Director Spews Fire At Zendaya Casting Controversy

Photo: David Livingston/Getty Images.
James Gunn, the director of Guardians of the Galaxy, has taken to Facebook to address the non-troversy swirling around the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming film.

For the first time, the iconic role of Mary Jane Watson might be played by a Black actress — and some people aren't happy about it. There is speculation that Zendaya is set to star as Peter Parker's well-known love interest in the 2017 movie, much to the chagrin of some, who think Watson should always be played by a white actress with red hair, like Emma Stone in The Amazing Spider-Man.

"I do not believe a character is the color of his or her skin," Gunn wrote. He went on to disavow the controversy over Michael B. Jordan being cast as Johnny Storm in 2015's Fantastic Four.

"Yesterday, a rumor broke out that the character of Mary Jane was being played by a young Black woman, Zendaya, and all hell broke out on the internet (again)," Gunn wrote. "I tweeted that if people find themselves complaining about Mary Jane's ethnicity, they have lives that are too good...I got a thousand or so responses to my tweet. Most of them were positive. Some folks disagreed — they thought the character should look like what she looks like in the comics — but were thoughtful. And a handful were flat-out racist. I can't respond to the racists — I'm not ever going to change their minds."

"For me, if a character's primary attribute — the thing that makes them iconic — is the color of their skin, or their hair color, frankly, that character is shallow and sucks. For me, what makes MJ MJ is her alpha-female playfulness, and if the actress captures that, then she'll work," Gunn wrote. "And, for the record, I think Zendaya even matches what I think of as MJ's primary physical characteristics — she's a tall, thin model — much more so than actresses have in the past."

Gunn closed with a thought that gets a standing ovation from us, writing, "Whatever the case, if we're going to continue to make movies based on the almost all white heroes and supporting characters from the comics of the last century, we're going to have to get used to them being more reflective of our diverse present world. Perhaps we can be open to the idea that, although someone may not initially match how we personally conceive a character, we can be — and often are — happily surprised."

What Gunn did not do in his Facebook was confirm that Zendaya was cast as Mary Jane, writing, "For those of you who think this means I'm confirming that Zendaya IS playing MJ, realize that although I've read the Spidey script, and I've met the actress in question, I have no idea what her role is. There's a good chance someone told me at one time or another, but, if so, I can't remember. I'm going to find out when I go into Marvel this afternoon, but I feel free to speak until that time, because it's about the concept about a Black woman playing Mary Jane, not the actuality or hypothesis of it."

Okay, got it.

Correction: An earlier version of this post identified Gunn as the director of Spider-Man: Homecoming. Jon Watts is directing that film.

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