Naturally when a comic book is adapted there’s a dark cloud that surrounds casting directors all trying to make the right decision with the expectations of devoted fans weighing heavily on their shoulders and not everyone is going to be pleased, yet when a white actor is placed in the role of a notable PoC character(s) (uhm Doctor Strange or the Maximoff twins) the backlash is minimal and the movies end up grossing millions of dollars regardless of the prevalent whitewashing.
So cue the casting of Zendaya in the iconic role of Mary Jane Watson in the Spiderman Reboot, previously portrayed by Kirsten Dunst in the original Spiderman trilogy and almost Shailene Woodley in the amazing Spiderman films, both notably NOT NATURAL REDHEADS as the character is clearly depicted in the comics and yet complaints and backlash on such a large scale were largely unheard of and why? Because they were white.
Zendaya herself is mixed race and is a large African American advocate and activist, who gained her initial popularity through the Disney show “Shake it Up” and even more media attention when she received negative comments about wearing dreadlocks to the 2014 Oscars by fashion police’s Gulliana Rancic. The girl is whip smart, talented and beautiful and for her to take on such an iconic role is an incredible break in her otherwise Disney-centric career, then again Marvel is owned by Disney.
Suddenly, people are no longer “colour blind” and cannot accept the fact that she auditioned, was deemed best suited for the role and selected by a large panel or that red hair dye and wigs happen to exist. Zendaya portraying the character is a big win for the PoC community and actors in general, she could potentially be the sole inspiration for a PoC child wanting to pursue a career in the entertainment industry because REPRESENTATION MATTERS.
Similar backlash occurred with the casting of John Boyega, a Black man as Finn in the ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ as well as Noma Dumezweni a black woman in the role of Hermione Granger for ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ and of course both delivered terrific performances which were well received by critics and fans alike. For those who then choose to boycott the movie or continue to pitifully groan about the casting choice, you are most likely racist as hell and it’s certainly your loss because Zendaya isn’t going anywhere and neither are any more hopeful PoC casting in the comic book world and Hollywood at large. This could potentially the catalyst for more representation and inclusion, so save your white tears because you may still need to use them in the future.
Lastly, my advice to Zendaya herself would be to shake it off (no pun intended) and slay us all as we have come to expect nothing less.