Welcome to Churnalism: my twisted view of churned up stories chewed and chucked back at you for pleasure & judgement.
tHe DyNaStY iS oVeR
To be a Golden State Warriors fan in July of 2019 is to be depressed and confused. You can’t help but wonder if their fall is the beginning of a death by a thousand cuts. Just a month ago, Kawhi Leonard clamped his claws on the heart of the Bay Area as he and the rest of the Raptors came to Oakland and beat the Warriors to a pulp in the last ever game at Oracle Arena. The loss in the Finals was one thing, but what really hurt were the injuries.
KD fought his way back from a nasty calf strain, only to rupture his achilles in his first few minutes. In game six, Klay went up for a dunk and landed so awkward, you’d wince at every replay. Turns out he tore his ACL. The Dubs kept it close until the end despite lazy defense, wounded warriors and calling a time out that they didn’t have in the final seconds of the game, resulting in a turnover, and subsequent loss of the series. You hate to see it. The Raptors won their first series in franchise history, lighting a fire under an entire country while simultaneously stomping out the flames of one of the most dominate teams in NBA history.
But then there was Free Agency. If you thought the Finals were hard on the heart, Free Agency might have caused you actual chest pain. I don’t think anyone was surprised that Kevin Durant left. Obviously Dubs fans would have wanted him to stay, but the writing was on the wall for a while. How he left was a roller coaster of emotions. We all got that Woj bomb from ESPN saying that D’Angelo Russell agreed to a sign and trade to come to the Bay. It felt great. We lost KD, but we got something back. Another All-Star, and a step splash brother to fill in for Klay while he rehabs his ACL. And in the long run, Russell is a huge asset to use in a trade for a player that might fit the system better. The Warriors front office was playing chess.
That’s when the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” moment happened. Moments after that Woj bomb, Woj dropped a nuke on the fan base. In order to make the Russel trade work monetarily, we had to ship Iguodala off to Memphis. This one hurt. They sacrificed our boy. KD leaving was one thing, but trading Iggy really did seem like this was an end of an era. He was the finals MVP in 2015, and one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Signing D’Angelo Russell was nice, but not at this cost.
That’s the league, though. Bob Meyers and the Warriors front office know that next year is a wash. They’ll no doubt be competing, but playing for another ring is a longshot at best. And despite what Iguodala’s ridiculous hops say, he’s not 25 anymore. I’m sure Iggy would have liked to have finished his career in Golden State, but trading him gives him a chance to continue to compete in the twilight of his career. A week later we waived Shaun Livingston. This is without a doubt not the same team that reached the finals for 5 straight years. And with so many other power moves in free agency, it might be hard for Warriors fans to see a future where the Dubs can ever compete at an elite level again.
“tHe DyNaStY iS oVeR!!” is something you might see in the comments section of a post on Instagram or thread on Twitter about the Warriors. Usually from an account whose picture has LeBron, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard in Lakers uniforms. That’s a rant for another day, though. It hurts, but you might find it hard not to agree with them. But that’s because you’re living in 2019, while the Warriors front office is living in 2020, where things are much clearer. See what I did there?
But for real, like I said, the front office, led by Bob Meyers, is playing a game of chess right now. And you have to look a few steps ahead to see what their plan is.
Here are some highlights of their offseason as of right now:
KD, Iggy, and Livingston are gone (This is actually a lowlight, but it’s huge nonetheless.)
Klay signed a five year max contract, but is out at least half the season with an ACL injury.
Steph Curry is now the oldest on the team at 31. Still baby-faced, though.
They retained Kevon Looney who’s 23.
The Warriors traded for D’Angelo Russell who is 23.
The Warriors traded Damion Lee for Omari Spellman, 21.
The Warriors signed Willie Cauley-Stein, 25.
They signed Glenn Robinson III, 25.
The Warriors drafted Alen Smailagic, Jordan Poole, and Eric Paschall who are 18, 20, and 22 respectively.
Do you see a pattern here? Outside the core of Steph, Klay, and Draymond, The Warriors are a very young team. Like, scary young. And their core isn’t exactly old either. They’re still in their primes. I’m not an insider so don’t quote me here, but I think next year will be really different than years past (Duh). That’s obvious because so many players have left. But what I mean is that with the addition of Russell and Cauley-Stein, the Dubs will be playing a lot more pick and roll action, and these young players are going to have a lot of time to develop in the Warriors system. And then in 2020 when the team is (hopefully) healthy, they’ll have a year of NBA experience under their belt, with a reputable franchise, and the Warriors will be right back in the mix of being one of the top teams in the league. They could use D’Angelo Russell as trade bait for another star if he doesn’t work out, or if he does, then it’s more rain in the Bay Area, with an increased chance of ice in the veins.
After a huge offseason that saw a seemingly unprecedented amount of big time players move to different teams, there’s a rule of two in the NBA now. Super teams are no more, and there’s a balance of power that we haven’t seen in a very long time. In 2020, the Warriors will be among them again, with Steph and Klay, Draymond as the heart, and a hopeful reliable supporting cast.
Or none of it will work out and they’ll have to go to the drawing board again.
What I’m trying to say is that we don’t know anything yet. Our wounds are fresh, but that doesn’t mean we won’t heal 100%. We have to wait and see.
I don’t think the dynasty is over. But I also know people have different definitions of a dynasty. Some people see it as an overbearing dominance that nobody can stop. Teams that win every year no matter what. The 90’s Bulls and Kobe & Shaq’s Lakers come to mind. But there’s also the San Antonio Spurs. They’ve won five championships in 20 years. They’ve never repeated, but you can’t count them out because they are a model of consistency. They had their nucleus in the front office, an extension of that mindset in the coach, and a trio of stars who sacrificed individual stats to obtain the ultimate goal. That’s the common trait of all these teams: Constance. And that’s how I see the Warriors. As long as they keep their most important pieces together, they will always have a window to another title. It just won’t be guaranteed like it has been the past couple of years. And that’s okay.
Kid Cudi: The Salt to Kanye’s Steak
My friend Shabaz tells me all the time that Kanye uses Kid Cudi like a salt shaker, sprinkling just the right amount of him into a song. But if Cudi is the salt, that means Ye, or his music, is the meal. Let’s say for the sake of establishing the mainstream disparity between the two that Kanye and his music are a fat juicy steak.
Do people put salt on steak? Is that a thing? I don't really know cause I don't eat steak. But you get the point, right?
Also, I'm not calling Kid Cudi salt. Dude is my favorite musician. I respect the hell out of him. I just want to convey how he's been under utilized by other musicians and only used to add flavor to what they've already cooked up... like salt!
Okay, so! To really understand the relationship between Kanye West and Kid Cudi, we’re gonna have to do a little history lesson. This is only two degrees removed from a Wikipedia summary, but it will be two degrees more fun. That's worth it, trust me. You ain’t doin nothin' else.
