This last weekend at DC's huge online 'Fandome' event the trailer for the highly anticipated The Batman starring Robert Pattinson was released.
The movie, directed by Matt Reeves will be released in 2021, and judging by the first looks it marks a distinctly darker tone than what we have previously seen in Batman movies, which were already pretty dark, to begin with.
The reception to the trailer has mostly been positive as it appears the film will be concentrating more on Batman's detective skills as he attempts to thwart the villainous Riddler.
However, some people did have some gripes with the trailer. Surprisingly it wasn't because of Robert Pattinson, who despite being a great actor is considerably younger than other stars that have played the character like Ben Affleck, Christian Bale and Michael Keaton.
No, it was thanks to our old friend 'white ignorance' rearing its ugly head again.
In the movie, the familiar roles of Catwoman and Commissioner Jim Gordon are to be played by Black actors Zoe Kravitz and Jeffrey Wright.
Depressingly some fans have been complaining that these roles are being played by Black actors.
Even more ridiculously, the term "blackwashing" has even been used.
@TheBatman Why are they blackwashing Gordon and Catwoman?? At least stay true to the characters and their origins.
Well, firstly characters like Jim Gordon and Catwoman are not in any way defined by their race. One is a great police officer and the other is a master thief. Neither of those characteristics has anything to do with the colour of someone's skin and there's never been the sense that either have to be white, despite the fact that systemic racism has made white seem like the 'default' to some fans.
In Catwoman's case, several Black actors have already played the character. In five episodes of the beloved 1960s Batman TV series fronted by Adam West, Eartha Kitt played the character and this was after white actresses Julie Newmar and Lee Merriwether had already played the anti-hero. Halle Berry has also played the character in maybe one of the worst movies ever made but even before it's release, it's hard to recall any uproar about that choice of casting.
To date, Gordon has been played by all white actors with Academy Award winners Gary Oldman and JK Simmons taking on the role. Wright is a talented and experienced actor who has worked with everyone from David Bowie to Wes Anderson so he has more than earned a chance to add his stamp to this iconic role.
The biggest problem with criticising this casting is to ignore the decade of whitewashing that has happened in blockbuster movies.
This problem has existed since the dawn of cinema, but it is being increasingly discussed now. In recent years movies like Edge of Tomorrow, Ghost in the Shell,Doctor Strange and Star Trek: Into Darkness have erased Asian characters in order to cast more famous white stars like Tom Cruise, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton and Benedict Cumberbatch.
The Batman franchise has also been guilty of whitewashing characters. In Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins from 2005 Ra's Al Ghul, a character from the Middle East whose name is Arabic for 'The Head of the Demon,' is played by Northern Irish actor Liam Neeson.
Factoring in the long history (and present reality) of whitewashing, underrespresentation and racism in film, the idea of 'blackwashing' is completely ludicrous.
Luckily, there were people who were calling out this nonsense, and many who were excited by what the possibilities of what a Black Jim Gordon and Catwoman can bring to the story.
It's crazy how people are complaining Jim Gordon being black, but won't complain about Liam Neeson as Ra's Al Ghul.… https://t.co/sajHqGskkv
Thankfully this type of negative reaction from the minority doesn't seem to be deterring the creators behind these stories, especially at DC Comics.
Last month, it was confirmed that the Black bisexual star Javicia Lesliewill be replacing Ruby Rose in the Batwoman TV series and at DC's Fandome it was announced that John Ridley, the award-winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave will be penning a limited series comic where Batman will be a Black man. Both of these pieces of news was greeted fondly by fans.
Let's hope studios, directors or writers listen to the majority and don't get swayed by aggrieved fans anytime soon. And that the film and television industries continue to address the systemic racism that fuels these ridiculous reactions.