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Why Is The 'Fantastic Four' Cast So White?

By Andrew Sanford | Film | May 10, 2024 |

By Andrew Sanford | Film | May 10, 2024 |


Michael B. Jordan was cast as Johnny Storm over ten years ago. Jordan’s star had been on the rise thanks to his roles in Chronicle and Fruitvale Station. Now, Jordan is a mega-star, getting films and TV shows greenlit thanks to his name alone. He would be a welcome addition to any franchise. In 2014, his casting was met with swift and fervent backlash. People were upset because Jordan, a Black man, was playing a character who, in the comics, was white.

There were a lot of excuses people used to explain why Jordan shouldn’t play the character. My favorite of the dumb arguments was people saying Jordan could not be Black if his sister, played by Kate Mara, was white. I’m mixed (half white, half black) and found this reasoning nonsensical at the time. My opinion on the matter has only strengthened with the birth of my twin sons. One has white skin, the other has brown skin. Get over it.

People would also pose dumb hypotheticals as a means of push-back. “What if they cast a white guy to play Black Panther” was a question I heard a lot. The difference is simple. Nothing about the origins of the Fantastic Four says that they have to be white. They were simply created at a time when most characters in popular fiction were white, reflecting the majority of people who created them. Arguing otherwise removes much-needed context from the conversation.

The 2015 Fantastic Four film was not good. It was a commercial and critical failure. The film’s lack of success was blamed on many factors. It all depended on who you asked. Everything from studio interference to an “out of control” director was claimed to contribute to the film’s downfall. One person who was not considered at fault was Michael B. Jordan.

The star delivered a performance worthy of the storied character. He contributed the way a movie star of his caliber does, both on and off the screen. Jordan penned an open letter to critics at the time of his casting, defending his decision to take on the role. “Maybe, if I set an example, Hollywood will start considering more people of color in other prominent roles and maybe we can reach the people who are stuck in the mindset that ‘it has to be true to the comic book,’” the actor wrote.

It’s hard to tell if Jordan’s decision worked or if critics of color-blind casting got louder. Yes, more characters like Deadshot, Ariel, and Baron Mordo have been cast with Black actors despite the characters being white in the source material. Every time that happens, a swath of angry fans shout their displeasure at their computers. Hell, Paul Feig couldn’t even cast four of the funniest women around as Ghostbusters without facing a wave of hatred that has yet to die down.

It doesn’t help that when a diverse movie doesn’t do well, critics will jump at the opportunity to blame the diversity. Most recently we saw films like Eternals and Marvels released under the MCU label and underperform for various reasons. The worst people you know then jumped out with stupid catchphrases like “go woke, go broke.” They placed the blame squarely at the feet of the choice to have multicultural casts. It’s nonsense, but Marvel may be listening.

A new Fantastic Four film is set to release in 2025. The film will be directed by Matt Shakman and features an all-star cast. Pedro Pascal, Vanessa Kirby, Joseph Quinn, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach will play the eponymous team. Julia Garner, Ralph Ineson, John Malkovich, and Paul Walter Hauser have also joined the cast. They’ll play the Silver Surfer, Galactus, and two mystery roles, respectively. That’s a lot of talent in one cast. It’s also a lot of white people.

Pascal has been cast as Reed Richards despite the character being white in the comics. Aside from that, the cast features little in the way of diversity, and there have still been complaints. Disney has made it a point to have their films reflect the world writ large in recent years. They tout diversity programs meant to bring people of color behind the camera as well. When they cast what is intended to be a flagship property this way, it’s hard not to notice.

Before you hop in the comments to argue that the film is set in the 60s, I will remind you that people of color existed then as well.

More people of color could still show up in the film, but it’s looking increasingly likely that the principal cast will be overwhelmingly white. The only question now is: Why? At a time when some of the loudest idiots in the world are railing against DEI, why scale back representation in one of your biggest upcoming films? We’re staring down the possibility of another Trump presidency, with people feeling more emboldened than ever to say the quiet part loud. Why choose now to dial back onscreen diversity for a property that has made such leaps in the past?

I walked out of the 2015 Fantastic Four film with the kind of disappointment you get from watching a bad movie. As I was leaving, something miraculous happened. A young Black boy fired up out of his seat. He pretended to fly as he ran toward the exit. That is the power of representation. That is what Disney (and other film companies) should continue to embrace. This new Fantastic Four film (so far) feels like a step in the other direction.