Friday, 11 March 2011

Should American Heroes Be American?

The list of American heroes is long and filled with people whose names resonate across the very fabric of time and space. From Spider-Man to Green Lantern, from Jack Bauer to House, they are all.... well, you get the idea. None of America's biggest heroes are actually played by Americans. Spider-Man and Batman are British, Green Lantern is Canadian or something, and even President Obama is secretly from Africa (but don't tell anyone). Why are so few Americans being given American parts? Why are they forced to take on roles like Sherlock Holmes if they want to play an iconic role? American jobs for American people! British jobs for British people.

Superman is not American. It's well-known that he comes from the Marlonbrandoverse, a dark place where everyone talks with their mouth full and you can't quite tell what's happening but everyone seems reverential. Well... really he's from outer space, but then again so was Marlon Brando. So the appointment of a British guy as Superman isn't a bad thing at all. The problem here, which fans have not really pointed out yet, is that Clark Kent - Superman's racist alter-ego - *is* American. While Superman presumably speaks like a Mafia don, Clark Kent is designed to be a steretypical human and so bumbles, stumbles, and indeed mumbles his way through life. With an American accent. Superman sounds like an overrated actor, while Clark Kent sounds American. This is how it has always been.

So why haven't the studios cast an American to play Clark Kent? Well, for one thing, the most iconic thing about Superman is how pathetic his disguise is. A single pair of glasses and a tie immediately stop the most recognisable face on the planet from being, well, recognised. If suddenly Superman started to display even a small amount of self-awareness regarding disguising himself, it would be declared out-of-character and comic fans worldwide would stampede. For another thing, American actors should be glad that they're finally starting to escape typecasting.

Spider-Man, Clark Kent - these very American heroes all have one thing in common: they're idiots. Peter Parker spends all his time pining after a woman who is IN LOVE WITH SPIDER-MAN. There's an easy way to reconcile that, Peter, if you just stop and think about it for a few minutes. Likewise, Wolverine is a grumpy bugger with no sense of personal space, while Green Lantern Hal Jordan is a chauvinist. Let's look at these characteristics: loser, misanthrope, misogynistic, paranoid, pessimistic. Are these the characteristics of an American, or of a British person?

Superheroes are a lot like stand-up comedians. While they look awesome when they're performing, they are often broken hollow shells of a person, mental and rabid. Why would any American actor want to do that, when British people have been playing mental and rabid characters FOR YEARS? Alan Rickman should've been Batman. Sean Bean could've been Captain America. Heck, who could be a more perfect Wonder Woman than Helen Mirren? British people have been typecast as villains for too long. It's only fair that now we get to portray dumb, unlikeable, self-serving superheroes like Mr Fantastic.

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