The X-Men film franchise probably should have ended after X2. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, it did. (X3? Wolverine: Origins? I know not what you speak of!) So I’ve been a little nervous about the prequel, X-Men: First Class, currently in development. James McAvoy being cast as Professor X started vague sensations of hope, and Michael Fassbender, whom I’ve adored since he played Azazeal on the short-lived series, Hex, signing on as Magneto definitely started me thinking, “Oh, this could be a good project…”
And then came word that surfer Erica Hosseini auditioned for the part of a mutant named Willow. Now, I’m a few years behind on my X-canon, but I was like, “Alright, who the Hell is Willow?” Turns out she’s a shapeshifter from X-Nation 2099…and she’s black. Erica Hosseini is very blonde and blue-eyed, and it’s safe to say that her tan comes from surfing.
So, help me out, Marvel. What in the fresh Hell are we doing picking incredibly obscure mutants out of the huge cast of characters in the X-universe…and then auditioning racially inappropriate people for the roles? I mean, there are plenty of white mutants someone like Hosseini could play. Trust me, there is no shortage of hot, young blond women in the canon. Heck, dye her hair green and make her Lorna Dane! Why go to the trouble of popping Willow into the film and then whitewashing her?
I’m sure the justification is that it’s the same argument that could be made for Mystique…that Rebecca Romjin spent most of the films covered in blue body paint, so why does her race matter? But Mystique was blue for the better part of her run in the various X-titles. Just as Beast is blue and Nightcrawler is blue. Blue people don’t exist in our world (no, the Na’vi aren’t real), so you have to cast whoever you think is best for the role (I hate that I just used that cliché), and diligently apply a bunch of skin-friendly dye. However, black people do exist in our world, and when the X-Men mythology’s very foundation is about tolerance and racial equality, how can the powers-that-be in good conscience, pull this kind of bullshit?
The only straw I can grasp at is this: that Willow was just a placeholder name popped into the audition script, and Hosseini actually auditioned for Mystique. She mentioned body paint in the interview where the news broke, and a teenage Mystique being part of a story that includes young Xavier and young Magneto makes way more sense than the inclusion of a random mutant from a short-lived title. I really hope that is the case and that the tempest I am currently brewing in my teapot o’ rage settles down into a nice, gentle rain.
On the heels of The Last Airbender and Prince of Persia, I am just so done with Hollywood engaging in race fail.