The Year was 2008
Kanye had taken Cudi under his wing, catapulting him to the forefront of the hip-hop scene. But don’t get it twisted, their relationship was more than the traditional mentor/protege cliche. Cudi influenced Kanye just as much as Kanye impacted Cudi's career.
808’s and Heartbreak, Ye’s auto-tune heavy album about loss and loneliness heavily features Cudi’s melancholic melodies. The two fed off of each other in a way that feels more natural than Kanye’s other musical relationships.
At the time, the album was not only a serious departure from anything Kanye had ever done before, but it was so different than what we thought Hip-Hop could be. But Kanye is known for reinventing himself. He can’t be contained by your perception of him.
Auto-tune wasn’t new. But that was T-Pain’s wheelhouse. And while he was the master of it, he never transcended the genre in the same way that Kanye did. T-Pain, for better or for worse, still perpetuated that Hip-Hop lifestyle of strippers, money, and nice cars. 808’s subverted all of that. It talked about love, loss, and regret. This was a new era for everyone. But not Kid Cudi.
Cudi had been coming up in the game for a few years at the time, having released his debut mixtape “A Kid Named Cudi” in July of 2008. It was an expiremental take on Hip-Hop. He didn’t rap about what other rappers rapped about. He didn’t even always rap. He talked about real life issues like depression, drug addiction and wanting to be accepted. He was extremely relatable. Especially to a budding millennial generation trying to find their place in the world.
So make no mistake, 808’s & Heartbreak would not be the album it is without Cudi. And Kanye understood that. His then producer Plain Pat put him on to Cudi. And homie must have been impressed, cause he signed him to his record label a few months later. Cudi was featured heavily on 808’s as a songwriter, and also provided vocals for “Welcome to Heartbreak” where his style was introduced to the mainstream world (including me) for the first time. Kanye, ever the orchestrator, knew exactly where to fit Cudi in.
808’s & Heartbreak was jarring for the world. It came off the heels of Kanye’s ‘Graduation’ which solidified him as the #1 rapper in a lot of people’s minds. But Kanye didn’t rap on this album. He… sang?? About sad shit??? It wasn’t until years later where people truly appreciated what the album did for the genre and industry. If you look at a lot of hip-hop today, you can tell that it’s all influenced by 808’s. Rappers sing now, mostly using auto-tune. And they talk about their feelings. It may seem crazy, but no one was doing that back then! You had cats like Andre 3000 who was a genre bender himself, but he dropped off the map after his album ‘The Love below’ debuted in 2003. Pharrell did his own thing, too. Homie was funky. But he was doing more producing and providing fire ass hooks for songs at the time. Even with all of this, it wasn’t informing the industry as much as 808’s would.
Drake, who is widely considered today's top rapper, rode this wave and became a superstar. He might have had glimpses of the type of musician he is now, but before 808’s, he was just another rapper. A pretty good one at that. But he didn’t propel himself into the stratosphere until he started ‘singing’ and talking about failed relationships. That ‘in his feelings’ Drake that everyone seems to love.
But what about Cudi?
Well, Cudi was also riding the wave. Depending on who you ask, he might of created the wave. Don't quote me, though. In 2009, a year after his debut with Ye, Cudi released his first album ‘Man on The Moon: The End of Day’ to wide acclaim. The album was executive produced by Kanye and featured producers and musicians from Ye’s record label G.O.O.D Music, which Cudi was also signed too. His top two singles were 'Day N Nite', and 'Pursuit of Happiness.' The kid had made it. He was on the rise.
'Solo Dolo', my favorite song from this album
In 2010 he released “Man on The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager” which to date is his most commercially successful album. Critics loved it, fans raved about it. Kanye was no longer an executive producer. This one was all in Cudi’s hands. Kanye was known to do this with his artists. He gives them the vision for their first album, and then gives them the reins for their second. So with this success, it seemed like Cudi was going to be one of the music industry’s premier new talents. You have to remember, at this point it was 2010. At the time, the biggest names in hip-hop were still Kanye, Jay-Z, Lil-Wayne and maybe Rick Ross. I’ll even throw in a DJ Khaled
In reality, this was the beginning of the end of Cudi’s mainstream success. Man on The Moon II was the first time Cudi really experimented outside what people were used to him producing. He had been accepted by his peers and his fans as the ‘Lonely Loner’, and just like his mentor, he didn’t want to fit into the box that people wanted to put him in. He wanted to explore other corners of music and grow as an artist.
In MOTMII we see this for the first time with the song “Erase Me”. A rock influenced song that served as the lead single for the album. The song also featured Kanye West who provided the closing verse. The single was wildly successful and it without a doubt made Cudi confident that he could pursue this genre.
A few weeks later in late November, Cudi was featured on Kanye’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, providing the hook for the song ‘Gorgeous’
'Erase me', one of the singles from MOTMII
Cudi deserved more
2 years later in 2012, Cudi teamed up with Dot Da Genius and released WZRD under his new record label ‘Wicked Awesome Records’. The label was still under Universal Music, which was also the parent company of G.O.O.D Music. From the get go, the album received mad hate. This was not a rap album like his previous two had primarily been. WZRD was a rock album through and through, and a lot of people didn’t agree with him going in that direction. But other's like myself welcomed Cudi exploring his interests. How could I judge him for trying to expand but praise Kanye who continually does the same thing? This was the first time Cudi publically dealt with disillusionment with the music industry.
There was one thing that hinged on whether Cudi would remain a household name or fall through the cracks: Kanye West.
Kanye and Cudi were starting to have differences behind the scenes because Cudi felt like he should have a bigger role in the record label. This was still 2012. The posse trend in hip-hop was revitalized. Labels like Young Money, which featured Lil Wayne, Drake, and Nicki Minaj were putting out whole albums together. Kanye’s label was slated to do this as well. But Cudi wanted to have more creative freedom than he was getting from Kanye. Ye had only been using Cudi sparingly. He’d pop up on a few hooks and he’d get some writing credits. But you never heard a verse or a track that heavily featured him outside of his own work.
You get the salt shaker reference yet? Thank Shabaz. I'll be providing samples from here on out so pay attention!
It might have been okay if Ye was treating everyone on the label like this. But he wasn’t. Big Sean, the new protege, was getting put to the forefront of everything Kanye did. Along with other label mates Pusha T and 2 Chainz.
In late 2012 ‘Cruel Summer’, G.O.O.D Music’s joint album came out. Kid Cudi was only featured on one song ‘The Morning’, where he provided some Auto-tuned hums which served as the song’s bridge. He also provided ‘Creepers’ a Cudi solo song that was a scrapped from MOTMII. Other than that song, which was already recorded, he holds no writing credits on the album...
In April of 2013, just ahead of the release of his third studio album ‘Indicud’, Cudi announced that he had left G.O.O.D Music. ‘Indicud’ was produced top to bottom by Cudi himself and released under his record label ‘Wicked Awesome Records’. Cudi was also back to rapping, but things were still different. His first two albums were dark and somber, with themes of yearning for acceptance and battling afflictions. This album was a lot more positive and displayed themes of loving oneself and not caring what others think about you. He also continued to experiment. His beats were obscure and alternative. It didn’t have a traditional ‘Banger’ that rap albums were accustomed to. And while it was his second most successful album commercially, fans still wanted that sad boy that they had come to know and love. They weren't ready to move on to happiness.
