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Topic: Cultural Appropriation Post Reply | Post New Topic
John Byrne

Imaginary X-Man

Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 121684
Posted: 07 September 2020 at 1:10pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Is race swapping cultural appropriation?
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Joseph Greathouse
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 19 August 2015
Location: United States
Posts: 572
Posted: 07 September 2020 at 3:30pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Short answer, no. Longer answer, it could.

So, its defined as the unacknowledged or inappropriate
adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one
people or society by members of another and typically
more dominant people or society.

I often use the example of middle of Iowa college
fraternity that decided to through a "Bob Marley
party" where it was really an excuse to utilize the
dress, wigs, dialect, while getting high and ignore
the general meaning behind Marley's work.

In the case of race swapping and a general "no". I'll
use Spider-Man. My point is only in regard to the
question of cultural appropriation and in no way is
meant to be an argument for or against race swapping.
Spider-Man was created as a white character, and there
have been pocket movements over the years for non-
white actors to portray the character. So, the first
thing to ask is, what is white culture? Culture is
defined as the customs, arts, social institutions, and
achievements of a particular nation, people, or other
social group. We have pockets of culture that are
dominated by white people. This includes groups such
as Italian-Americans, Greek Americans, Norwegian
descended, Jewish Americans, and so on. These are all
established groups that have been able to trace
lineage back to a specific point of origin and have
worked to maintain a part of their culture within
their individual communities. By comparison, black
Americans have largely had this opportunity taken away
as individuals cannot point to a specific point of
origin, only a continent. That doesn't mean there is
not need for cultural establishment, in point it
generally creates a stronger need as people want to
feel they belong to something. Books are written about
this, so I am keeping it simple.

So, Spider-Man was created white and has remained a
white character since the 60s. But, since we cannot
point to a white culture that he would be taken from
for a race swap to be seen as cultural appropriation.

But, that that said, there could be cases that are. It
has been established that Ben Grimm is Jewish. If he
were to be race swapped, an argument could be made
that it is cultural appropriation. It would generally
be judged on how important the character is to the

Its a great topic and I wish I had more time at the
moment. I just want to add, while the rem is
relatively new (2017) I do feel that there was a
missed opportunity that leads to much confusion. If
the coiner of the phrase had referred to cultural
misappropriation, I think conversations would be much
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Joe Zhang
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 16 April 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 12394
Posted: 07 September 2020 at 6:13pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

Even if it were cultural appropriation, every wrong is a right so long as it serves Social Justice. 
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Rodrigo castellanos
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 03 July 2012
Location: Uruguay
Posts: 608
Posted: 08 September 2020 at 5:52pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Insightful stuff, Joseph. Thanks.
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David Miller
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 16 April 2004
Posts: 2397
Posted: 08 September 2020 at 6:25pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

It reminds me of Justice Potter Stewart's famous 1964 concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio. He was writing about obscenity, and whether a specific film by degenerate French pornographer Louis Malle qualified, but I think the axiom applies to cultural appropriation, and a whole lot of other issues being culturally litigated right now:

 Potter Stewart wrote:
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [obscene]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.

Edited by David Miller on 08 September 2020 at 6:28pm
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Mario Ribeiro
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 18 June 2016
Location: Brazil
Posts: 406
Posted: 09 September 2020 at 3:57am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

For those who don't know their French cinema, David Miller used "degenerate French pornographer" ironically. Sorry, David.
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Petter Myhr Ness
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 02 July 2009
Location: Norway
Posts: 3182
Posted: 09 September 2020 at 4:00am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

 If the coiner of the phrase had referred to cultural misappropriation, I think conversations would be much easier.

Agreed. It would have spared us a great deal of silliness. 
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Joe S. Walker
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 16 April 2004
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 584
Posted: 09 September 2020 at 5:51am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

For those who don't know their French cinema, David Miller used "degenerate French pornographer" ironically.


Now if we were talking about Roger Vadim...
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Rebecca Jansen
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 12 February 2018
Location: Canada
Posts: 2104
Posted: 09 September 2020 at 12:53pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

A bit of an off topic but maybe this is the place to ask... they made Nick Fury black and it seems to work okay, but what about the WWII Sgt. Fury or is it a ret-con that he never was nowadays? He would've had to be in not just an integrated unit in WWII but leading it. Oh well, just a comic book geekette thinking too much I suppose. :^)

Reba McEntire is a great Col. Saunders is all I really know, but sure, if someone re-wrote historical figures Marie Curie or Lief Erikson as Nubians, or Alexander Hamilton... that I think does a disservice. A white Othello is wrong but a white actor in paint seems ludicrous to me now and yet they did it. Break a rule and run the risk, and sometimes somebody will pull it off. I've often said that paintings of Jesus as a pale wispy light brown-haired Robin Hood type guy goes against descriptions in the Bible as well as the people from whom he would've come from in that part of the world. I thought it made us look kind of dumb, but heck we're the people who had to call Indigenous Americans 'Indians' all because one white guy thought he had landed in India in 1492. If it makes my people look dumb like all that blackface they had on tv in England as late as 1978 (google The Black & White Minstrel Show) I am agin' it on that basis. Marlon Brando with tape on his eyes... dumb. John Wayne as Genghis Khan dumb... so maybe if something feels like that to another ethnicity... of if they fell slighted by hand-me-down table scrap characters made their ethnicity I would listen.
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John Byrne

Imaginary X-Man

Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 121684
Posted: 09 September 2020 at 1:09pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

As most here know, I consider race swapping deeply disrespectful, even offensive, to the non-White actors who get swapped in. A Black Nick Fury? A Black James West. A Black Heimdahl*,Valkyrie? Dozens of others. These are scraps from the White man’s table. Where are the Black characters CREATED to be Black? Isn’t that what Black actors have earned?


* the particular absurdity there being Norse gods swapped in the name of “diversity” while the same movie introduces two brand new characters, both WHITE.

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Brian Floyd
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 07 July 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 7057
Posted: 09 September 2020 at 8:13pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

The Black Nick Fury would be a problem if they hadn't made the Ultimate universe version of Fury that race. 

But there are times that race-swapping still has to make sense. THE WILD WILD WEST didn't make sense. If Fury still had a WWII connection, it wouldn't have made sense. (And the way Fury lost his eye in the movies was stupid.)

One case of an actor playing a different race that is definitely offensive is Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's. How anyone can watch his scenes and not cringe and/or facepalm is beyond me. 

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Petter Myhr Ness
Byrne Robotics Member

Joined: 02 July 2009
Location: Norway
Posts: 3182
Posted: 10 September 2020 at 2:37am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

Here's James Gunn's take on "racebending":

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