As Josh Trank’s reboot of The Fantastic Four film franchise moves closer to completion, more than a few critics have lined up to question some of the director’s choices for the film. The merit of those criticisms has varied wildly, with some people understandably rolling their eyes at Trank’s stated efforts to make the story of the stretchy man and his rock monster best friend more “gritty and realistic,” or at attempts to characterize iconic villain Doctor Doom as an angry message board poster. Other quibbles have been a little less thoughtful, though, and a lot more racist, like those coming from people getting distressingly, frothingly angry at the fact that cast member Michael B. Jordan is African-American, while his character, Johnny Storm, has traditionally been depicted as white.
Jordan responded to those latter critics this week with an essay over at Entertainment Weekly, answering concerns and laying out at least part of Trank’s rationale for the casting. (If in fact he needs one, beyond Jordan already proving his superhero charm in 2012’s Chronicle.) Titled “Why I’m Torching The Color Line,” Jordan makes the case that Fantastic Four is ultimately a story about unity, with a team of friends coming together from different walks of life to do great things, and that his character’s relationship with his adopted sister, Sue Storm, is just one more example of that. Jordan also mentioned that Fantastic Four co-creator Stan Lee had given his approval to the casting. (Although to be fair, if people decided what to do solely on the basis of what Stan Lee thought was a good idea, everyone would be eating out of Stripperella lunchboxes right now.)
Jordan also said that he’s willing to bear the brunt of people’s condemnation, if it means that actors in the future don’t need to, and that he hopes it might be possible to reach out to people whose initial reaction to the casting was negative. Or, he added, to possibly just reach past them:
“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.”
Jordan’s reasonable, well-meaning post has, of course, been immediately ignored in the article’s comment threads, where vitriol, bad faith arguments, and all the other hallmarks of living with your head in the computer are running rampant. Flame war on.