If there was ever a movie news story which indicated just how quickly things can escalate in the internet age, this is surely it, as Michelle Rodriguez has issued an apology after declaring that Hollywood should “stop stealing all the white people’s superheroes,” in response to a supposed rumour linking her to the role of Green Lantern in ‘Justice League.’
Now, if that’s the first you’d heard of the ‘Avatar’ and ‘Fast & Furious’ actress being linked to Green Lantern, you’re not alone. Indeed, it remains unclear whether there was a bona fide rumour, or if some hapless blogger or other merely suggested she might be a good fit should Warners/DC choose to subvert expectation and use Jessica Cruz, a female Latin American power ring wielder, as opposed to the white male Hal Jordan (as portrayed by Ryan Reynolds in the 2011 movie) or the black male John Stewart (widely expected to be the character who will appear in ‘Justice League,’ almost portrayed by Common in the aborted 2008 film).
It would also seem to have been the first Rodriguez herself had heard of the ‘rumour’ (or indeed the character of Jessica Cruz) when quizzed on the matter by TMZ this past Saturday, and her off-the-cuff response was fairly blunt:
"That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard. I think it’s so stupid because of this whole minorities in Hollywood thing. It’s so stupid. Stop stealing all the white people’s superheroes. Make up your own. What’s up with that?"
Not long thereafter, Rodriguez posted a video on Facebook apologising for any offence caused, and going into greater detail on the point she was trying to make.
"I stuck my foot in my mouth once again… I guess it got taken out of context, because a lot of people got offended or whatever, but I have a tendency to speak without a filter. Sorry about that.
"What I really meant to say was, there’s a language. The language that you speak in Hollywood is ‘successful franchise.’ And I think there are many cultures in Hollywood that are not white that can come up with their own mythology…
"Instead of trying to turn a girl character into a guy, or instead of trying to turn a white character into a black character, or a Latin character, I think that people should stop being lazy, and that people should make an effort in Hollywood to develop their own mythology…
"The different cultures from around the world that are in Hollywood - Latin, black, Asian, so on and so forth, considered minorities because there aren’t a lot of writers representing them - they should start focusing on making that a serious priority.
"It’s not about taking Catwoman, or Superman, or Green Lantern or whatever these characters are, and trying to make them fit to whatever cultural background you are. I just feel like it should be more creative than that…
"I think it’s time to stop trying to take what’s already there and trying to fit a culture into it. I think it’s time to write our own mythology and our own story, every culture. That’s what I meant, so I’m sorry if it came off rude or stupid."
Superhero ethnicity has been the subject of much debate in recent times. Whilst the casting of black actors in traditionally white supporting roles (Idris Elba as Heimdall in the ‘Thor’ movies, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White in ‘Man of Steel,’ Jamie Foxx as Electro in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’) has been for the most part accepted, there has been a great deal more controversy over Michael B Jordan being cast as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch in the upcoming ‘Fantastic Four.’
There has also been speculation that when Spider-Man is recast for the upcoming ‘Captain America: Civil War’ and a further solo movie, it may be in the form of the contemporary Marvel Comics Spider-Man, the half-black half-Latin Miles Morales, rather than the original white character Peter Parker.
Still, there are at least three high profile black comic book characters set to hit screens in 2016, with Chadwick Boseman set to debut as Black Panther in Marvel’s ‘Captain America: Civil War’ before appearing in his own solo movie in 2018. After this, Ray Fisher will be seen as Cyborg in ‘Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice’ - also set to star in the two planned ‘Justice League’ movies, and his own solo movie - and finally Will Smith will play the villainous Deadshot in ‘Suicide Squad.’
Ultimately though, Michelle Rodriguez’s comments would seem to be concerned less with the comparative lack of non-white superhero roles, but rather the film industry’s dependence on pre-existing properties with an established fanbase at the expense of new and untested ideas - both substantial matters with no quick and easy solution.
Rodriguez will next be seen in ‘Fast and Furious 7,’ which hits UK cinemas on 3 April.
Picture Credit: WENN, Warners/DC