Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My Dismissal And Then Acceptance Of A Black Batman

So this thought train all starts one day as I was scrolling through a site and saw one of those cast wishlist posts for a Batman movie where all the characters were played by black actors. Batman, Robin, Commissioner Gordon, Catwoman, all the good guys, the villains and supporting, etc. Now my first reaction was, "this is silly" or otherwise dismissive. Why should all the characters be black? Do we need a black version of Batman? This looks like one of those movies recast to better appeal to whatever audience. (like Death At A Funeral) Why not introduce more black characters into a Batman story, or better yet, launch a new black character instead of changing am old?

I thought about what it would be like to see ads for "black Batman." To see it in theaters knowing I'd likely only see a white character in the background or some minor role. I then thought about how that experience would be what my non white friends experience with most superhero movies, much less most media in general.

It dawned on me that maybe this wasn't for me. Maybe this would be for kids growing up to see themselves on the screen, see themselves in these characters. But I thought about it more, about why I like Batman, what Batman is. Why wouldn't a black Batman story be for me too? Batman is a fictional character who's been reinvented and whose story has been retold time and time again. He's been old, he's been new, he's been violent, he's been to space, to far planets, the distant past and the end of time even! Every ally turned against, every villain worked with. Batman has died and been reborn, rebooted, made campy, gritty, kid friendly, he's been rewritten to tell the story a different way each time. Why can't he be black too? Why can we believe he's running around rooftops all night and running board meetings all day, that he can beat a mentally ill clown princes of crime monthly, can fight an alien super human to a standstill, out wit dark gods, be a human computer of super deduction, but change his skin color and suddenly he's not the Batman we know and love?

Some will argue that this would be pandering, just some sort of money grab. Firstly, Hollywood could spend then next 2 years putting out movies with no white people in it and it still wouldn't make a dent in percentage movies available starring all white casts. Secondly, if you think DC or any other studio making movies isn't doing so for the sole reason to make money, you are sorely mistaken. Thirdly, I think people don't really know what the definition of pandering really is anymore. Pandering is awkward, forced, completely out of character plots and dialogue. Pandering is when they make the chubby, unpopular video game nerds mankind's only hope against the invading aliens and then at the end of the movie one of them gets to keep the sexy video game lady for no reason other than sex sells and forced love interest!

At the end of the day, Batman doesn't have super powers, he fights crime and evil because his parents died, and he uses his wits and gadgets to come out on top. That's what makes Batman Batman and that's what's the most important element of any Batman story. The cowl is more important than the color. It matters more about the story told than what Batman and his cast look like.