Two months later in June, Cudi was featured on ‘Yeezus’, Kanye’s stripped down minimal rap album. He provided the bridge to ‘Guilt Trip’...
This album, once again was a departure from what we’d come to expect from Kanye. He’s an artist that changed every time he popped up, and critics and fans alike sopped it up. Cudi however, only got lost in obscurity.
In early 2014, Cudi dropped ‘Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon’. It was supposed to be a prelude to his long awaited ‘Man on The Moon III’. But he dropped it out of nowhere without any press or advertisement for the album. He had only hinted a few months prior that he had a project coming soon. This was becoming a trend in the music industry, but it didn’t work for Cudi because he had lost a lot of his fans over the years. He still had a loyal core, but that wasn't enough. The album also didn’t have physical copies initially, and was only released digitally. It was once again primarily produced by Cudi. And wasn’t received well. I dug the hell out of it, though. This time around he really doubled down on the space and loneliness thems. This mimicked his distance from the mainstream industry.
So much of this album sounds like some shit you’d vibe to on your six month trip to Mars. One song in particular, which is one of my favorites off of any album, is ‘Too Late I Have to Destroy You Now’ I like to say it sounds like the song you’d listen to right before you had to fight Thanos.
Though Cudi had fallen out of the spotlight, he still had a small yet strong group of people that followed him and allowed him to continue doing what he loved. It may have not been reaching as many people as he’d wanted to reach, but people were still listening. He was making the music he wanted to make. The way he wanted to make it.
While the world was forgetting about Cudi, Drake was blowing up. Remember, Drake and Cudi came up around the same time. They were both on the same trajectory for about two years or so. But Cudi plummeted when he decided to make music for himself instead of what the radio and producers dictated. Drake grabbed his surf board and rode on the post 808's & Heartbreak wave. He adopted a new style, something that people claimed to be revolutionary in rap: He...sang. About sad shit. He was praised for his vulnerability, and dudes was hoppin' on the train like no tomorrow.
Kanye had solidified himself as a God. 'Yeezus', like most of his music, was ahead of his time And after digesting it some, it was wildly accepted by both fans and critics. Kanye could do no wrong. Yeezus was all substance and no flash. It was about the subject matter, and it didn't care if you liked what it sounded like. Kanye was lauded for swinging for the fences.
From salt to salty
Everything changed in 2015 when Kid Cudi released ‘Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven’. It’s labeled as an alternative rock album but it really feels like an homage to Punk Rock. If you don’t know the difference, do you even listen to music? Just kidding, I was once you.
Cudi had dabbled in rock before with ‘WZRD’ but this was a lot more stripped down and raw. It was all substance and no flash... sound familiar? It even had interludes by Beavis & Butthead. To this day, no one knows why. Needless to say, fans weren’t happy. Some were downright insulted. It seemed once again, that people were hell-bent on punishing Cudi for simply doing what he wanted to do. He doubled down on his artistic integrity, but it was hard to hide that he was upset. His most loyal fans, the one's who stuck around through all the hate, were jumping ship.
In early 2016, he was featured on Kanye’s ‘The Life of Pablo’, providing some Cudi Hums and the chorus to ‘Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1’, and some more hums on ‘Waves’ that served as the bridge...
It may not seem like much, but that short chorus and well placed humming served as a palate cleanser to fans and shot Cudi back into people’s care. It was also the first time Cudi and Kanye had been seen together in a while. So fans of both were ecstatic to see them together.
Cudi seemed to be revitalized as well. Bitter about the reception of his last record and energized by the state of the rap game in general. During an interview with Billboard, Cudi said this:
It would be an understatement to say I was excited for his new endeavors. I didn't like everything Cudi did, but I respected his drive to do whatever he wanted. Plus, his music was a staple in my life. He helped me get through some rough times.
That rekindled love between Kanye and Kid Cudi didn't last long. In late 2016, they started beefing. Cudi ranted on Twitter about some of his reservations with the industry. Initially, he didn't name anyone. But then he dropped Kanye and Drake as some of the people that he was talking about. He felt betrayed by these people, and he was fed up with their sky-rocketed success and his bumpy road.
Kanye, on tour for ‘The Life of Pablo’ at the time, barked back at Cudi.
"Kid Cudi, don't ever mention 'Ye name, I birthed you... Don't try to say who I can do songs with. You mad 'cause I'm doing songs with Drake? Ain't nobody telling 'Ye who to do songs with! Respect the God!” He also stated "You know how many people wish they could be signed to G.O.O.D. Music, get they life changed? Have that opportunity? Never forget that. I'm so hurt. I feel so disrespected... Why y'all got to come at me?... Don’t never mention my name in a bad manner. None of y’all!”
This put a rift between fans because most Kanye fans are also Cudi fans. It was truly sad to see the two once close friends fighting each other.
A few weeks later, this happened...
After leaving rehab, Cudi joined Kanye on stage during one of his concerts. They hugged it out in full view. It was great to see the two patch things up.
Make your own waves, baby
In December of 2016, Cudi released his Sixth album ‘Passion, Pain’ & Demon Slayin’. And lemmie just say, the shit slaps. Industry giants Pharrell & Andre 3000 jumped on as producers and provided vocals for Cudi. Earlier in his career, he garnered comparisons to both because of his off-beat approach and willingness to be different. PP&DS became Cudi’s most critically successful album since MOTMII. It featured Cudi rapping, but on his own terms. It still sounds like he’s making music he wants to listen to, which is the most important thing. He was as focused as he’s ever been. This was the first time that I’d ever wanted to dance while listening to Kid Cudi. He’s always had music that I vibe to, but this shit made me want to get up off my ass and actually dance. I loved it.
Also, up until this point, fans had grown accustomed to and expected to hear his patented ‘Cudi hum’, but this album introduced something different, something new: The Cudi yodel. It’s something you didn’t know you needed until you heard it for the first time. It was a great return to form for Cudi, even though if you’re a loyal fan you’ll say he never left. A standout on this album is 'Surfin', an upbeat song produced by Pharrell where he raps about riding his own wave and not worrying about everyone elses shit.
I think Cudi is finally happy or at least content with his role in all of this, and that makes me happy.
In August, it was rumored that Kanye and Cudi might be making a secret project together. Page Six was first to break the story. An insider told that Cudi and Ye were recording together in Japan.
“They’re going to drop some crazy collaboration out of the blue, they’re going to drop some surprise project on everybody. They’re recording it now.
They’re keeping the lid so tight that nobody knows what it is — or what it sounds like . . . There are no professionals in the room. It’s just Cudi, Kanye and an engineer. They’re recording together in Japan.”
