movies matter | criticism by maryann johanson
Wed Jun 12 2013, 06:20pm | 13 comments
Not for sale at fine newssagents anywhere:
I’ve been going back and forth myself on the whole “Superman played by a Brit” thing. On the one hand, yes, both points are valid (acting, alien) . . . on the other hand, it still feels a bit to me like casting an American as James Bond.
Since Supes is an Alien, wouldn’t “casting an American as the Doctor” be the better analogy?
I suppose so. As I’m much more familiar with Bond than Doctor Who, 007 leapt more readily to mind.
An illegal immigrant, living under a false name, who started his career fighting against union-busters and the Klan, no less.
Also, I see no problem with Superman being played by a Brit so long as they get the accent right.
Not only that–but does he have insurance through the Daily Planet? If not we’re footing his healthcare costs every time he gets poisoned by kryptonite.
It makes as much sense as saying: No American can write Doctor Who, because only a British person can really understand an alien with two hearts from the planet Gallifrey.
I don’t see the casting of a Brit to be any kind of issue at all. On the other hand, if they re-booted Superman to be a Brit, and had his space capsule land in Essex, for example, this would be another matter entirely. Henry Cavill is just part of a recent and honorable trend of British and Aussie actors playing Americans.
And by the way, actor Barry Nelson played an American James (Jimmy) Bond in a 1950s TV adaptation of “Casino Royale.” Peter Lorre played Le Chiffre.
I wonder what conservatives would make of the Moses or Space Jesus implications of the Superman myth.
And of course, one could easily talk about the allusions to the French Revolution and to Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” in “The Dark Knight Rises,” along with more blatant references to One Percenters.
But you could say that no American can write Doctor Who because they haven’t grown up with it pervading many aspects of their wider culture and so don’t understand the programme in a wider sense.
I suppose it could be argued that Brits can’t be Superman for the same reason, comic books are certainly not particularly big sellers here and most people I know thought of The Avengers in terms of the TV programme from the sixties with Steed and Emma Peele.
I was talking about Superman with a recent immigrant, an Asian-American man, and he thought that Superman was made out of metal, because he’s the Man of Steel. So, yes, there are people who don’t know the history. But there are also plenty of Americans who watched Doctor Who on PBS all through high school. Some of them might not have survived school if they couldn’t bond with other science-fiction fans over the Doctor. He’s a pretty good role model for people who feel like outcasts. He’s eccentric and oddly dressed, and he values intelligence in situations where other people don’t. So I think it’s just as silly to say that Americans don’t get Doctor Who as it is to say that a British person can’t identify with Superman.
I’m a little surprised that no American actor could be found, but possibly the casting director didn’t try that hard. Superman is one of the quintessentially American characters, I think, or at least was when America still claimed to champion the underdog.
I would think that if Barbra Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson found an American (or European/Antipodean etc) actor who could fufil the role – on that sad day when Daniel Craig hands back the Walther and the number – then yes, they would cast him.
After all, don’t forget – Bond is British but he has American parents.
It’s a simple matter of the right actor for the role and if ‘he’ happens to be Welsh (Batman), Aussie (Wolverine), Irish/German (Magneto – Fassbender variant) – then good luck to them. It’s what they do!
It would be like casting an American as Sherlock Holmes!!! Oh, wait….
I can’t help but think that one of the reasons Superman is popular with conservatives is that he embodies a Norman Rockwell, idealized America. When I think about it, I also can’t help but notice an overlap between the theme of the series (a messiah figure coming to the rescue of grateful people) and the arguments in favour of so-called humanitarian intervention and past colonialist ventures, the main difference being that Superman tends to present a best case scenario whereas real-life application of these ideas often reveals ulterior motives and is often very problematic even in people who don’t have ulterior motives (like a priest who truly believed that he was saving the heathens). In any case, I ramble, I ramble, I know.
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