DeFlip Side #32: Casting Doubts


Welcome everyone. This is DeFlip Side.

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Howard’s head rocketing into the stratosphere after he heard the rumors that Beyonce Knowles might play Lois Lane in the next Superman movie!

Howard joins many other Super fans out there, Superman purists who have been rather vocal in their disapproval of such a flagrant disregard for long-established Super-continuity. A black Lois Lane? What in the hell could those Hollywood dopes be thinking? What’s next? A Black Pete Ross? An Asian Lana Lang? The mind reels at such indignities!

Okay. Maybe I don’t have as much vested in Superman as Howard does. He’s been collecting Superman books for 33 years. I, on the other hand, am a relative newcomer to comics, and, outside of JLA, Superman isn’t on my reading list. I’m really not that bothered at the idea of a black Lois, or an Indian Lois or even a midget Lois. Movies are separate from comics, and have their own demands. And these days, most people only know Superman from movies and television anyway. So strict adherence to the source material isn’t as important as it once might have been.

The way I figure it, the Superman mythos endures from generation to generation because he represents ideals that transcend our fickle social politics. When the character was created way back in the Stone Age, the fact that Lois was an independent career woman was revolutionary enough. If she has to become black to become relevant to a new generation, so be it. Superman will carry on.

I’m kind of surprised at my own equanimity in this, because I usually raise the biggest stink when it comes to lapses in continuity. But it’s not really continuity we’re talking about here. It’s character. If they turned Lois into a subservient doormat, then I’d have a problem.

It’s the same when it comes to a project I’m very vested in, the movie version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. According to the most recent casting news, black actor Mos Def will be playing Ford Prefect. A black Ford Prefect? Actually, based on other stuff I’ve seen him in, I can see Def doing fine in the roll. Considering that Ford isn’t even human, his skin color is irrelevant. American actors are also set to play Zaphod and Trillian. In fact, one of the only Brits in the cast is Martin Freeman, who will play Arthur Dent. Here’s what Douglas Adams had to say about casting the movie:

“When it comes down to it, my principle is this—Arthur should be British. The rest of the cast should be decided purely on merit and not on nationality.”

Adams was right to make this his only sticking point. While the other characters are more freewheeling, Arthur’s staid British-ness is at the very heart of his character, and is essential to how he thinks and reacts. A non-British Arthur just wouldn’t work.

It boils down to staying true to the spirit of the character. If physical attributes are integral to that spirit, then they should be given due consideration. Take Wonder Woman. If you really want to get riled up over miscasting, then save it for the rumors that Sarah Michelle Gellar will be donning the starred tiara of the Amazon Princess. Now that’s a travesty. Whether black, white or green, the woman who plays Wonder Woman needs to be tall, stacked and beautiful—and Sarah Michelle Gellar fails on every count. She’s about 5’ 2”, has a big head, a funny nose and the body of an 8-year-old boy. When you look at her you don’t think Wonder Woman—you just wonder where’s the woman. A better choice by far would be Jennifer Connelly.

But that’s only my opinion. And if I’m going to be completely honest, my opinions on female casting usually have nothing to do with race or acting chops; it always comes down to a simpler question: “Is she hot?” Piggish and chauvinistic, yes. But I’ve found that the higher the bangability factor of the woman in question, the less vested I become in continuity.

I know this to be true, because one of the biggest problems I’ve had with the Lord of the Rings movies, as faithful as they are, is with the casting of the elves. As written by Tolkein, the elves are breathtakingly beautiful, ethereal even, with Galadriel most stunning of all. But who do we see on screen? Cate Blanchett. A fine actress, yes, but hot she’s not. Maybe mildly attractive, on her best day. And Liv Tyler? Bow-wow-wow! If I were Aragorn, I would have been like, “You’re going into the West are you? Well, have a good trip. Have you seen Eowyn around?”

So from this perspective, Beyonce Knowles as Lois Lane is a casting coup. Bring it on! She’s hot. The more Beyonce the better, as far as I’m concerned. Of course I might feel differently about the whole black Lois thing if the name Whoopi Goldberg had been mentioned instead.