This was further solidified when they were pictured a week later with Takashi Murakami, the famous Japanese artist who designed the cover to Kanye’s ‘Graduation’
Back in November, while on the Grass Routes Podcast, G.O.O.D Music rapper Cyhi The Prynce confirmed that Kanye was producing all of the labels upcoming projects, including Kid Cudi’s.
“I got a project I’m doing with ‘Ye that’s all produced by him. He’s doing it for every artist on the label. Sean’s got one that will be executive produced by him. Pusha’s next album is strictly produced by him. Teyana. Kid Cudi’s. He does, like, 10 beats a day.”
This has me so excited. The two haven’t worked together this extensively in years. It’s great to know that they’ve reached a point where they respect and accept each other for who they are. And I can’t wait to hear the final product of a project where these two feed off of and influence each other like they did way back on 808’s and Heartbreak.
It seems that Ye is coming to terms with the way he’s treated Cudi, because he’s not part of G.O.O.D Music anymore yet Kanye is still producing his album. Maybe he’s finally realized that he was just sprinkling Cudi into songs over the years and it was time to not only invite him back to the table, but cook for him too.
My Late Take on Sponsors Partnering With The NBA
When they announced a few years ago that they would start putting ad-patches on NBA Jerseys, my knees buckled and I fell to the floor and shrieked unintelligible nonsense to Shammgod. I was thinking of course, of soccer uniforms, where a sponsor is slapped on the chest of a jersey like Superman’s 'S'. It’s ugly and it hurts my feelings.
Then, still on the floor, in a puddle of my tears, I remembered the WNBA jerseys. They’ve got not one, not two, not three, but who knows how many ads plastered onto their fronts, backs, sides, wherever.
I was a mess. This was going to happen to my beloved NBA? Were the Dallas Dunkin' Donuts going to be playing the Oklahoma City Quaker Oatmeal?! The NBA has always in my opinion had some of the sleekest jerseys of any major sports league, and I was devastated at the idea of all of that going down the drain just so these owners could make a few extra bucks.
Fast forward to this past summer where they revealed what the patches were gonna look like. I’m not gonna lie, I was okay with them. The first one I saw was the Golden State Warriors’ 'Rakuten' patch. It was pretty small and on the left shoulder parallel to the Nike logo on the right. My only gripe was how they kept the Rakuten logo red, instead of matching the color scheme of the jersey. But they make up for it by making it more complimentary on the alternate jerseys . Then I peeped the Boston Celtic’s 'General Electric' patch. All their patches compliment the colors of the jerseys. I remember thinking that maybe things were going to be okay.
I wasn’t dead wrong, but I was kinda wrong. Not every team cares about looking sleek.
Below, are three of my favorite patches, and three that I have the most disdain for.
"Hey, man. Why not do all the teams? Doesn't half the league have sponsors now?"
Yeah, you're right. But ain't nobody got time for all that, so you're gonna have to deal with it.
The New Orleans Pelicans
This is pretty self-explanatory but honestly how cool is this? Like, I legitimately laughed out loud when I saw this on their jersey. I had to double take and then ask if this was serious. It's the thing that makes the most sense, but no one saw coming. This type of partnership, to me, shows two companies mutually benefitting each other in a way that reflects the interest of their community. If you don’t know what 'Zatarain’s' is, it’s a food and spice company based in New Orleans. They make boxed pasta and rice dishes and provide a plethora of spices that you’ve undoubtedly walked past in the grocery story before. This type of partnership just makes a lot of sense, and it’s keeping it in house so to speak. New Orleans hasn't made the best decisions over the past few years. For starters, they named themselves the Pelicans. And they also play at the Smoothie King Center (LOL). While the name of the team and their stadium has slowly grown on fans, we can all still agree that a Pelican strikes fear in absolutely no one. Except maybe some Crawfish.
The Cleveland Cavaliers
To know me is to know that I love to hate LeBron and the Cavs, but if I’m being honest with you, they’ve got some pretty dope jerseys this year. And their ad-patch is flames. It’s got that trademark shoe with the wings on it. Lookin like Hermes and shit. But most importantly, it matches the color of the jerseys (That's secretly all I care about). The Cavs struck a deal with Goodyear, the company that makes those giant blimps that give five second aerial shots of arenas during halftime shows. The main company makes tires and rubber, but the blimps are purely to boost their value by literally flying around and advertising their name and worth. But guess where Goodyear is based? Akron, Ohio. You know who else is from Akron, right? Yeah. So this is another partnership that seems to be rooted in the community. It’s nice to see that the Cavs didn’t reach out for something obscure just to get more money. Did I mention the patches are flames?
The Orlando Magic
This one puts a smile on my face. I’m not even a big Disney fan but it’s a no brainer that this would be the patch displayed on Orlando’s jerseys. Orlando was one of four expansion teams in 1987 along with the Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, and Minnesota Timberwolves. Their name is undoubtedly derived from the city’s (and maybe even Florida’s) biggest attraction. Orlando is a small market team so partering up with Disney, who owns half the world, has got to be a nice cushion. If only they could use some of that money to attract some high profile players to the team. Nonetheless, this union reassured me that maybe this ad idea wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
And then I saw these next three patches, and I got sad again.
The Milwaukee Bucks
So... just in case you haven't noticed, the Bucks partnered with Harley Davidson. Are you blind? Cause I am. Damn that patch stands out more than a prepubescent pimple. It had potential to be dope because their headquarters are in Milwaukee, but they royally fucked up the aesthetic of this jersey. This was a year when the league revamped their image top to bottom, most of the league completely changed their look, and the Bucks were without a doubt among that crop. They kept their colors of green, blue, cream and white, and they adopted that blocky font that really makes the words stand out. Adding this patch really messes with its integrity, though. The main problem is the color. How hard is it to fit it within the colors of the jersey? It’ll still get seen. But I guess that’s probably a stipulation in the contract that they specifically don’t change the colors, because no one does this on accident. It makes a bit of sense because the Bucks are a small market team. They probably got more money for keeping the logo intact and accurate to the way it would be seen on any of Harley Davidson’s merchandise. It’s still ugly, though.
The Brooklyn Nets
Yo this is just plain lazy. Is that a rectangle? Is that a square? Why is it so big? You might also be wondering what or who 'Infor' is. They’re an enterprise software company based out of New York. That’s cool, but why is your logo so ugly? I guess Brooklyn fans can’t complain, ‘cause when the partnership was first announced, that gigantic square was red, and was an eyesore to end all eyesores. Personally, I’d invert the font and get rid of the square. Like, it makes no sense for it to be there. You can still grab my attention with a font, especially when fans aren’t used to seeing ANYTHING on a jersey except the league’s logo and maybe a stripe commemorating a player or beloved figure of the community. That square is just overkill. It makes me mad.
