Interracial siblings in ‘The Fantastic Four’: Got a problem with that?

02/21/2014 3:35 PM

02/21/2014 3:35 PM

Superheroes can be super-stretchy. They can be invisible. They can turn to stone. They can emit flames from their bodies and never burn.

But throw a black brother and a white sister into the mix? Now that’s too much.

Some comic book fanboys and fangirls just can’t comprehend. When the cast of “The Fantastic Four” movie reboot was announced this week, outrage ensued. First because the actors are so young.

But then came the racial backlash. Michael B. Jordan will play Johnny Storm, the Human Torch. And Kate Mara will play his sister, Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl. He’s black. She’s white. This mix created a storm of its own.

A few tweets:

@vegetatweet

Getting somebody Black to play Johnny Storm somebody white to play Susan Storm is the equivalent of getting a white guy to play Malcolm X.

@sod1102

So I wonder if the casting director misinterpreted the word “brother” when casting Sue Storm’s brother Johnny. #FantasticFour

@BIOrappers13

You can’t make Johnny Storm black and Susan Storm white! They’re brother and sister! Or did Johnny just get burnt?

Talk about ignorance. I know it’s not unusual for the comic world to be mad. Something always gets them going. How dare Ben Affleck play Batman, they say. Jesse Eisenberg is no Lex Luthor, they insist. But this runs deeper than the usual criticism. People are sincerely confused by the fact that a black Johnny and white Sue can be siblings. And angry.

It brings back bad memories for me. My sister is white. I am mixed. Much like Heidi Klum has a white daughter alongside her mixed children and they are all biological siblings.

I grew up having people wonder how my sister and I were related, asking if I was adopted or assuming I was a foster kid. It was humiliating. Some even dismissed us as friends. One time, a classmate’s mom said I was lying when I showed her a picture of my sister. But she is my sister, I insisted. Mitzi and I, we have the same mama, the same goofy laugh and the same feet, too.

Even if we didn’t share the same blood, it wouldn’t make us any less related. Why do we have to explain our existence to anyone? I don’t need to validate myself. Johnny and Sue don’t either.

Shane Evans says he understands the confusion, but people need to see beyond color. The Kansas City artist is half Italian, half black. But his 13-year-old little brother is white, adopted into the Evans family. Shane says they are brothers. It’s just that simple.

“If people would close their eyes and just think of their own siblings. Imagine them as another color,” he says. “It doesn’t change your connection. It doesn’t change how you feel. Siblings go deeper than skin. I am glad this dialogue is happening. Loving one another is the lesson.”

When people see Ryan Martin with his wife and their two beautiful sons, they can’t figure it out. A white man, a white woman, a white baby and a black toddler. So they ask how they are related.

“They ask if they are adopted. They are trying to figure out what is going on and how it happened, but they don’t understand by asking it is offensive. That’s none of your business,” he says. To ask the question is to insinuate that there is no way you could really be family.

Martin says he thinks the casting for the movie, due in June 2015, is a great choice. (Rounding out the cast: Miles Teller as Reed Richards and Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm.)

“It would be good for my children to be able to see that even though they are different colors, it doesn’t matter. They are brothers.”

Allison Crumley and her sister are white and Filipino. They have white siblings, her dad’s children from a previous marriage. Allison’s daughter is white, Filipino and black. Her cousins are white.

“It’s never been an issue. It’s never been a topic of discussion,” she says. “This is America. This backlash is silliness. We’re siblings. In our family color doesn’t make us love each other any more or less. When my daughter plays with her cousins, they don’t note that she is brown with curly hair and they are white with straight hair. It’s never been questioned.”

Interracial siblings in starring roles are past due, says Tomika Anderson. She’s biracial, adopted into a loving Kansas City family when she was 6 weeks old. She’s grateful to her birth mother.

“Thanks to her sacrifice, I landed in a family where I had two white parents and a white sister,” she says. “In the years following, I got another white sister and white brother and a brother who was Hispanic and physically disabled. To us, this was as natural and perfect as it could get. We were the Jolie-Pitt family way before they started doing it. There should be no criteria that defines what a family can be.”

In the real world, you won’t find a superhero. There is no Human Torch, no Invisible Girl. But interracial siblings? We’re here. I’m not sorry if that storms on anyone’s parade.

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