Outrage in the Age of Superhero Outsourcing

Outrage in the Age of Superhero Outsourcing (photo)

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He’s called the Man of Steel, not the Man of American-Made Steel. But apparently it’s a huge scandal that British actor Henry Cavill has been cast in the role of Superman in Zack Snyder’s upcoming reboot. It’s prompted the requisite fanboy outrage — let’s face it, fanboys have only one expressible emotion, and that’s outrage — and now the story’s spreading to legitimate outlets as well. The Hollywood Reporter‘s Heat Vision Blog published a story this morning called “Why Americans Don’t Play Superheroes.” It features angry fan reaction (“It’s disgusting casting to the highest degree, and I will never ever see a movie with a Brit as Superman.”) and a rundown of recent other “disgusting” castings like Christian Bale (British) as Batman, Andrew Garfield (British) as the new Spider-Man, and Chris Hemsworth (Australian) as Thor.

This whole thing is so stupid from so many angles I don’t even know where to begin. As a comic book reader myself, I understand Superman’s unique and important place in American popular culture. But is he any more American than Batman just because he supposedly fights for “truth, justice, and the American way?” I don’t recall a lot of hand-wringing over Bale’s initial casting; I remember a lot more over American George Clooney’s casting for “Batman and Robin.” And Bale’s Batman seemed to work out okay; unless I saw “The Dark Knight” 44 million times and gave it a domestic gross of $530 million all by myself.

I don’t see much difference between Batman and Superman; I do see a difference between Batman and Superman and Thor, since the comics’ Thor is an ancient Norse god who speaks in a faux Shakespearian dialect (i.e. “Thou shalt taste the might of Mjolnir!”). Why is an American actor any more qualified to play that sort of character than a British actor or an Australian actor? He’s a Scandinavian God; according to this sort of logic, shouldn’t a Scandinavian actor play the part? It’s American apples and Norse oranges.

On some level, yes, it is interesting that a British actor was hired to play Superman since that hasn’t happened before. And, yes, there are quite a few foreign born stars playing superheroes lately. But that Heat Vision article makes it seem like there are no Americans left in the superhero game, and that’s completely untrue. The biggest superhero franchise right now is “Iron Man,” headed by American actor Robert Downey Jr. He’ll next appear as that character in “The Avengers,” alongside fellow Americans Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Chris Evans (Captain America, who’s got his own movie as well), and Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk, the second American actor to replace Aussie Eric Bana in that role).

The Heat Vision article expands this discussion of foreign actors playing so-called “American” parts to include Sam Worthington, who succeeded the great American actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the “Terminator” franchise, and Daniel Day-Lewis who’s set to play Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming biopic about the Great Emancipator. Day-Lewis is maybe the best actor in the world. He creates fascinating characters with flawless accents. In “There Will Be Blood,” he brought to life one of the most fascinating portraits of American greed in movie history. So why can’t he play Lincoln? Is it because he’s a President? I don’t remember people pulling out their hair when Anthony Hopkins played Nixon.

Let’s not forget either that Robert Downey’s other big franchise right now is “Sherlock Holmes.” Has anyone argued he can’t play Holmes because he’s American and that as a result he’s incapable of understanding such a quintessentially British character? No, because he’s an actor. This is what actors do. True, Henry Cavill doesn’t know what it’s like to grow up on a Midwestern farm. I’m pretty sure Henry Cavill doesn’t know what it’s like to be rocketed from his parents’ dying planet in a prenatal birthing matrix either. Somehow, he’ll muddle through.

I guess you could make an argument that these casting choices are objectionable for the same reasons that it’s objectionable when an American company closes their factory in Detroit to move it to a third world country. I have no doubt that Marvel and Sony felt Andrew Garfield was the most qualified individual to play Spider-Man. But I also have no doubt his selection was based on the fact that he was a lot cheaper to hire than the man he replaced, Tobey Maguire. Garfield is reportedly making half a million dollars in the role, a massive savings when compared to the $15 million plus that Maguire made for each of his two Spider-Man sequels. Basically we live in a new age of superhero outsourcing. You spend the money on the property, not the person.

Here’s the thing about getting upset about anyone getting cast in any role for any reason: unless you wrote the screenplay or created the character, you’re overreacting. I understand people care deeply about “Superman.” I understand Cavill — or anyone in that part — has big shoes to fill. Christopher Reeve was a great Superman. But he was a great Superman in a movie produced by Alexander and Ilya Salkind, a Frenchman and his Mexican-born son. And he was a great Superman in a movie based on a comic book that was co-created by Joe Shuster, a Canadian. Superman himself is something of an immigrant too, since he came to the United States from the planet Krypton. When Superman fights for the “American way,” that’s what he’s fighting for: the immigrant’s way.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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