The Charlotte Hornets
This team was almost on my list of favorite ad patches, but they had to go and mess it up. They deserve this smoke. So because the team is partially owned and operated by Michael Jordan, and the Jordan brand is owned by Nike, the Hornets were going to be the only teams with a Jordan logo on their right shoulder instead of the regular Nike logo. This was dope as hell and also sleek as hell. It made Charlotte stand out. I was wit it. But then they had to go and get greedy. They struck a deal with LendingTree, an online loan broker. They connect people’s loan requests with credit partners, lenders and banks. They do have their roots in Charlotte though, as that’s where their headquarters are located. Along with Milwaukee, they are a smaller market team that doesn’t get a lot of high talent free agents coming their way, so they probably could use the money a partnership with LendingTree would garner. The simple Jordan patch probably wouldn’t work because they were owned by Nike already. Which would have meant no money. This patch isn't exactly ugly, it's just that I'm stuck with what could have been and I’m still not okay with it. This patch hurt my feelings.
All in all, ads arriving to the NBA wasn’t the end of the world. Jerseys are for the most part still sexy (for now). I do wish however, that whoever is designing these jerseys could work with the sponsor to come up with the best way to place it where it benefits both the company and the team. That seems to be the case with teams like Boston, Cleveland and Golden State, but not so much for a lot of other teams. I guess the disparity between the top teams and the ones at the bottom of the barrel goes deeper than the talent on the rosters.
“When a man's an empty kettle
He should be on his metal
And yet I'm torn apart
Just because I’m presuming
That I couldn't be kinda human
If I only had a heart”
- The Tin Man
“I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen.”
- Hal (Heuristic ALgorithmic)
“Bite my shiny metal ass!”
- Bender Bending Rodríguez
Are you starting to see a connection between these quotes, or rather who said them? No? That’s okay. Because I’m here to hold your hand through this. Are you ready? You’re going to have to open your eyes. Specifically that third one in your forehead. Your mind’s eye. The one where your opinions and judgements reside. I understand that you might not have opened this eye in a while, or maybe you have, but there just may be some gunk in there hindering your view. Here’s a tissue. Wipe it out. It’s embarrassing, really.
Alright. Now that you’ve Woke up, and cleaned that obstruction from your sight, let’s get started.
The three above quotes are from three characters that share a common thread: They’re artificial life, with real human personalities.
These characters are metallic, robotic, and synthetic.
But despite being organic, they are overwhelmingly human.
As a society, we like to give inanimate objects human like characteristics. We want everything to resemble ourselves, to the point where we’ll make them more us than us.
Characters like The Tin Man, Bender, and HAL are all proponents in trying to answer an ever relevant question: What constitutes life?
If you’re a Descartes aficionado, or just a millennial with an arsenal of Instagram caption worthy quotes, you might be thinking of the statement “I think, therefore I am.”
If this is what it takes to be human, then our three beloved characters pass the test with flying colors!
The thing that makes these characters so relatable is their humanity. We love them because they deal with the same problems that we do. But that hits home because they are physically different than us. So we’re able to put ourselves in their shoes and sympathize with their apparent struggle with their own idea of humanity.
So that, I think, covers artificial life for the most part. Now let’s do a brief recap on actual, legitimate, unquestionable humanity.
Existence is pain, perpetually falling forward, not really knowing anything but thinking we do, trying to be happy, failing miserably at everything but somehow get rewarded for it. That pretty much sum it up? Okay cool.
But…what if, I don’t know, you were somehow able to combine the two… A human robotic hybrid of some sort? Wouldn’t that be really crazy? Imagine the possibilities. Imagine the agony. The gripping struggle that a person like that would go through every second of very day. Are they human? If so, how much? How much of a person do you need to be a person? I think, therefore I am, right? But that’s a difficult sentiment to accept when you look and feel more metal than man.
Oh yeah. Wait. We have a bunch of characters like that too! But I’m not even going to give you a list for this one. Just a name.
That’s right, whether you realized it or not (Though if you didn’t you’re dumb), everyone’s favorite villain is a human/machine hybrid, and his internal conflict is conveyed perfectly and logically.
Darth Vader, previously known as Anakin Skywalker, was a man of privilege. He was deemed the chosen one by an ancient peace keeping organization from the age of ten. And he was revered throughout the galaxy to be the most powerful Jedi of all time. The galaxy was his. So he took it. But not without consequence. He lost everything and everyone that he loved, and a good chunk of his humanity, physically and by default, mentally. The man was damaged and broken, and all of us know it. It’s what makes Darth Vader one of the most interesting characters of all time. ALL TIME. (alltime)
Oh, yeah. He’s also white.
BUT YOU CAN’T BE WHITE IN SPACE.
Then why is the empire full of fair skinned humanoids who speak with British accents?
You ever seen an alien in the empire?
Well yes. Admiral Thrawn, and Supreme Leader Snoke is the head of The Fir—
FOR THIS ARGUMENT HE’S WHITE, OKAY? IT’S IMPORTANT THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THAT AND STOP ARGUING WITH ME!
Okay? Sheesh. We on the same page? Cause it’s important that we’re on the same page for the rest of this. I’m sorry I had to yell at you. We good? Cool.
If you hadn’t figured it out by now (I’d actually be surprised if you did, cause I’ve given you absolutely nothing to go on), what you’ve been reading is centered around Cyborg, one of DC Comic’s characters who gained popularity with the Teen Titans and later graduated to the Justice League.
Cyborg has the potential to be one of DC’s most complex characters.
But sadly, he’s not.
Oh yeah. He’s also black.
And if you don’t think that’s important, I’m disappointed in you. You’re supposed to be Woke.
So here’s a brief history on Cyborg. I’m paraphrasing because I’m lazy and he’s got a pretty run of the mill origin. But if you want to check me on it feel free to do so. I won’t be wrong.
Victor Stone was a promising athlete (Woah, stereotype?) with a somewhat absentee father who never attended his son’s games (Woah, another stereotype??) and his potential was instantly shattered by a freak accident, shrouding darkness on his bright future (Okay, I’m a little offended), so his father, a scientist, experiments on his son to make him normal again, except he over does it a bit, and augments Vic with robotic limbs, and computers and other nerd stuff to make him into Cyborg. Victor may be way more man than machine, but his brain is still intact.
Remember what I was explaining about Darth Vader? His privilege? How he flew too high and his wings melted and he paid the price every day for the rest of his life? How all of that was extremely prevalent and it’s exactly why we sympathize with him as a human above all else? That he was Space White?
Yeah, almost none of that is explored or even established in Cyborg’s case.
Athlete trying to use his physical prowess to escape the bleakness of his life? Everything had to fall into place for him to get out? His father was not around when it mattered? His father overcompensates when he realizes he fucked up? That’s something that a lot of people of color can relate to? He’s Earth Black?
Don’t get me wrong, this stuff is talked about in Cyborg comics. But what bothers me is that none of it is a burden on the character. He doesn’t have defining characteristics that make him consistent across the board whether he’s with the Teen Titans, Justice League, or just riding solo. In short, we don’t know who Cyborg is because the people who write him don’t know who he is.
