In Norse mythology Heimdall is described as “the whitest of the gods,” which adds interesting irony to the controversy surrounding the casting of Idris Elba as Heimdall in the blockbuster hit Thor.
Thousands of upset comic book fans have posted angry Internet comments ranging from complaints that it is an “insult to the Germanic peoples” to accusations that the film’s producers are “racists trying to push this Afrocentric agenda”. There is even an entire website devoted to boycotting the film.
“Purist comic-book fans are one thing; out-and-out racism is another…If you know anything about the Nords, they don’t look like me but there you go. I think that’s a sign of the times for the future. I think we will see multi-level casting. I think we will see that and I think that’s good.” -Idris Elba
Elba may be correct — it may indeed be a sign of the times that people of color are (finally) being hired to play white characters, though casting across color lines is certainly not a new phenomenon. White actors have been benefiting from “colorblind casting” since the birth of the film industry (and in the theater before that).
Just last year a controversy arose when makers of the film Avatar: The Last Airbender cast white actors in the roles of three of four principal characters who were originally Asian and Native American. Members of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans and the organization Racebending called for a boycott of the film.
The folks who are calling for the Thor boycott say their argument is no different, and that there is a double standard at play here that assumes casting a white actor in the role of a non-white character is evil, but not the other way around.
Movie Bob at The Escapist has created a 5-minute clip that breaks that “misunderstanding” down brilliantly. Be sure to stick around at least to 2:42 when Bob “cuts to the chase.”
I thought the Tyler Perry diss was uncalled for (y’all know how I feel about TP) but Bob’s point is still well made.