People Are Furious About Marvel's Spider-Man Casting

June 10th 2016

Tricia Tongco

Hollywood has come under fire for its glaring lack of diversity, particularly the whitewashing of Asian roles, and it seems even token sidekicks aren't spared.

According to Deadline, 14-year-old actor Michael Barbieri "is in negotiations to join the cast of Sony Pictures’ 'Spider-Man: Homecoming,' the reboot of the Marvel franchise." The problem? His casting is another disappointing example of whitewashing Asian characters.

As Comicbook.com reports, "Barbieri's character will be a new one, though he'll be based off the Ultimate Spider-Man character Ganke [Lee]," who is drawn as a Korean-American teenager in the comic books. He is "the best friend of Miles Morales, the popular half-Black, half-Hispanic teen who becomes Spider-Man in Marvel’s 'Ultimate' universe (which was folded into the main Marvel Universe in 2015)," Inverse reported.

Barbieri's casting is ony the latest example of a disturbing norm. Previously, Tilda Swinton was cast in the role of the Tibetan sorcerer The Ancient One in Marvel’s upcoming film “Doctor Strange.” And Scarlett Johansson won the lead role of a cyborg policewoman named Major Kusanagi in the upcoming live-action version of the Japanese sci-fi anime film "Ghost in the Shell."

While it's arguable that Marvel is creating an entirely new character for Barbieri, the casting choice still reads as whitewashing to many critics:

In other tweets, the sense of growing outrage is palpable:


Critics of Marvel's whitewashing also argue that it's important to take a chance by casting an Asian or Asian-American actor:

ATTN: asked the Disney-owned studio to comment on the casting decision and will update the story pending response. Marvel did respond, however, to casting Swinton in "Doctor Strange" in a statement to Mashable:

"Marvel has a very strong record of diversity in its casting of films and regularly departs from stereotypes and source material to bring its MCU to life. The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic. We are very proud to have the enormously talented Tilda Swinton portray this unique and complex character alongside our richly diverse cast."

Hollywood may not be in the business of righting social injustices — it's in the business of making money. But Hollywood is ignoring a potential gold mine by not producing more diverse films, The Washington Post argued:

"The power of minorities’ spending, particularly in movies with more diverse stars and stories, has become impossible to ignore. 'Furious 7,' which made more than $1 billion worldwide, pocketed 62 percent of its $350 million gross in the United States from minority moviegoers. Notably, '[Straight Outta] Compton,' which far outpaced financial projections, counted a box-office audience that was 75 percent nonwhite."

Hollywood, your increasingly diverse audience is waiting.

[h/t Moviepilot]