Victor Stone is a young black male who had his body taken from him, but is somehow still alive. He was never able to achieve his dreams. But he still has a future. And he has to decide how to navigate where he wanted to be in relation to where he is now. AND HE’S BLACK. These are all important topics for any character of color to have to address. Cyborg could be a champion for black youth right now but his potential is wasted. Do you know how many black kids would gravitate toward a young black male who cheated death? Just look at Luke Cage the man with impenetrable skin.
Cyborg comics have always been racially cliché and surface level, speaking about what’s going on but not really providing an answer for anything.
If we have a character who is half man, half machine, the most important thing should always be about their humanity, and how they deal with it after they have lost so much of it. Especially if we got dudes like Hal and The Tin Man who are praised for their humanity.
Cyborg has no heart. He is incredibly rigid and cold. There’s no internal back and forth on what he truly is. Simply put, he’s bland. Also, there’s nothing about him that informs the reader that he’s African American other than the color of his skin. We don’t get a sense that he understands the struggle, that he cares about being treated as a second class citizen, nothing. If you were to read Cyborg’s dialogue from a script, there would be nothing informing you that he wasn’t white.
If DC doesn’t want to spend the time to develop this character the right way, why do they keep pushing him to the forefront?
As my good friend Shabaz says “He’s the Justice League’s glorified I.T guy. He takes the team on missions, keeps them technically relevant, and he’s always waiting for them back at the Watchtower to hear how everything went and to provide emotional support.
When he does go into battle with them, he becomes incapacitated or compromised in some way and is decommissioned for what usually feels like months (in real time).
All that boils down to “Hey we need a person of color on this Justice League team. Let’s add Cyborg. Everyone loves Cyborg! But we don’t really need him for story purposes.”
The most character development Cyborg has ever received has been from the wildly popular Teen Titans cartoon from the mid 00’s. And almost effortlessly so, it only took one word to convey that Victor Stone was a black man first, and a Cyborg second:
Cyborg from that television show was unquestionably human despite his physical appearance. He was vulnerable, happy, black, and aware of all of it.
Cyborg from the current comics? Not so much.
There was a run during the New 52 written by David Walker, the current writer of Luke Cage. It dealt with a lot of what I’ve been talking about: His human side, his black side, his emotional side. But it was cancelled before it could really take off. Now the current Cyborg comics, written by John Semper do attempt to address his human side, but it seems to be only in favor of his robotic side. It isn’t cancelled yet, so that’s good I guess. Cyborg in the Justice League is used as an obligation at best. It pisses me off.
And don’t even get me started on the upcoming movie adaptation. Since the Justice League movie is accepted as being adapted from the most recent version of the team from the comics, it’s more than likely that we’ll be getting the glorified I.T. Cyborg, with no humanity, culture, or internal struggle. And for whatever reason, they seem pretty keen on likening him to Iron Man…
Which is just… No.
Overall, what the comics lack is exactly what the television version of Cyborg has: Heart. Cyborg should not be a brooding recluse. Logically sure, I’ll give you that. Because that’s what Darth Vader is. But again, Darth Vader fell from his pedestal. Vic never even got a chance. Young black boy’s bodies are taken from us every day. A character about one who loses their body but keeps their life should be centered on heart and hope.
With all of this being said, Cyborg is still one of my favorite characters. I just wish he was taken care of better. If you’re gonna push him to the forefront of your franchise, at least put in the effort to make sure it’s done in the best way possible.
We want to be represented, but we also want it to be authentic. Because we know the difference between faux and for real.
“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”
I actually have no idea who Desmond Tutu is. I just looked up quotes on google that seemed relevant for this post. I’ll probably look him up though, so don’t judge me too hard.
Update 7/17/2017 7:06 P.M: Geez okay I looked him up you guys were mean :( I'm well versed in Desmond Tutu now.
Isn’t it funny how I didn’t say “Does Not Compute” once? Super funny.
Well, I guess I’ve said it now…
Alright bye. Get out of here.
Go do something else seriously.
CAN YOU LEAVE?!
Come back soon, though.
David Walker, and his work on Cyborg and many other comics, can be bought here.
John Semper, and his work on Cyborg can be bought here.
Support your characters. Support your creators. #BOOYAH
Now before we get started, I have something to address; Yeah I’m that dude that chooses to write about what’s wrong with Iron Fist a month and a half after it comes out. But it’s to my advantage, you know why? Because you’ve probably forgotten how bad that show was because time heals all wounds or you’ve subconsciously blocked that thirteen hours of “What…? Huh?” from surfacing ever again.
So let me refresh your memory.
It’s midday, and the sun shines bright into an evenly spread restaurant full of people in business attire. In storms Danny Rand, sole heir to Rand Corp, in a stylish gray jacket, matching t-shirt, and fitted blue jeans. Danny’s outfit is undoubtedly supposed to set him apart from the 1%’ers in the restaurant. But it doesn’t. As soon as Danny finds the people he’s looking for, Joy and Ward Meachum, the façade of his outfit is completely disregarded as you’re reminded that he is just like everyone in this restaurant: One of the privileged elite.
“I have Hogarth now. We’re coming for you. You can’t deny what’s mine. What my father meant for me to have.”
Being privileged is one thing. Being white and privileged is an entirely different monster. And that’s what I’m writing about in this article. That above quote is from episode two. If you hadn’t already lost interest and investment, that’s probably where you realized that this show could not redeem itself. Because that statement up there proves one glaring thing: a large group of people created that scene, and levels of increasingly more influential people all approved and gave it a thumbs up, and not one person saw how incredibly tone deaf it was.
It’s hard to really find any sympathy for Danny Rand as the protagonist. Yes, his parents died in front of his eyes, but that isn’t what he’s focusing on. He’s hell-bent on his birthright; on a company that is rightfully is. That’s an okay problem to have, that’s not the argument here. The problem is that nobody cares. Because the vast majority of people can’t sympathize with a white male whose birthright has been stolen from them.
I’m not here to bash the Iron Fist Netflix show. That’s already been beaten like a dead horse by more experienced analytical writers than myself. I’m here to come up with a solution. And it doesn’t start with the show.
The Iron Fist is an extremely fixable character in a world full of forced changes to classic characters for “diversity”.
Don’t you dare roll your eyes at my quotations. I’ll explain myself.
Comic books, especially the main two (Marvel & DC) have been playing catch up in recent years. They’ve been diversifying their universes. Sprinkling characters of color across most of their titles to make them more relatable. But here’s the problem: It isn’t organic. I think DC is doing a bit of a better job but it’s still pretty bad.
Marvel’s choices in diversification are almost insulting, at least for me.
Marvel’s strategy for inclusion starts with taking a classic “mantle” like Iron Man or Captain America, and getting rid of the white male because they either died or retired, and then they’re replaced by a brown skinned protagonist who steps into the big shoes of the former white hero.
