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Aquaman's Film Embraces His Status as a Mixed-Race Hero

By Andrew Sanford | Film | July 21, 2020 |

By Andrew Sanford | Film | July 21, 2020 |


Created in 1941 by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris, the DC comics character Arthur Curry, AKA Aquaman, began his seafaring adventures as the product of experiments by his father. He was a human being, trained and engineered to be able to breathe and thrive underwater. In 1959 things changed (as they often do in comics) and a new element of Aquaman’s origin was introduced: he was in fact the son of a land-dwelling lighthouse keeper and a water-breathing resident of the lost city of Atlantis. For years this aspect of Arthur’s backstory has remained (relatively) intact. In James Wan’s film based on the deep-sea adventurer, it is not only present but used as a driving force for the movie.

Released 578 days ago (I count because I love) on December 21st, 2018, Aquaman starred Jason Momoa, Amber Heard and Patrick Wilson. It was an attempt to deliver another entry into the burgeoning DCEU and (depending on who you ask) a successful one at that. In the film, Momoa’s Aquaman is presented as a bit of an outsider. We see him protect people on land and at sea while feeling mostly comfortable above water. This stems from not being welcome in Atlantis for being a product of both worlds.

Throughout the film, the people of Atlantis refer to Arthur as “half breed” CONSTANTLY. His half brother Orm, played by Patrick Wilson, expresses feelings of shame towards him. Shame that their mother would “defile herself with a surface dweller.” General disdain towards Arthur is laid on pretty thick. Despite this overwhelming sentiment, Aquaman does receive support from several Atlanteans. The most notable being Mera, played by Amber Heard. She believes he will unite not only the people of Atlantis but the people of the world and delivers one of the most important lines of the film. “You think you’re unworthy to lead because you’re of two different worlds. But that is exactly why you are worthy.”

Jason Momoa being cast Arthur Curry was an inspired choice for many reasons. He brought his signature look and personality to a character that is often seen as a joke and gave us a fresh take that was simultaneously rooted in the character’s history. This was accentuated by casting Patrick Wilson as Orm. The two men do not look alike and yet they share a mother. While Orm sees Aquaman’s mixed-race as problematic, the film makes it clear that the opposite is true. Arthur’s journey in the film is built around accepting his heritage and it is driven home as he proudly delivers one of his last lines in the movie.

“My father was a lighthouse keeper, my mother was a queen. They were never meant to meet, but their love saved the world. They made me what I am. A son of the land. A king of the seas.”

Andrew Sanford is a Writer and Performer living in NYC. You can find him on twitter and listen to his comedy podcast Half White Son of a Black Man wherever you get your podcasts.

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Andrew lives in NYC. You can follow him on twitter.

Header Image Source: DC