A few days ago the internet had another race-related freak out over the rumor that Zendaya will be playing the long time Spider-Man love interest Mary Jane in Spider-Man: Homecoming. While there were plenty of those in support of the potential casting, there was a vocal group voicing displeasure over the change to the character who traditionally has white skin and red hair. Now a prominent figure over at Marvel Studios has stepped in give his own opinion on Zendaya, and changes to characters for film in general. James Gunn took to Facebook to explain why colorblind casting shouldn't even be an issue, and that there's no reason Zendaya can't make a perfectly good Mary Jane.
For me, if a character's primary attribute - the thing that makes them iconic - is the color of their skin, or their hair color, frankly, that character is shallow and sucks. For me, what makes MJ MJ is her alpha female playfulness, and if the actress captures that, then she'll work. And, for the record, I think Zendaya even matches what I think of as MJ's primary physical characteristics - she's a tall, thin model - much more so than actresses have in the past.
It's probably important to remember that Zendaya's casting is still a rumor, and James Gunn claims to have no insider knowledge on if it's true or not. He's admitted to reading the Spider-Man: Homecoming script, but has no idea who Zendaya is playing. That, however, doesn't really matter to the Guardians of the Galaxy director. His point is that as long as Zendaya can nail MJ's personality - which is what really matters as an actor - then she will make for a fine MJ.
James Gunn further expands his post to explain his thoughts on changing a characters race for film. He argues that the characters of a movie should reflect a modern world - not as it was in the sixties when most of these characters were created.
Whatever the case, if we're going to continue to make movies based on the almost all white heroes and supporting characters from the comics of the last century, we're going to have to get used to them being more reflective of our diverse present world. Perhaps we can be open to the idea that, although someone may not initially match how we personally conceive a character, we can be - and often are - happily surprised.
This is thoughtful commentary from James Gunn, who himself is directing a movie so diverse that it has blue people in it. Hopefully, the director's post will reach any who were initially resistant to this rumor. Until Marvel says otherwise, Zendaya is currently playing a character named Michelle, but we here at Cinema Blend will be sure to keep you updated with new information as it becomes available.