Back in 2010, Community star and comedian Don Glover was at the front of a grass-roots campaign to star as Spider-Man in the then-casting Amazing Spider-Man, a role that eventually went to Andrew Garfield. It was a good-natured push for a guy who is a self-confessed comics geek, but it ended up in a really gross place as a huge, blatantly racist backlash was unleashed on the idea of re-imagining Peter Parker as a character of color. Glover handled the whole thing with aplomb, and one year later, Marvel Comics did unveil a new Spidey: Miles Morales, a half-black, half-Latino teenager (which they swear was in the works before Glover became a popular fan choice for the movie). But the movie role still went to Garfield.
Now, with Spider-Man 2: The Amazing in casting stages, Variety has announced that Jamie Foxx is in talks to play the movie’s bad guy, who will probably be Electro. It’s a solid choice—Foxx is a good actor who has personality to spare and would make a terrific villain. People always point out that Will Smith and Tom Cruise never play bad guys. That is certainly partially due to marketing (calculated inoffensiveness), but it’s also a personality thing. Actors who make good villains are the ones with lots of charisma, charm and sex appeal. I wouldn’t describe Tom Cruise as having an over-abundance of sex appeal, and though Smith can work those angles a little, he hasn’t really demonstrated much of a desire to make a career of it. Foxx, though, I can totally see gleefully romping his way through a good villainy role.
But I can’t help but think of the awful, horrible stuff said about Glover being Spider-Man (or of Idris Elba stepping in as Heimdall in the Thor movies) and wondering if the same will be said of Foxx taking on a character typically depicted as white. And then I had this thought—what if no one says anything? What if the idea of casting a black actor as a traditionally white villain doesn’t bother anyone? Is that us being post-racial or is that an insidious kind of racism at work? How dare they propose a black actor play a beloved superhero, but it’s totally cool for the villain to be black?
Maybe I’m being over-sensitive. I mean, Jamie Foxx is a cool f*cking dude and a good actor and I hope this all pans out because Rhys Ifans’ Lizard was a (very) weak spot in The Amazing Spider-Man, and Electro as played by Foxx promises to be much more intriguing. That’s all there is, right? There’s no reason to worry that a lack of racist backlash is anything other than people not being dumbasses for once, right? Right?
Attached - Jamie Foxx leaving Mr Chow last night. Well done, making new images available just as a major professional announcement is released.