Robot 6

Quote of the day | Dan Harmon, on reaction to ‘Donald Glover for Spider-Man’

Troy (Donald Glover) in the opening scene from the season premiere of "Community"

“Troy would definitely be a Spider-Man fan. He wrote a comic book that’s included as an extra in the season-one DVD. He’s a hybrid of nerd and jock. Nerds and jocks overlap in the area of bad-ass stuff, like robots and things that kill things … video games and total domination of this and that … And it’s definitely a cutesy inside wink at the Donald Glover for Spider-Man campaign, and the curious eruption of a previously unknown demographic of racist comic-book readers it ended up uncovering.”

Dan Harmon, creator of NBC’s Community, explaining why Troy (Donald Glover)
wore Spider-Man pajamas in the opening scene of the season premiere

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27 Comments

I don’t think it really matters what the skin color the actor is as long as they got the character right.

We should change Superman to a black guy too. Why? Because it would be racist to NOT change him from white to black. They already changed a Marvel character from white to black, but that was racist too, because it was a criminal, the Kingpin.

“…the curious eruption of a previously unknown demographic of racist comic-book readers it ended up uncovering.”

Actually, I wouldn’t say they were previously unknown.

The Ugly American

September 26, 2010 at 9:33 am

Michael Cera as Shaft!

It’s a funny quote from Dan Harmon and there probably are racist comic book readers, but in this case, I think the argument against an African-American Spider-Man originated from the need to follow continuity that many comic book readers feel they can’t ignore.
It was hard for many to accept for the simple reason that they hadn’t seen it before, therefore it’s out of character for Spider-Man/Peter Parker to be African-American.

Get over it- Donald Glover would be a great Peter Parker.

that last line is just plain stupid…so its racist to want a faithful adaption of a character that has existed for decades? one who, by the way, is not black? well then, how about a white blade, black lightning, or falcon? what would reaction to that be?

When did race become a defining characteristic of Peter Parker?

Nerdy, working class, raised by older aunt and uncle, lives in NYC, bitten by a radioactive spider, tries to make a buck, ends up through a chain of events in part causing the death of his uncle, dedicates his life to never making that mistake again. None of these elements are strictly white. Anyone who says Peter has to be white because he was white when he was created has some real racial hang ups. I see nothing in Peter Parker that makes him a white character. He’s a human character, broad enough to be of just about any race, the fact that Spider-Man’s costume covers his entire body and makes his race ambiguous gives further credit to the idea that he doesn’t have to be white. If your love for Peter is defined by his skin tone, and you couldn’t like the character if he was some other skin tone, you are flat out racist, period.

“well then, how about a white blade, black lightning, or falcon? what would reaction to that be?”

Because those characters are all in part DEFINED by their blackness. Directly or in directly. They were created to be black characters. Blade less so.

Peter Parker was not created to be white to fill a niche, he’s simply a character who happened to be white because a black character wouldn’t have sold at that time. Nothing about him is distinctly white. He’s urban nerdy youth. Nothing about that is by definition white, it’s urban nerdy youth.

Besides the Kingpin, I’d like to point out that Terry Fitzgerald switched races.

No one complained.

No one complained when openly anti-organized religion actor Ian McKellen played the Jewish Magneto.

Donald Glover would have been great. He wouldn’t have been my first pick, but I wouldn’t have been upset at all.

I honestly think it depends on how the character’s origin, past history, and storyline goes. Peter Parker could definitely work if played by an African American person. But if they wanted to, say, make Storm Caucasian, it wouldn’t work because Storm’s history – her mother being an African princess, being a woman who was worshipped as a goddess in Africa, etc… – hinges on the fact that she’s of African descent.

what the hell does anti-organized religion actor ian mckellen playing a jewish character have to do with anything? that’s a completely different context. if they had made magneto’s CHARACTER into one who was anti-organized religion, well then that would be more akin to the topic at hand. the fact of the matter is spider-man isn’t, wasn’t, and, in my opinion, should never be black. end of story. it’s not racist to want to remain faithful to the character. he wasn’t created to be white…? then why was he created as a white character? that doesn’t make ANY sense.

p.s. i’m not attacking anyone, just my .02 c

First thing I think when I think about Spider-Man is “white.”