For an example, recently Steve Rogers the original Captain America, got his age accelerated, so he became the age that he would have been if he never went through the super soldier program. And Marvel came up with the brilliant idea of taking his long time sidekick Falcon (Sam Wilson), a black man, and passing on Cap’s mantle to him. Now the Captain America title is run with Sam Wilson as Cap. That’s probably the biggest example of a racial change to a major character, or at least the one that pisses me off the most. But there are so many more that Marvel has changed. Spider-Man is now a young half black, half Hispanic kid named Miles Morales. Ms. Marvel is a Muslim teenage girl named Kamala Khan, The Hulk is a Young brilliant Asian American scientist named Amadeus Cho, Iron Man is now a young black girl named RiRi Williams, Thor is Jane Foster (OG Thor’s old love interest). Oh yeah, and Wolverine is the female clone of guess who? I’m not gonna say it.
But what really infuriates me is that all the OG characters are around in some way shape or form, they just aren’t necessarily the heroes we’ve come to know and love. But they lay in wait, partaking in some redemption arc that will champion them back to their mantle, kicking out these diverse placeholders, or at least diminishing their value.
This isn’t the first time Marvel, or DC for that matter have killed off or “retired” a major character, only to have someone else take up the mantle because “the symbol of what the hero stands for is more important than who is behind the mask” It’s the lamest trope in comics if you ask me. And it’s overdone.
Marvel’s most recent attempt at this has been dubbed “All New All Different”
How about “Nothing New Still Scared”
To be fair, they are all wonderful characters and I happen to enjoy them all in their own right. I think they’re all a great addition to comics and they do help with diversity and representation. But the problem is that it’s still forced.
Why do all of these diverse characters have to take the spot from a white male character? Why couldn’t Falcon just get his own “Falcon” title instead of becoming Captain America? Why couldn’t Miles Morales who was bitten by a radioactive spider much like Peter Parker was, create a different name for himself instead of having to live behind the shadow of Peter Parker’s Spider-Man?
The answer is money.
Money rules everything and money makes all of the decisions.
Money, or the threat of losing it, also instills fear.
I know what you’re thinking. “Marvel is just trying to push the narrative that anyone could be Spider-Man or Captain America.”
Yeah that’s cool. But Marvel is essentially conveying to their audiences that they can be their favorite heroes. That these heroes are symbols, and we should aspire to be more like them because they represent something far greater than one individual. But in all honesty, the stronger lesson should be that we can be whoever we want to be.
Don’t get me wrong, though. All of these characters are really unique and different than anything Marvel has ever done, but they hide behind the money maker; the big title. Because Marvel knows that’s what’s going to sell books. So their progressive decisions are nullified. It sucks because I’d love to see entirely new characters in mainstream comics. New mantles instead of passed on ones. And it’s frustrating because it just so happens that those mantles all pass on from white men.
With all that being said. Those same frustrations don’t apply to the Iron Fist.
Yeah I know, I got you all riled up and now I’m throwing you a curve ball. Get over it. It keeps you interested.
Built in to the very core of what the Iron Fist is, is the idea that anyone could be the Iron Fist. Danny Rand is not the first, nor is he the last. And amidst all of the diversifying of classic characters. There’s a strong enough reason to change the identity of the Iron Fist. And it wouldn’t even be that hard.
First off, let’s get started with where the power of the Iron Fist comes from.
The power of the Iron Fist comes from defeating Shou-Lao the Undying, and stealing the energy from its molten heart. Anyone can do that. Well anyone with enough training (ie: not you). In fact, the strongest warrior in K’un L’un is chosen to fight Shou-Lao when it’s time to find another Iron Fist.
But this is where are first problem resides. Danny became The Iron Fist because he was the most gifted fighter in K’un L’un. But he’s not from K’un L’un. He’s an American. And he’s the first person not from the mystical city to gain the power of the Iron Fist.
That in and of itself isn’t bad, but your outsider character in an archaic Eastern society shouldn’t be a privileged white heir to a billion dollar company.
So how do you fix the Iron Fist? You kill Danny Rand, or find a believable way to explain the loss of his powers. That might actually be my preferable way because then we get to see a rich white man complain and wallow in his misery. That stuff is priceless and it writes itself.
Either way, this opens up the possibility for someone else to take up the mantle.
This works, in my opinion, because it provides the changing of the guard in an organic way. It isn’t just something that editors and writers have to shoe in to the story. It won’t be a “the symbol of the hero is stronger than who is under the mask” situation. It’ll be a “We need someone to guard the gates to K’un L’un or we’re all fucked.” And when rules are established like that, it’s only a matter of coming up with a story that fits into those rules.
Now, here’s the hard part. Once you off/replace Danny Rand, who takes his place? We’ve established that having a while male is not the way to go. But the Iron Fist is steeped in Eastern culture, so you can’t really make him of Chinese descent either. It’s a slippery slope for Marvel. Have a white male, and have your character represent something that most people can’t relate to, or make them of Chinese descent and you’ll get criticized for the one Kung Fu superhero being Chinese. It’s a situation Marvel can’t win.
But that is if you only consider those two possibilities. I’m not sure if you know this, but there are these things called “ethnicities”, and they represent a plethora of genetic and cultural groups all over the world. There are so many different racial possibilities that go far beyond American White, and Chinese.
Personally, I’d love to see a South Asian Iron Fist. Even though as I was writing this, I had to look up and see everything that South Asia entailed. It’s still Asian culture, just a different kind of Asian culture. A kind that doesn’t get very much exposure unless in a negative way. And I think it would be really easy to do. There’s a lot of rich storytelling that can be done with a character from South Asia. My mouth is watering at the possibilities. It would be awesome. I can’t really tell you my ideas because I’m a writer and I legitimately have come up with some badass ways to change the Iron Fist and I’d be damned if I just shared them with the three people reading this.
Anyways, here’s a map if you don’t know what South Asia consists of. Don’t worry, though. If you didn’t know, that’s Marvel’s fault.
We good? Alright let’s move on.
If it wasn’t prevalent before, my problem is not with the Iron Fist being an outsider to the mystical city of K’un L’un. I don’t even care that he’s rich. And if he was just some random white guy, I wouldn’t care too much either. But when you add all those things together, you get a walking talking poster child for privilege. And in today’s America (and world) privilege is one of the ugliest things you can boast. The world is catching up to you assholes. Your time of reign is over.
I’d like to thank Marvel’s Netflix for opening my eyes. I’ve loved the Iron Fist for a long time, but I’ve never seen the flaw in his existence. But that was highlighted and amplified for me while watching the show. To me, the Iron Fist was the antagonist on that show. Because I didn’t want him to succeed. Or at the very least, I didn’t care about his motives (or even know what they were). I was more compelled with the people penned to be his sidekicks (Colleen Wing, Claire Temple), because they had realistic motives & goals that didn’t change every five minutes. Even Ward Meachum, who was supposed to be one of the villains of the show, had one of the most compelling arcs of change throughout the series. And when I break things down like that, I realize that maybe the writing & and direction wasn’t that bad (Okay, the directing was). That if these “side” characters can be taken care of in such a good & realistic way, that maybe the protagonist is the problem. And when you have to force your protagonist to be likeable or relatable, they aren’t going to be either.
