The 5 Most Insulting Defenses of Nerd Racism
News has broken that Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle) is being considered to play Johnny Storm (The Human Torch) in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot. Naturally, comic book fans across the Internet are furious, because they've had it with all the reboots and just want to preserve the magic of the 2005 original -- oh, wait, no. They're angry because Michael B. Jordan is black. And in the comics, Johnny Storm is white.
Consider the Internet's bitch switch flipped.
But these Fantastic Four fans aren't mad because they're racist (they insist). No, their reasons are much more complicated, because ...
"It's Not About Race"
See, these complaints aren't about the character's race; they're about not changing the character's race. If that sounds confusing and contradictory, that's because it is. Let's look at a full quote:
"Might we offer a rejoinder- oh, never mind. The discussion has ended."
The writer starts out insisting that the argument isn't about race and then spends the rest of the post talking exclusively about race. And this isn't a new sentiment among comic fans -- let's go back in time a bit and see what people thought when Marvel first debuted half-black/half-Latino Miles Morales as the new Spider-Man:
"Seriously, though, Daredevil is lame. End of discussion."
Apart from randomly taking a big shit all over Daredevil, this person insists that his anger over Spider-Man's race isn't about race, but the fact that Marvel is changing the race of one of the most iconic comic book characters. Which is still about race. Also, they aren't actually changing anybody's race -- Peter Parker is a white guy, but this Spider-Man isn't Peter Parker. So the person here isn't even mad about altering an existing character's racial background -- he's simply against Spider-Man's costume being worn by anyone but a white person. Which, again, is still about race. Maybe another quote will clear things up:
"Non-issues are the ones worth writing about!"
"Revealing that a big chunk of our fans are racist cockholes" doesn't seem like a great publicity stunt to us, but that's probably why we're not big-city publicists.
"You May as Well Just Change Everything Then!"
To these people, a race change doesn't just change the character's skin color -- it upsets the entire balance of the Marvel universe:
But if we just did things the same way forever, the civil rights movement would never have- oh.
You'd think that, of all people, comic book fans would be the most accepting of change, what with all the time travel, cloning, and people constantly dying and coming back to life that occur in comic books all the goddamn time. You can't go more than a few years in a comic series without every character's backstory getting completely rewritten. Heck, changing Nick Fury from a white guy to a black guy became a celebrated move once people stopped complaining about it. Oh, wait, they still haven't, and it's been 10 damn years.
Also, making Sue taller and changing Reed's hair color don't sound that weird to us because, you know, they're fictional people. That's like being upset when January Jones got cast as the White Queen despite her skin not actually being made of diamond.
Who the hell wouldn't watch an all-black Star Trek?
Yeah, because Fantastic Four is a huge cultural litmus test, and we all know how much Hollywood loves casting black people in their movies.
"This Ruins the Lore!"
Since Sue Storm (the Invisible Woman) is Johnny's sister, many objectors have pointed out that making Johnny black will mean that Sue must also be black, at which point the Earth will apparently explode:
This is courageously ignoring the fact that, even if Sue is white and Johnny is black, one of them could've been adopted. Or they could be half-siblings. Or any one of the thousands of possible explanations for a multiracial family. People are pointing right to the "But this character's race will change, too!" observation without bothering to explain why it's an actual problem in the first place ...
"And then what? Up will be down, dogs will marry cats, the Hot Pockets will microwave us!"
... which you should probably be thankful for, actually, because once people start trying to defend why having a black Sue Storm is a bad idea, things get awful pretty fast:
"Two black people is just lunacy!"
Waitaminute ... this person isn't really saying that having a black person in the Fantastic Four would ruin the team, are they?
Oh, whew. It's OK, everyone. It's not because he's racist, it's because he doesn't like the way black people make white people look when they fight crime together. Glad we got that cleared up. And evidently the Fantastic Four were created 80 years ago, back in 1961.
Believe it or not, plenty of people argue that having a black superhero is unrealistic, period, regardless of whether the character was originally written as white. This weird argument shows up unbidden any time race and superheroes are brought up. Here's a charming thesis about why Superman could never be black:
"Black people just can't blend in." -Someone who's never visited any town larger than a truck stop.
Because when you see a huge white guy in spandex (Clark Kent looks nothing like an average person -- he's a hulking man mass) punch a building across the highway while you're on the way to work, you think to yourself, "Oh, it must be Thursday." But if a muscular black guy did it (all black guys are big and muscular, right?), you'd freak out and drive your car into the ocean just to make the madness stop.
But this is nothing compared to what people thought about the new Spider-Man:
Incidentally, you can't see that he's black because Spider-Man's mask and costume cover every inch of his body, but the fact that this guy doesn't seem to know anything about Spider-Man's costume is actually the least of our concerns.
And things got really weird when people started arguing that Heimdall, a god from the Thor mythology, couldn't be played by Idris Elba, despite the fact that we would've happily watched Idris Elba play Captain America because Idris Elba is awesome:
If the silliest part of a movie about interdimensional gods with magic lightning hammers is that one of them is black, you are clearly racist. This is a non-argument anyway -- the Asgardians are gods, they look like whatever they want to look like. Hogun, one of Thor's warrior buddies, is clearly Asian in both the comics and the movies, and nobody is sitting around wondering where all the rest of the Asian Asgardians are. Also, what logical reason is there for all of the Asgardians to be white? Is that the default setting of gods?
As dumb as these arguments have all been, they're nothing compared to the last one ...
"Why Don't We Make Black Characters White, Then?"
For some reason, people who don't understand hypocrisy sure do enjoy trying to point it out:
"Superhero race equilibrium must be maintained at ALL COSTS!"
"I can't handle arguments longer than two words!"
And again, this isn't a new argument. The same things were said about Heimdall:
"Slavery and comic books are equally real. Why does everyone keep calling me a racist?"
The thing is, the only reason these characters were white in the first place was that comic books were created in a time when nobody would have printed a book about a non-white superhero (having female superheroes was difficult enough, and they were handled with something less than dignity). But nowadays, the people responsible for these characters are trying to make their properties as inclusive and welcoming as they possibly can, because everybody likes comic books, not just white people.
So actually, maybe racist nerds do have a good reason to be angry -- they're angry because the comic industry has outgrown them.
J.F. Sargent is a Workshop moderator for Cracked and can be harassed about this on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.