When I first heard about the campaign, I was against it because I’ve always thought of Peter Parker as white, he’s been white for 50 years and this seemed like some PC-crap.

But after watching Donald Glover in Community, I actually thought “Uau, this guy is great! He would make a great job as Spider-Man”.

Still, in this case I agree with ed: the last line of the quote is stupid. So either you agree with Glover being Peter Parker 100% or you’re a racist? There’s no middle ground?

“So either you agree with Glover being Peter Parker 100% or you’re a racist? There’s no middle ground?”

I don’t think that’s the case, nor do I think that’s what Dan Harmon is saying. It’s just that some of the responses to the campaign reached such high levels of hair-pulling hysterics that they exposed more than fannish obsession with continuity or faithful adaptations.

@ Kevin Melrose: if that’s the case, then I take back what I said. Still seems a bit unreasonable, though. If some people were against this because of racist reasons, I’d like to believe they were the minority.

“then why was he created as a white character? that doesn’t make ANY sense.” It does if you actually know your history and THINK.

In the early 1960s no one would have bought ANY character if it was black. It was how things were done.
Remember your history, there were NO BLACK SUPER HEROES prior to Black Panther who came a long a few years later. Stan gets credit for that, but even he knew making a character like Spider-Man black would have been a death blow. So he simply didn’t consider it. NOTHING in Peter Parker’s character makes him HAVE to be white. Nothing about the character is specifically white, other than how he was drawn to make sure it didn’t fail.

I know it’s hard for some fanboys to actually think beyond what they see on the page, it’s why they are so adherent to what they read, or worse think they read on that page. Fact is there’s nothing distinctly white about Peter Parker. He can be any race. But he was created in the early 60s, no one had considered making him anything other than white because if they did, the book would have never sold. They probably would not even have SOLD an Amazing (Black) Spider-Man in some regions of the country.

So, by adhering to a racism driven commercial concern (more commercial than racist on Marvel’s part, as shown by their introduction of Black Panther when things started pick up for them and they had some clout) Spider-Man must ALWAYS be white, despite nothing about him as a person being specifically white.

To the naysayers: The reason you can change a white character with no inherent “white signifiers (such as being a blind lawyer of irish descent)” into a black character and not the other way around is because the white is sadly still considered to be the default race. It’s just standard and is rarely an intrinsical part of the character; and thus it’s open to change – it just doesn’t matter. Sure, Captain America has to stay white because of the historical context, but most white characters have nothing about them that makes them intrinsically white other than the fact, that they were created in a time, when almost all fictional characters were white males.

This does however not apply to, say, an æsir in the Marvel Universe, because firstly, Kirby played fast and loose with the mythology behind Thor and it’s been implied they might actually be aliens or other-dimensional creatures, not Gods, and secondly, because removing them from the setting of the viking era their race simply doesn’t matter.

I love this whole thing so much. It’s kind of great see people, mopping the proverbial sweat off their brow, trying to defend their covert racism by insisting that their issue is that the character wouldn’t be followed “faithfully” if he was black.

Hey, racists: IT’S A TOTALLY ARBITRARY LINE. What is being “faithful” to the character? What defines Spiderman? Is it him wearing glasses? Is it him having an aunt named May? Is it him wearing the same exact silly vest that Steve Ditko drew on him back in the 60s? It is him talking about how much he loves Aunt May’s wheatcakes?

The fact of the matter is, there are all sorts of things done to update or revise or reinterpret a character, issue to issue, year to year, and maybe 90% of them go unobjected to because they are all seen as honoring the core sensibility of what we perceive “Spiderman” to be. The character of Spiderman/Peter Parker is not EXACTLY the same character that appeared in Amazing Fantasy 15, for better or for worse. Things change, big things. He got married. He got unmarried. He AGED.

