I woke up yesterday morning and saw that my Facebook feed had exploded because a new Batman had been announced. All my nerdy friends and ex-boyfriends were outraged and shocked that Ben Affleck was going to be stepping in as the Caped Crusader in the upcoming Batman-Superman (or Superman-Batman depending on your preferences) film announced for 2015.
Your New Batman, America
I can imagine that my friends were upset because Ben Affleck will be 43 years old when he puts on the cowl or that Affleck’s other super hero venture, Daredevil, was considered a huge flop or that Affleck’s career almost came to a Jennifer-Lopez-music-video-appearing halt in the early 2000’s and he resurfaced as a viable Hollywood force not as an actor but a director.
I was upset because it’s time for a Black Batman.
I’m not a comic book nerd or an avid reader of any series but I am a movie-goer who went to see The Dark Knight Trilogy in theaters and who got mono watching a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises.
The public was furious when Heath Ledger, who started out in romantic comedies and movies about gay cowboys, was announced as The Joker because it was so against type but it ended up being an Oscar winning performance for the late actor and one of the best villains in film history.
We have a black President, but of the top 10 movies at the box office, only two feature black leads and one is about a butler. Of the most anticipated movie releases for this weekend, none of them feature a lead black actor or actress.
It’s time for a Black Batman.
Batman, for those uniformed, is a superhero from the DC Comics universe who watched his parents be shot in front of him and grew up drinking and partying and spent time as a petty criminal until his conscious kicks in and he uses the techniques he learned living with a dangerous gang to fight crime in a city with unemployment, drugs, gang violence, corruption, and a questionable public transportation system.
That’s the history of Bruce Wayne or the life story of some black kid in Detroit if you replaced “fight crime” with “worked in a non-profit tutoring at-risk teens.”
The first question that comes up is “Well, who would play a Black Batman? It couldn’t just be anyone! They would have to be JUST RIGHT FOR THE PART!” Oh, I don’t know, imaginary internet person. It would just have to be someone with strength, dignity, ferocity, wit, a hot face, and hot body.
I think I just described 99% of black actors working in Hollywood today. The problem isn’t for a lack of discovered or undiscovered black male talent. So why is the idea of a Black Batman unthinkable?
Because comic book nerds want Batman to look like he does in the comic. Because comic book nerds are the only people that go see movies.
But wait! Idris Elba was Norse God in Thor. Kerry Washington was The Thing’s girlfriend in The Fantastic Four. Samuel L. Jackson? Those were popular movies that nerds went to see.
Rejected Costume from Earth, Wind, and Fire Biopic
If you drank every time Idris Elba spoke in Thor, you could safely drive home. When people of color are in comic book movies, they are bit parts with no impact on the plot. Samuel L. Jackson wasn’t a major force in the Avengers films until The Avengers movie. And no one liked The Fantastic Four.
So, again, why is the idea of Black Batman unthinkable?
Because the Christopher Nolan Batman universe had a real problem with whitewashing characters of color. Bane, a biracial character who grew up in Latin America in a luchador mask was played by British Tom Hardy. Ra’s al Ghul, an Arab nomad, was played by Rob Roy himself, Liam Neeson.
Because there’s no such thing as a black nerd. Because comic book nerds are white. Because White America can’t perceive a black man as a hero.
In a post-Zimmerman world, do we need another white vigilante standing his ground? Black boys and girls are scared. Can’t little black boys and girls watch someone who looks like them on the big screen protecting them when the system fails them and doesn’t use guns to do it?
In 2013, we’ve been the story of Jackie Robinson, the tragic tale of Oscar Grant III, the young man killed by police in San Francisco, and later this year, the biography of Nelson Mandela. It hasn’t been the worst year for black men in movies but that’s not hard. Let’s hope the trend continues.
Why not let a black man save the day for once?