Why can't Johnny and Sue be related in the new Fantastic Four movie?


When I heard about Michael B. Jordan being cast as Johnny Storm in the reboot of the Fantastic Four movies, my first reaction was to make a lot of excited and strange noises because him in anything, let alone as superhero, is worth getting hyped up for. I didn't think about how that would affect the relationship with Sue, his biological sister. And by ‘effect’ I mean to say her skin colour. Both Johnny and Sue in the comics are white and they had cast Jordan, who is black.

Before drawing to the sibling racial questions, most of the backlash was against the decision to pick a very talented black guy to play an originally white character. Because that’s the worst thing that could happen to a beloved franchise, right? It’s hardly as if black actors have to struggle to find good roles in Hollywood.

The same thing, similarly, occurred with John Boyega’s feature in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer, where he is wearing a Stormtrooper uniform in the opening shot. Most of the comments I read, at their tamest, were things like “why would they show a sweaty black guy as the first thing? I’m not interested”. Others were a lot worse, whether through pure ignorance, or down-right racism.


(This is clearly the most "sickening" thing that has happened to Star Wars, like, ever.)

(No need to tell you what word I blocked out. I bet we can find another word for this guy, something beginning with d, four letters, and ends with a k.)

Boyega aside, when the whole main cast of Fantastic Four were announced (at this point, it was rumoured that Jordan was going to be The Human Torch, so a lot of hatred bile was gotten out of the way months before) a new question started popping up. And one that I read over and over, and over again.

So, if he is black than how can his sister be white? In the new adaptation, Sue is played by Kate Mara.

Adoption has been extremely mistreated within the mainstream. I won’t go too much into it because I don’t know everything about the processes, but what I do know is that there isn’t a fair representation of adoptive families in the media. That is the most common answer to this, apparently, “impossible” scenario I’ve read and could very well be how they're family.

They could also be half-siblings, which is another idea banded round and one that is, yes, plausible. Related by their parents getting married, again, that is possible. Or, more shockingly, they’re not even siblings at all and they have some other kind of connection.

One of these explanations must be true, because the quality of the film doesn’t really matter; it’s only answering this so crazy casting choice that counts most!


As all of these ideas were being thrown around internet forums and comment threads, not once did I hear the words ‘mixed-race’ come up in the discussions and there is a sad reason for it.

What we define as being mixed-race, or what we envision a person who is mixed-race to look like, is very one-note. We usually only equate it to a black and white couple’s children, mostly ignoring how you can be mixed outside of those two skin colours. There are some people in the public eye who are mixed-race, but don’t necessarily look it on the basis of how we define it. Keanu Reeves, Wentworth Miller, Rashida Jones, Michael Jackson’s kids.

Our image of mixed-race families isn’t changed through mainstream media, either, which – whether we’re fans of it or not – does define, subconsciously, a lot of our opinions. When having one black and one white kid is reported as some kind of miracle, how are we to think any differently?

I am mixed-race. I’m quarter Trinidadian, Irish, Scottish and Mauritian. My granddads were black, and my grandmothers are white. Both my mum and dad are mixed-race, and have fairly dark skin. My brother is dark (think Zayn Malik colour) and I’m not. I’m white. But we’re both mixed-race.

All the adoption questions, all the ‘they’re not your real parents’ conclusions, and, at times, racist remarks. I get why so many asked them now, I really do. I understand why people would be surprised, at the very least, or confused. It is confusing because we aren’t exposed to different types of mixed-race people, let alone the idea of what we think someone from a mixed background looks like.


So, why can’t Michael B. Jordan and Kate Mara be related in the Fantastic Four movie universe? That’s what got me the most about these discussions. Because there are so many unaware of what you can look like if you're mixed race or what your skin colour can be, our assumptions automatically lock onto the other side of the family answer – only half related, or cousins, or adopted. It still doesn’t make it any less frustrating because being mixed-race is rarely acknowledged in the mainstream or in pop culture. We’re everywhere, but we’re nowhere at the same time.

We need to give more representation to families that aren’t what we would define as being ‘typically’ mixed-race. As multiracial partners and children continue to rise, both in the UK and in the US, we need that visibility, we need that understanding to spread to those that would find it weird to be white, but have a brother far darker than you.

We’re not being taught about it, so we need it somewhere. The FF franchise could be the perfect stepping stone for this and such a high-profile platform to have these conversations. But, no doubt they have already set up some elaborate way of explaining the siblings family relationship from one of the rumoured scenarios.

You know what would be cool, though? If they stuck to the story of Johnny and Sue being brother and sister, biologically, and paired up their own cultural identity issues with having superhuman powers. Now that would be a commentary. Even I know, through all my hoping, that isn’t going to happen.  

