Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Fresh Captain America

A rumor, now debunked, was circulating that Will Smith had signed on to be Captain America in an upcoming film. (And for you non-comics geeks, Captain America is one of the heroes who would also appear in an Avengers movie along with Iron Man, The Hulk, and Thor.) It's been debunked, but Michael Doran over at Newsarama insists that Smith would have been a great choice. Mainly, he cites Smith's box office draw as the reason why he should be the Star-Spangled Avenger.

I'm sorry, but there is one really good reason why Will Smith shouldn't play Captain America. It's because he's black. Oh my goodness! Did I really just say that? Yup.

Mind you, I don't necessarily have a problem with color-blind casting. When I saw a stage production of Julius Caesar, an African-American played the title role, and he was the best thing about that play. Generally speaking, I think that the stage is more forgiving and more accomodating to a stronger suspension of disbelief than the screen is.

Doran argues that "there is nothing essential about the Steve Rogers character that requires him to be white." I would very much beg to differ. For those of you who don't know the character's history, here's the short version:

Steve Rogers was a frail, sickly young man who wanted to enlist in the Armed Forces so he could fight against the Nazis. The Army turned him down, but they offered to have him be part of the "super soldier" program. Rogers volunteered, and he was given an injection that brought him to the pinaccle of human strength, speed and endurance. From there, he was given the uniform of Captain America and sent out to fight the Axis Powers. Not only was he out there to fight, but he was there to inspire the soldiers on the ground.

During a battle with Baron Zemo, Cap fell into the ocean and became frozen in a block of ice. (It's comics - don't get too logical.) He was then found and resurrected in the modern day, and now he's a "man out of time" who continues to fight against all sorts of evil doers.

So there you go. If you make him a black guy then the first part of the story definitely doesn't make any sense. Since he doesn't wear a full-face mask, does it seem very likely that the government would choose a black man during the 1940s to be an inspiration to the troops? Of course not. It would be insulting to imply that they would.

The thing is, there have been a lot of stories in the comics where Rogers quits being Captain America, and then somebody else puts on the costume and continues the fight. While it's never been a black man in the comics, that sort of a story has potential, and I wouldn't mind seeing THAT in a movie.

And let's also not forget that there are plenty of cool African-American superheroes out there, and it would be wrong to cast a white guy as The Black Panther or Power Man. (To be fair, there may be a lot of cool black superheroes, but there should be more.) Will Smith is definitely a good actor, and I'd love to see him do a superhero role. (I know about Hancock, but I haven't seen that one yet. Still, he could do more.) It's just that if he's going to be Captain America, then they would need to completely change the backstory - and then what would be the point in calling it Captain America then?

With all this said though, the Will Smith as Cap rumor didn't bother me as much as the Matthew McConaughey as Cap rumor did. Yee-ikes! Would Cap go running around without his shirt?


inorganic_celestial_angel said...

i don't think will smith should be THE captain america, but that's not to say that he couldn't play Isaiah Bradly, the goverment experiments trying to recreate the captain america syrum would make a great movie. i'm not sure if anyone would have the guts to make it, but will smith would be perfect if they did.

Lance Christian Johnson said...