It’s safe to say that Fantastic Four has received a pretty steady stream of online criticism since well before it was revealed in the first trailer. People didn’t like that the rebooted super-team was going to be young, they didn’t like that the movie was being described as “grounded” and “gritty,” and they definitely didn’t like that Doctor Doom was being reimagined as a programmer named Victor Domashev.
But probably the dumbest of the criticisms has been the one about Michael B. Jordan playing Johnny Storm a.k.a The Human Torch. See, in the comics – either the Ultimate or the 616 universe – Johnny is a white, blond guy with a white, blonde, blood-related sister, Susan Storm a.k.a. The Invisible Woman. Michael B. Jordan, however, is a black guy, and in the movie, Susan Storm (Kate Mara) is his adopted sister. This has been a problem for those comic book fans who have difficulty with changes from page to screen, especially ones that involve skin color.
Jordan recently responded to the critics by penning an open letter for Entertainment Weekly. Read the full letter here, and check out a few of the highlights below:
You’re not supposed to go on the Internet when you’re cast as a superhero. But after taking on Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four—a character originally written with blond hair and blue eyes—I wanted to check the pulse out there. I didn’t want to be ignorant about what people were saying. Turns out this is what they were saying: “A black guy? I don’t like it. They must be doing it because Obama’s president” and “It’s not true to the comic.” Or even, “They’ve destroyed it!”
It used to bother me, but it doesn’t anymore. I can see everybody’s perspective, and I know I can’t ask the audience to forget 50 years of comic books. But the world is a little more diverse in 2015 than when the Fantastic Four comic first came out in 1961. 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?
To the trolls on the Internet, I want to say: Get your head out of the computer. Go outside and walk around. Look at the people walking next to you. Look at your friends’ friends and who they’re interacting with. And just understand this is the world we live in. It’s okay to like it.
There have been so arguments for why Jordan’s casting is all wrong – they truly run the gamut, from outright racism to anti-political correctness to wanting the movie to be more faithful to the comics to not wanting Susan Storm to adopted, etc. (many of which Jordan covers in his piece) – that it’s all gotten pretty ridiculous at this point. Frankly, none of them have ever held water for me.
There’s nothing about Johnny Storm’s character that requires he be a white guy, and in fact, from what we’ve seen in the trailer, Jordan seems to be perfectly suited for the role. He’s funny, he’s cool, and he’s something of a hothead. (Haha.) Likewise, how does Susan Storm being adopted hurt her character? I’d argue it adds another layer of interesting character development and conflict for the two as brother/sister, since their father seems to relate more to her (as a scientist) than he does to Johnny. As for the political correctness/racial quota argument, Jordan does a great job debunking that one on his own:
Some people may look at my casting as political correctness or an attempt to meet a racial quota, or as part of the year of ‘Black Film.’ Or they could look at it as a creative choice by the director, Josh Trank, who is in an interracial relationship himself—a reflection of what a modern family looks like today.
And really, what makes more sense, people? That Fox said, “Make Johnny Storm a black guy so we can meet our racial quota for the year,” or that director Josh Trank – who’s friends with Michael B. Jordan and has worked with him on Chronicle – decided to cast him for more legitimate reasons?
It’s anyone’s guess how good Fantastic Four will end up being when it releases in a couple months, but I have a feeling no matter how well it’s received, Jordan’s casting won’t even rank among the criticisms. In fact, it might end up being one of the more praised elements of the film.
Fantastic Four hits theaters on August 7th, 2015.