Or even better, what this guy said:



11 comments

  1. You know, I do have a bit of a gripe about his being cast. It's the fact that he was most likely chosen BECAUSE he was black. The internet has made a very loud cry of racism in Hollywood due to the fact that there really aren't poc represented on screen other than playing "the help", or maybe a best friend to the main character.Hollywood is the type of place that attempts to appease it's audience by giving them more of what they want, sometimes to a level at the least. I feel like because race has become a bigger thing because of the internet(which has it's pros and cons, like most things), being looked on as racist obviously isn't what you want to be known for. So now these huge pictures are tossing some minorities in to keep people from being angry and upset.
    Being a minority myself, I love that actors other than white ones are getting a chance to be part of major films, but how happy can you be when it's pretty obvious that it's only happening to get people to stfu?

    Take DC comics. They are in a really great position. They are pretty much revamping their entire film franchise and adding in poc, and even woman in staring roles. Not just as side characters, but in their own films. Is it to please people shouting for some diversity? Maybe, but the thing is, it's definitely not something that can be proven. Then you have Marvel comics. They have been primarily white for years now, and are just starting to push their poc and woman characters out little by little because they see people happy about DC and their new outlook. It's not to make a change, but only to keep up with it's competitors. The entire thing is just really fucked up.

    Also, one thing I don't care for(which falls right on this topic) is white or poc being cast as characters that were written with a certain look in mind. It would be one thing if there was no long past on the character looking a certain way, but taking someone like say, Batman, and making him Asian American, I think is off limits. It would be completely different if it were a different Batman. I read lots of graphic novels, and Batman is at times not white, but it's because the original Batman has died, or is now really old and passing the torch, or even because they live in a different country and are attempting to become the Batman of their region. Batman's story is pretty universally known, so if it were changed it can be sort of an unwelcome drag.
    Another example could be Beetlejuice. He's a character with make-up. His race and background play no part in his character. If they cast a Mexican as Beetlejuice, there isn't much room to complain. God forbid, anyone but Keaton play him. I just need to get that out there.

    Side note: Some online warriors(though their heart may be in the right place) need to realize that "poc" doesn't just define blacks. I'd love to see films with a variety of people. The "we need more blacks in your white movies, Hollywood" argument makes me sort of role my eyes, tbh.

    Hopefully none of this came off a wrong way. Your posts tend to be so easy to rant on, ahha. You choose pretty heavy topics. Also, sorry for any potential run on sentences.

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    1. (If this comment comes across as being lame/missing out points, Blogger is to blame for screwing it up the first time!) Hope that you didn’t face the same problem trying to comment on here.

      So, I just wanted to say that I LOVE comments like this in response to something I’ve written, where a debate is had and people have differing opinions. Not only is it important to listen to what others have to think about a topic in general, it is nice to have a fresh perspective on something and see it from someone else’s eyes. (This kind of answers the last part of your reply, where you hoped your comment didn’t come off the wrong way –it didn’t, so no need to apologise!).

      There is a serious problem around racism, and representation for anyone that doesn’t fit into the white, middle-class, cis-gendered man mould, within the film industry. That is undeniable. I think though, and this goes off from what I have experienced, the internet hasn’t had as much of a change within the industry we’d like to think. (I do agree that race discussions happening right now are positive, but can lead to negatives as well, as you said, like with most things.) Definitely, it has had an impact – and I am looking more at the piracy side of things – but when it comes to the audience’s voices being heard it’s still struggling.

      Pan and Exodus are incredibly whitewashed and suffer from The Last Airbender syndrome. White guys are good guys, anyone who isn’t white is bad. That kind of ethos which is completely and utterly not cool, but Hollywood are still going to make these films because, unfortunately, they think that kind of representation is right. I heard someone make a good point about international sales coming into play with casting and it was an extremely valid argument to make. (Though, even with the international box office and rights aside, they’d probably still be casting the same people from the general mindset that they have.)

      You’re right, there is certainly an element in a lot of big movies in particular where someone who isn’t white is shoehorned in for the sake of the filmmakers shouting about how diverse they are. With FF though, why I am getting different vibes for it, is the fact that, at the moment, Michael B. Jordan is the most popular and recognisable actor out of the bunch. (I love the cast, but you have Billy Elliot, the sister of Rooney Mara and that guy who is still playing teens when he is near 30…) Miles Teller, if Whiplash does well in the awards circuit, will become more of a recognised name most likely, but for now it’s all about Jordan.

      DC and Marvel, as you point out, are in some sort of race with each other to come out with the first ‘female superhero film’ or ‘film starring a lead that isn’t a white man’. It is fucked up, it is sad. They also suffer from that issue within the comics, too, and it isn’t something exclusive to films.

      Batwoman is a good example. They aren’t happy to show something like marriage between two LGBT characters but have no problem whatsoever with depicting some really nasty rape.

      With these guys it definitely seems like it’s a major problem. There are some great things happening in comics for representation right now (looking to Image with Saga, Rat Queens, Chew). Marvel and DC should be willing to change, and not use it as a tool to seem like they’re more ‘progressive’ when they couldn’t give a shit. Ms. Marvel is probably the best thing happening, representation wise, for Marvel currently.

