Lately, there seems to be a common theme that Hollywood is taking redheaded characters from comics worldwide and casting Black actors. Of course, representation is always fabulous, but why is it happening with all the redheads? While some might find the choice to replace all the redheaded comic characters and change their ethnicity entirely strange, I went and did some research and found a very interesting through-line with many of the actors that have been chosen to replace these characters. Interested? Keep reading!
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Two Sides of the Same Coin
Hollywood’s choice to replace redheaded characters with Black actors can be seen as extraordinary and problematic. The extraordinary side is that Hollywood finally recognises black actors because the younger generation can finally identify with heroes, heroines, princesses and princes, protagonists and antagonists, and see representation in the media they are exposed to.
The problematic side is, what about the redheads or gingers of the younger generation? Unfortunately for them, their representation is slowly being whittled down to almost nothing, as the characters are not only taken from fair-skinned and redheaded to Black but also to tanned skin with blonde hair, brunette hair, and essentially what Hollywood finds beautiful at the time. Yes, inclusivity is a crucial step that Hollywood needs to take, but what is the use of pushing out one group of people to include another?
A lot of fans who have commented on the situation of Hollywood “Blackwashing” redheaded characters are disappointed that the media feels the need to adapt existing characters for inclusivity. Instead, they want to see Hollywood creating new Black characters who have unique ethnic backgrounds with African ancestry from all around the world because that is a lot more relatable than taking a white character and turning them black. This is a scorching debate at the moment thanks to the latest reveal of a Black April O’Neil in TMNT: Mutant Mayhem and in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and even Netflix’s Black Isaac in Castlevania.
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Amazing Black Actors
With all this being said, I did some research into the Black actors that were chosen for the roles of these originally redheaded characters and found a really interesting commonality, a golden thread throughout, if you will. One thing that all of the following actors have in common is that they were nominated for awards in the roles where they took on these transformed characters who were originally redheads, suggesting that they were simply the best actor for the role.
Candice Patton is an African-American actress who played Iris West in The Flash. She was nominated twice for Best Actress in a Television Series, twice for Best Supporting Actress on Television, and won once, and nominated twice for Choice TV Actress: Action for her role in The CW Arrowverse series.
Idris Alba played Heimdall in Marvel’s Thor movies, who is originally a redhead in the comics. This Black British actor with Sierra Leonian and Ghanaian descent was nominated three times for various awards, such as Best Artist of the Year, Best Actor, and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, for his appearances in the Thor movies.
Jamie Foxx played Electro, aka Max Dillon, in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and was nominated for three different awards for the role of Favourite Villain, Favourite Movie Actor, and Choice Movie: Villain. Mehcad Brooks played Jimmy Olsen in Supergirl and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor on Television at the Saturn Awards.
Quvenzhané Wallis famously played Annie in the 2014 adaptation of the film and has a staggering list of nominations for the role, including Outstanding Actress; Motion Picture, Best Young Actor/Actress, Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture, Best Performance in a Feature Film, and last but assuredly not least Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes.
One of the world’s current favourite Black actresses who was cast into the role of a character who was originally a redhead in the comics is Zendaya. She was nominated for many awards for her role as Mary Jane or MJ in the Spider-Man film series and has won several awards for her role as well. These awards include Best Supporting Actress, Best Actress, Favourite Female Movie Star and Choice Summer Movie Actress (twice!).
If you haven’t picked up the trend by now, it would seem that the actors that were chosen for these roles absolutely killed it and have the awards nominations and wins to prove that they were the best choice for the character, as well as the fact that the race and ethnicity of a character don’t have to be their defining characteristic, because those who have done an excellent job of bringing them to life don’t perfectly match the description of the comics original.
A fictional character’s ability to be reinvented time and time again is what makes them immortal, and it should be up to the creators to decide what their latest iteration will be. Could Hollywood make more effort and create beautiful Black characters? 100%. Look at the staggering success of Princess Tiana in the world of Disney. Anything is possible.
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- People are upset that Hollywood is replacing originally redheaded characters with Black actors.
- The actors chosen for the roles are excellent. All did a fabulous job bringing the redesigned characters to life, proven by their many awards nominations and wins.
- Fans want Hollywood to put more effort into creating new, amazing and unique, Black heroes, heroines, princesses, and princes and to stop simply transforming white ones.
Where do you stand on this hot debate? Is it okay to race swap redheaded characters with black actors?