Marvel, specifically Marvel comics; you know what to do.
So for the past year and a half or so, the development of the Aquaman film has been interesting to say the least. They made two home runs in my opinion by casting Jason Momoa as the lead role and bringing on James Wan to direct. You’ve got a Malaysian-Australian horror filmmaker directing a superhero film starring a Hawaiian born Hawaiian.
But what about you? What do you think about these choices?
Everyone remembers what they were doing when they found out Jason Momoa was cast as Aquaman. It’s one of those Earth shattering events that will change the trajectory of history. Come on, seriously. What were you doing? Were you sitting on the toilet at 12:47 A.M, scrolling through Instagram, trying and failing to purge your day of mistakes? Were you scouring the threads of Tumblr at 1:23 A.M, trying to find something, anything that will restore your faith in humanity? Maybe your extremely knowledgeable and reliable friend mentioned it in a conversation that you were only half paying attention to because you’re a millennial and what is socializing? Do any of these run-on sentences apply to you?
Ok. Truth is, you probably don’t remember what you were doing when you heard the news of the casting. But I can guarantee one thing: You didn’t think it was a bad idea. No one threw their phones at the wall, and no one held their heads in sorrow and disbelief. The truth is, no one cared. And that’s saying a lot for a comic book movie casting. Don’t get me wrong, when I say “no one cared” I don’t mean that this was something that went under the radar. Comic book fans, or just nerds in general will riot if and when you make decisions that they think don’t fit. They’re trigger happy when it comes to that. Sometimes they’re proven wrong, and sometimes they aren’t. But with Jason Momoa, fans didn’t even pick up the gun. Why do you think that is?
This is the part of the article where I really want you to think about that answer in the blank space between this paragraph and the one below it. Why? Because I’m slaving over this for your pleasure, the least you could do is work a little.
Alright, did you come up with your answer? What? You forgot the question? Geez, you’re starting to irk me. “Why do you think the casting of Jason Momoa as Aquaman didn’t immediately enrage fans?” Let’s answer it together on three.
BECAUSE IT MAKES SENSE!!
I will also accept the answer “Because Jason Momoa is awesome!”
I will not accept the answer “Because Jason Momoa is Hot!”
I mean seriously though, tell me he doesn’t look perfect!
Now let’s get into why this is a casting that makes sense despite the dramatic change from its comic book origin.
Aquaman, through his various changes and upgrades throughout the years, has never been much more than a glorified loaf of white bread with fins and gills. He’s been the butt of comic book jokes for decades, and even with the ‘cool’ reimagining of his physical appearance and darker version of his origin, he just isn’t all that relatable or interesting.
Nonetheless, DC Comics has always thrust him to the forefront of their lineup. Why is that? (Don’t worry, I won’t make you think about the answer this time.) Because he’s the King of Atlantis. And Atlantis is a huge part of the DC Universe. And frankly, Atlantis is cool. We like Atlantis because it’s something that is rooted in our own Earth’s mythology. But do you know who wrote about Atlantis first? (Jesus, I ask a lot of one way questions.) SOCRATES.
“But wait, wasn’t Socrates white? So shouldn’t Atlanteans be white?”
Well, it is still argued to this day what the ancient Greek society’s racial makeup was. But that is beside the point. Atlantis is an island. On land, they’d get the kind of weather that people go on vacation to visit. And most importantly, the inhabitants would look a little different than the people from the mainland. So portraying Atlanteans as a perfect Aryan specimen is neglecting a more realistic physical and cultural appearance. So again, Jason Momoa as Aquaman just makes sense.
Okay, now that we’ve established the “who” and the “why”, let’s talk about the real reason you’re reading this: DC is not being consistent with the casting for the Aquaman movie. Before we go any further, I will say that DC in no shape or form has formally come out and vocalized their vision or scope for the people of Atlantis. But by casting Jason Momoa, they’ve expressed something without actually saying it. However by neglecting to put into words what their vision is, they don’t have to follow any rules.
The Aquaman film has casted four people to date (12/24/2016, Yeah, I’m writing this on Christmas Eve) Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, and most recently Patrick Wilson. Subjectively speaking, I think these are decent actors, talented even, but none of them look like they would be part of an ancient island society.
Let’s start with Amber Heard.
She’s playing the character of Mera: Queen of Atlantis and wife of Aquaman.
Based on looks alone she looks pretty close to her comic book counterpart, but as previously discussed, Jason Momoa is a huge departure from his physical appearance in the comics. So why does she look like a faithful adaptation?
I don’t have any doubts that she’d be able to pull off the role, that’s not the argument. She doesn’t fit the precedence placed by Jason Momoa. But I can forgive her casting because the character of Mera is actually originally not from Earth. When you add that plus the fact that Atlantis is a Monarchial society, it’s justified why she doesn’t fit in completely.
Secondly, we have Willem Dafoe, playing the character of Vulko.
This character is a bit different than Mera and Orm because he is an Atlantean through and through. Depending on what version of the character they are going with, Nuidis Vulko is usually involved in the scientific field of Atlantis, and is a highly trusted member of the kingdom. Willem Dafoe can probably act his way out of any situation. The dude has got tenure. But he doesn’t look like an island inhabitant. More like a retired car salesman living indefinitely in Hawaii.
Finally, Patrick Wilson has been cast as the character named Orm, Aquaman’s half-brother.
Depending on the iteration though, he is either fully human, or fully Atlantean. I dig the hell out of Patrick Wilson. I love everything I’ve seen him in. But his casting confuses me the most because of the fact that he and Aquaman are related. I guess one could look at Jason Momoa and assume he’s mixed race (He is), but something tells me that the movie might not care about going into explaining their difference in racial makeup.
Maybe Atlantis is a mixed raced society not unlike our own. In recent adaptations of the characters in the comics and in television, they’ve shown that Atlantis has a multitude of cultural representation. For an example, the Aqualad on the television show “Young Justice” is black.
Maybe I’m thinking too small in assuming that the film version of this society would have such a small pool of genetic variance. Well if that’s not the case, we need to start seeing that reflect in the casting of these characters because at this point, it’s beginning to look like they either don’t care about continuity and representation, or worse, they don’t even see that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed.
I’ve realized that maybe I might have gotten a bit trigger happy myself when they casted Jason Momoa as Aquaman. Maybe I invested too much into the idea that Atlantis could be a beautiful brown underwater society. It looks by the conclusion that I’ve tried to come to, that we will at least be getting a society where a multitude of different cultures are represented. Because it would be a huge mistake by DC and Warner Brothers if they missed that opportunity. I guess I’m mad at Warner Brothers for breaking a promise that they never made, but I hope that they end up doing what is right. Hollywood already messes up actual historical events by whitewashing them with actors that looked nothing like the people that the movie is based off of. At this point I can only hope that in this fictional world, race and culture can be equally distributed. But either way, I think we can all agree that Jason Momoa is ho—awesome!!