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    2. (This reply was nearly longer than the article itself, lol, so had to split it up in bits.)

      For FF, since it is out of the MCU canon, it doesn’t have all those ties. I think if Marvel had made this movie, Michael B. Jordan wouldn’t have been anywhere near it. They have this ‘only one woman/only one non-white person’ at a time thing going on.
      You have a good point about Batman here. I have always seen him as a symbol, rather than a person that necessarily embodies him completely (though the costume is a BIG part of Bruce Wayne’s life, it has been proven time and time again that someone else will be around to take over that role).

      We do associate poc directly with being black, ignoring the other races out there. I kinda brought up that issue within this article, about mixed-race families/children only being associated with coming from a white and black family, rather than it being from other races. The point within the article here I was trying to make, is that mixed-race people have hardly, if any, visibility within mainstream media – much like other races – and that needs to be addressed. The fact that no one came to the conclusion Johnny and Sue Storm could be related, as a white and black sibling, made me realise how little people know about genetics/skin makeup.

      This is probably one of my favourite comments on my blog. As I said at the beginning of this reply, I love this kind of discussion and debate. So thank you for commenting with such an awesome response.

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    3. I'm really happy you enjoyed my comment. I was really afraid of being too long winded, ahha.

      You're right. There is still an obvious struggle to get more poc in major budget films. Even with online forums feeling up with positive thoughts, you still have YouTube and Facebook commenters that let their anonymous racist flag fly. I do think things are getting "better"... Sort of. Like I said, I do notice subtle changes, I just don't think every change happens to be something getting done without some sort of sad reason, like getting asses into seats.

      I was excited for Pan. I love Mara, and I was really wanting to see this "multi-racial" & "very different" version of an old story. However, after viewing the trailer, it's clear that the only thing different about it is the fact that it's just a bunch of white people from all over the world. American whites, Australian whites, British whites, & a black Wendy, which is a character I don't even recall seeing once in the trailer. I never once saw an issue with Tiger Lily being white like most seem to still have an issue with. I view her as a native from some other type of other galaxy, not as a Native America. She's been famously portrayed by an Asian American, so I see her as an open character to mess around with, mostly because she is a completely fictional character. I would say she and her tribe are just like the mermaids of Nederland. Alien, maybe? Either way. most people do see TL as a Native American, so Wright having cast a white woman for the role and making claims of unseen change isn't looking hot on his part. And lets be real, the movie looks like a fucking mess, and I'm not sure why I had my hopes up.

      I forgot to even bring up your point with mixed races. I got caught up in comic wars, ahha. I totally agree with you 100%!!! There is no good reason for not using mixed raced families in storylines. Especially when the fact that the family is mixed race isn't the plot of the story(which could very well be the case in FF). I had a friend in high school who was half Mexican and Half black, yet her skin was a pale olive type tone. It's difficult for some to wrap their heads around, which proves your point about mixed families being depicted enough. Even when mixed couples are shown on screen, it's only to point out how "unusual" it is.

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    4. Not as long winded as my reply, so don't worry! (My answer is pretty short here since you sum it up so well in your comment above.)

      Did you post something about the casting on your blog? Now you've mentioned Pan, I feel like I have heard your thoughts on it before, but I could be wrong. (Someone with not so good memory talking here.)

      Yeah, I always find that weird. How the racial differences are made SUCH a big deal out of, with couples, that they never actually get to the gripe of real issues that can be had, especially within mixed families. It's more about identity than anything (at least for me) and I rarely see that addressed.

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  2. You make a fantastic point, Cherokee!

    This casting completely bugs me because if how radically its changing the character, and because of all the OTHER pointless radical changes this adaptation is making. Pretty soon there won't even be any need to call it a Fantastic Four movie because every single aspect of the original will be nonexistant, kinda like how that recent Miss Marple TV series changed the plots, murderers, motives, and sometimes even victims, from the original story.

    Still, at least this Michael B Jordan guy is getting some major work, and in superhero stuff, which is still sorely lacking for diversity. On that same note, if Monica Rambeau ever appears in an MCU film in the future, here's hoping they remember she's black. God know the comics keep forgetting!

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    1. Thanks Chris!

      The choices that are being made for this outside of the casting are super weird - completely get where you're coming from. The whole Nolanisation of certain superheroes is getting a little bit too much now. I don't get the gritty thing, I just don't get it.

      (Maybe they're a little bit worried about trending 2000s FF again, I don't know.)

      The storyline that was released the other day seems to be sticking to the Millar/Bendis Ultimate arc, so at least there's some kind of connection happening at least...

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  3. If this was a regular FF movie rather than the 'gritty, dark, very realistic, and gritty' not-Fantastic Four movie they're making, I probably wouldn't have an issue with Johnny Storm's casting here.

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So what's this place Can You Dig It? all about? Who is the enigma that goes under the name of Cherokee? Clickity click on that ugly mug in the GIF, she has the answers to all your burning questions.

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