While many of us were enjoying the 'Thor' trailer that hammered its way to the Internet last week, other factions were cooking up their opposition. No, they're not griping about Kenneth Branagh as director, or the potential plusses or minuses of Queen Amidala coming back to geek fare. They're ticked because Marvel's comic Norse God, Heimdall, is being played by black actor Idris Elba.
Though the depth of their involvement is unclear, the Council of Conservative Citizens, a hate group determined to stop racial diversity in America, is supporting a new "Boycott Thor" website. The site's mission statement derides Stan Lee for financing left-wing political candidates, noting that "Marvel has viciously attacked the TEA Party movement, conservatives and European heritage. Now they have taken it one further, casting a black man as a Norse deity in their new movie 'Thor.' Marvel has now inserted social engineering into European mythology."
The website is now getting press by a number of sources, and they've addressed the negative backlash against their anti-Elba stance. The site states that the news reports questioning their stance "are full of childish name-calling like 'racist.' The term 'racist' is what a left-winger says when he can not debate you on the facts. Both authors immediately resort to infantile name-calling rather than making their own arguments. They know they can't win based on the facts!"
Or, "racist" is used when a group of individuals want to stop a superhero movie from being made because they see it as an assault on European heritage and mythology. It's the presumption that race is the intolerable change in this scenario, though every comic and every film take wild leaps of creative freedom when telling their stories. The "white god" (for the light he emanated, not his skin color) Heimdallur is the basis for Marvel's creation, a loose adaptation that took any number of liberties with the story before Branagh decided to give the part to a talented actor. It's not a piece of European history, heritage or mythology. The characters are creative embellishments on a myth, living in a land that doesn't exist. (And, of course, that's to say nothing of the fact that the all-inclusive signifier "European heritage" does not represent some racially "pure" Hitleresque lineage.)
The website joins an early batch of geek unrest when the casting announcement was first made, the Guardian quoting fans shouting complaints like: "This PC crap has gone too far!" Elba, meanwhile, stated: "There has been a big debate about it: Can a black man play a Nordic character? Hang about, Thor's mythical, right? Thor has a hammer that flies to him when he clicks his fingers. That's okay, but the colour of my skin is wrong?"
Devin Faraci made a particularly apt comparison over at Badass Digest: "I've always felt there was a disturbing current of racism and homophobia that lies just under the surface of fandom, but it's hard to sometimes tell whether it's racial politics or semi-aspergian resistance to change that fuels hatred of casting choices like Michael Clark Duncan as Kingpin in 'Daredevil.' Still, it's disturbing to see a race hate group standing shoulder to shoulder with rank and file nerds when it comes to casting like this."
We've all had our semi-aspergian resistance. I remember a time when I was livid because Denzel Washington was going to play Gray Grantham in 'The Pelican Brief.' Why would this be so terrible? Because of one silly, inconsequential mention in the book of Grantham walking on the beach with his pasty white legs glaring in the sun. Thankfully, I realized the error of my ways.
At some point we all have to realize that changing the skin color of a fictional character is not an affront to anyone, and should be seen no differently than a different hairstyle, a modernized wardrobe or any of the other changes that fall on fictional figures, whether it's Spider-Man or a smaller supporting gig for Idris Elba.