing a sense of reality to Hollywood may prove to be a great thing, but that was not the end of the movie’s headaches.

With the release so close, three of the stars set out on a promotional tour. Kate Mara,
Michael B. Jordan, and Jamie Bell ended up in front of Atlanta’s Rock 100.5 Mornings’ hosts on July 30th.  According to Yahoo! News, host Jason Bailey expressed confusion as to how Jordan and Mara’s characters could possibly be related. “You’re white and you’re black. How does that happen?” he said. Jordan calmly replied that there are several family dynamics “that could be without the obvious adoption.” Jordan’s response largely reflected his earlier letter. Please applaud Rock 100.5 Mornings’ impressive research skills.

Worse still, the other host, Steven Rickman, commented that Mara looked “hot, really hot” with longer hair. She replied several times that she cut it for a role, but that didn’t matter. After an awkward period of pressing the issue, and even slight interference from Bailey, the shock jock commented on Mara’s “fine” toes. The interview ended shortly after.

Many outlets rightly jumped on the chance to call out the show. Not only was it awkward, but also racist and sexist, according to headlines.

The first question comes off more mindless than anything. Jordan’s proclamation of “obvious” seems an understatement. It’s hard to imagine a full-grown man can’t understand the complexities of adoption or second marriages.  All the other comments seem harassing, as Bailey pointed out, “creepy,” and maybe a bit sexist. But the cast handled it well.

Choosing media outlets more carefully may be the lesson to learn from all of this. Especially when there’s already manufactured controversy surrounding a film. Though, the media needs to realize the hosts didn’t take the interview seriously. It seems they just wanted to bring up old issues for ratings’ sake. When that didn’t work, Rickman decided to talk at a woman about her appearance. Controversy makes for good entertainment. Rush Limbaugh was very popular once.

It might also be good not to jump on bandwagons, and call the hosts what they really are: attention-seeking.  


  1. Johnny is more about attitude than looks. I think Michael B. Jordan has more than demonstrated that he understands the character. That's the most important thing. Johnny Storm is a surprisingly complex character. Jordan gets the reasons Johnny acts the way he does. I think he'll do an amazing job, because of this.

    As far as the whole white sister/black brother thing goes: What difference does it make? Honestly. We have mixed families. It's a thing. It's nothing more than plain damn racism and people should be ashamed of themselves.

    I say all this as someone who learned to read thanks to Fantastic Four comics. I love Johnny. All younger siblings do.


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