I see the onetime DC editor Joseph Illidge took the time on Newsarama in the past few weeks to give his backing to fellow leftist Ta-Nehisi Coates’ idea of how to depict Superman: as a Black character, as though Kal-El’s white origins are suddenly invalid:
In a move that could change the course of pop culture’s mighty rivers, Warner Bros. is reportedly developing a new Superman film written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, with a Black actor being cast in the lead role as the last son of Krypton, and a Black director to spearhead the story’s vision.
And nothing to say about how wrong with a scriptwriter is who once made desecrating statements about 9-11 rescue operators? This is telling. It goes without saying the whole idea of hiring an almost entirely black staff and main cast does not guarantee merit for the finished product, and Illidge must know that. So what’s the use of lecturing us all about this latest race-swapping for sake of 15 minutes of fame?
The response from the general public and the fan community has been as polarized as Superman’s adopted home nation on matters of racial equality, and as ironic as the idea of cultural ownership regarding a fictional character who is an immigrant from another planet.
Ah, I see he’s parroting the whole obfuscation of Superman’s exact origins. Kal-El was an infant refugee from a dying planet, not an “immigrant” in any literal sense. And I better not hear Supergirl was either, since Kara Zor-El’s origins were that she too came from an imperiled colony. In any event, it’s insulting how these ideologues exploit every facet of sci-fi stories they didn’t create for the sake of justifying their absurdist goals. Say, is he implying Superman’s Jewish creators and original overseers have no claim – cultural or otherwise – to their creations? I’m not amused by whatever he’s insinuating. He continues:
Superman is seen as both the representation of Absolute Good through a combination of idealism, humility, compassion, kindness, morality, and ethics, while also viewed as the flawed hero capable of taking one life to save billions of lives, as portrayed in the film Man of Steel helmed by filmmaker Zack Snyder. He is seen as both perfect and imperfect in a world split between generations of people who want different qualities from their heroes.
He is one of those characters for which there is rarely a middle ground, and we are separated by a hard line between emotional connection and disinterest. Either we feel entitled to define Superman or he provides no connection to our aspirations, which begs the question of whether or not the character has any agency in today’s world.
Is Superman an anachronism?
Warner Bros. has given itself the Herculean task of overcoming past and highly criticized efforts to reintroduce and invigorate Superman with a considerably more controversial version, to make the most idealistic superhero work in our cynical world.
Well I’m not sure how suddenly changing the character’s racial background from white to black will overcome past mistakes. If there was any decided error made in the 2013 movie, it was the relentless emphasis on darkness at the expense of brightness. To the point where you couldn’t find a valid sense of humor. I think the way Illidge questions whether Supes has agency in today’s world is insulting as well. Yet Illidge continues with the following, fishy statements:
Superman’s world is the beacon, the light shining from the destination of a future many people consider an impossibility.
That is exactly why Warner Bros. is in a unique position to challenge our society by making Superman something more. More than prejudices. More than xenophobia.
More than a single interpretation, visualization, or cultural point of reference.
A Black Superman is not the issue.
And just who is “we”? Something tells me he’s not alluding to the leftists. Though it does sound like he’s implying purists are inherently wrong to defend retaining the hero’s white background, along with the dignity of Siegel/Shuster’s legacy. He even says:
Our projection of issues with a Black Superman is at the center of a long-overdue reckoning of our world with the failures of Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Failures which have traumatized us with the impact frequency of a jackhammer, and empowered others to victimize people on intimate and large scales without proportionate consequence.
And why does he think they’re a failure? Does he comprehend that the extreme liberal values he advocates – which see unrepairable prejudice around every corner, every facet of art and society – are what have led to the failures he speaks of? If not, then again, I don’t see why he’s wasting everyone’s time here. I doubt he’s talking about Anitfa/BLM when he talks about empowering to victimize either, even though that’s what they’ve been doing for quite a while now.
Blackwashing white characters is not a step forward. And it WILL bite us in the backside down the line.
A black Superman is a lazy sad useless idea, just as a black Roland was.
We need new stories. And we can’t be afraid of the extra work it takes to gather new audiences.
— Nnedi Okorafor, PhD (@Nnedi) May 22, 2021
Interestingly enough, Nnedi Okorafor, a Black writer who’s worked at Marvel, has dismissed the premise as lazy, according to Cosmic Book News:
“Blackwashing white characters is not a step forward. And it WILL bite us in the backside down the line. A black Superman is a lazy sad useless idea, just as a black Roland was. We need new stories. And we can’t be afraid of the extra work it takes to gather new audiences,” tweeted Nnedi Okorafor on May 22.
Okorafor continued by making it clear to fans that she said what she meant to say.
“’Well what about….’ ‘How do you feel about…’ Have I not been clear here? I’ve said what I said. Apply my words to your question and get your answer,” she tweeted. “This is not a conversation for me.”
A fan apparently replied in a tweet recommending Idris Elba in the role of the new Black Superman, but Nnedi Okorafor was quick to shoot that down as well.
“Speak for yourself. I detest that idea. That role is far below Elba. He is more than sloppy seconds,” she tweeted.
Speak for yourself. I detest that idea.
That role is far below Elba. He is more than sloppy seconds.
— Nnedi Okorafor, PhD (@Nnedi) May 22, 2021
She’s absolutely correct. It’s also ridiculous how the superhero theme is relied upon so heavily as a grounds on which to build sci-fi tales. When you’re developing science-fantasy, the time has come to do more than just make it all about costumed superheroes. Even adventurers without costumes and codenames can be quite engaging. It’s too bad Mr. Illidge doesn’t have what it takes to argue the same. He seems to be much too ideologically consumed to understand how narrowly cheap he’s viewing everything.
Originally published here.