Why aren’t we up in arms that he’s being played by ANYONE, not say animated, or even just left alone as a comic? Sure this is not a dramatic leap (you can argue that comics are a representational media and meant to represent reality in some way), but baggage may have shifted during the flight.

And every comic fan who cares enough about the character to have opinions about his interpretation at some point draws a line in the sand and says, “These are things I think are important about Spiderman. Change them, and I don’t consider it, at heart, Spiderman.”

I’m not trying to get people back down. I just want them to admit that their understanding of the character is that Spiderman MUST BE WHITE and that this is what makes them uncomfortable about the whole Donald Glover thing. It is because a black man would play a character they feel MUST BE WHITE.

Donald Glover said a great thing about the whole incident. I’m paraphrasing, but it was along the lines of, “Spiderman’s a kid growing up poor, in Queens, no parents, taken care of by a sickly aunt, an’t he’s supposed to be WHITE? That’s kind of ridiculous.” He’s 100% right. All of those things (to this humble fanboy) ARE the essence of the character, and NONE of them are white exclusive.

What he touches on, in fact, is more interesting: whether we like it or not, all of those things are actually more believable as part of the BLACK experience (at least from a modern perspective). As a former NYC native, I can attest to the fact that Queens has changed quite a bit since Stan Lee’s day (if it was ever that way at all, and not just the product of media whitewashing) and seeing a black (or latino, or korean) take on the character is, frankly, more believable from a modern perspective.

Then again, this is all assuming that the consensus is that him being young, poor, in Queens, no parents, taken care of by a sickly aunt are what defines him. Maybe they aren’t. Maybe it’s just about a kid slinging webs. Maybe it’s the costume. Maybe it’s the storyline “Kraven’s Last Hunt.”

The point i’m making is that IT’S ALL SO INCREDIBLY ARBITRARY. We can argue until judgment day, but it’s all subjective. And that subjectivity, if leading you to a conclusion that, indeed, SPIDERMAN MUST BE WHITE (because so-and-so drew him that way, because he’s “always” been white) that is, indisputably, a RACIST and arbitrary assertion. So yeah. Enjoy that.

I won’t be happy until Spider-Man is portrayed by a wheelchair bound lesbian who is at least 1/12th Native American.

“First thing I think when I think about Spider-Man is ‘white’.”

Really? Not ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ or ‘best superhero ever’ or ‘webshooters’ or ‘proportionate powers of a spider’ or ‘electrifying pop-art Ditko-designed costume’ or ‘thank god Howard Mackie isn’t writing him anymore’?

Has anyone taken into consideration that Dan Harmon is the creator of Community, a sit-com that bases the majority of its comedy on stereotypes? They make it a point to say at least five offensive things before the first commercial break. Is it even remotely possible that Harmon is just having a little fun at comic book readers’ expense?

i think people need to calm down here, that last sentence in his quote was covered with sarcasm…sooo calm down folks.

“Has anyone taken into consideration that Dan Harmon is the creator of Community, a sit-com that bases the majority of its comedy on stereotypes? They make it a point to say at least five offensive things before the first commercial break. Is it even remotely possible that Harmon is just having a little fun at comic book readers’ expense?”

Really? What episodes are you watching?

As for the Spider-Man thing, whatever. I think Donald Glover’s pretty awesome and could pull it off effortlessly, but it’s all a moot point anyway. To be fair, I also don’t really care about Spider-Man in general.

Captain Librarian

September 27, 2010 at 9:56 am

It might be possible for a black spider-man to be true to the character. But it’d be very distracting and difficult. Think of this: could Mary Jane be blond?

@DrunkJack: To answer your question of “When did race become a defining characteristic of Peter Parker,” i’d like to do the jewish thing & answer a question with a question. When did race become a defining characteristic of “Static”?

Answer: Always.

he could be asian or a jew IDC!!!

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