Nothing makes this feminist movie-goer itch more than the above statement, which means movie-makers can’t create diversity in the cast because altering the gender, race, or sexual orientation of the characters would not accurately reflect the original creative work.
Action adventure movies are incredibly lucrative to producers, and of late those movies are being made about classic, comic book heroes. These comic book heroes are almost universally white men. In the Avengers, there is an ensemble cast of six heroes, five white men and one woman. Now if you ask what is apparently a sacrilegious question like, “why couldn’t Hawkeye be a woman or why couldn’t Iron Man be a person of color,” you will most likely get this reply, “that would not be true to the source material.” We’re talking about works of fiction based on works of fiction. And yet this idea of maintaining some kind of accurate translation of the source material seems to trump any ideas of gender equality in the cast or proportional representation of people of color; and don’t even get me started about heroes of same-gender sexual orientation.
Lord of the Rings is another excellent example of this. There are arguably nine main characters in this trilogy, all male, all white. Why couldn’t Peter Jackson change the gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity of just one of these characters? Say it with me now, “true to the source material.” Again the movies are works of fiction, based on the books, also works of fiction, written in the 1950′s, taking inspiration from medieval England. It’s true that Tolkien’s books are remarkably like actual medieval England except for the whole magic thing, and the creation of various races of creatures, including orcs, fairies, dwarfs and hobbits, but otherwise, seriously, medieval England. Now I can give Tolkien a tentative pass for being born before the turn of the previous century, and having had little exposure to progressive ideas like humanism, but Peter Jackson gets no such pass. And the excuse that the movie must be ”true to the source material,” wears quite thin a decade in to the new millennium.
It’s time for producers to realize that they need to be true to their audiences more than they need to accurately reflect any particular work. Movie-makers need to get their asses off of their white man thrones and discover that women, and people of color, and those with disabilities and minority sexual orientation, all of us want to be represented on screen. All of us wish to have our stories told. We’re tired of trying to put ourselves in the place of the white leading man. It is past time that we are part of the story.