Fear of a Black Heimdall

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 20, 2010 — 96 Comments

I gave this issue a glancing mention back in May, and thought that would be the end of it. But it seems I’m wrong, the issue of English actor Idris Elba, who happens to be black, playing Heimdall in the upcoming “Thor” movie has hit the newswires again. This time it is the Council of Conservative Citizens, an organization born from the segregationist White Citizens Council, making waves about this “attack [on] conservatives values,” and urging a boycott of the film.

“Norse mythology gets a multi-cultural remake in the upcoming movie titled “Thor,” by Marvel studios. It’s not enough that Marvel attacks conservative values and promotes the left-wing, now mythological Gods must be re-invented with black skin. It seems that Marvel Studios believes that white people should have nothing that is unique to themselves. An upcoming movie, based on the comic book Thor, will give Norse mythology an insulting multi-cultural make-over. One of the Gods will be played by Hip Hop DJ Idris Elba.”

First off “Hip Hop DJ” Idris Elba is actually a critically acclaimed British actor, not that such distinctions matter to groups like the CCC (they also think the Black Panther comic is “extremist”). Further, as I said the last time, this is an adaptation of a comic book, and not an adaptation of the Eddas. Anyone who actually paid attention to said comic book over the years would know that the pantheons of “gods” in the Marvel Universe aren’t racial/cultural manifestations of the divine but extra-dimensional aliens/beings who decided to take these forms.

“Yes, Marvel’s pantheon are ostensibly Norse gods. They have Nordic names, they’re fond of horned helmets and axes, and they love a night in the mead hall. But they are not ethnically Nordic or Scandinavian. Marvel has fudged them into a category of “extra-dimensional aliens” who possess technology so powerful and advanced that humans classify it as magic. One could get into a headache of an argument wondering why they favor the look of the early medieval, but hey, whatever rocks their world. They’re gods / extra -dimensional aliens. We may not even be perceiving them accurately, but in whatever way our feeble human brains can comprehend their awesomeness.”

Here’s Marvel Comic’s official take on these “gods”.

“Inhabiting the Nine Worlds in the other-dimensional Asgardian system are six races of humanoid life forms. Each race is different and intelligent, but the most powerful race is that of the Gods. The Gods are the most human looking and believed to have inhabited Earth at one time only to move to Asgard sometime later. Norsemen and Germanic tribes used to worship the Asgardians nearly a millennium ago and that is why some of the names differ slightly like Wotan instead of Odin. Even though certain Gods are still interested in humanity such as Thor, the Asgardians do not have any more active worshippers or seek to have any.”

Now, unless your personal pantheon also includes Ego the Living Planet and Galactus (portrayed as far stronger than any of the gods), these are not the gods of the Norse that were, and are, worshiped in the real not-comics world (in addition, the notion/assertion that gods couldn’t change the color of their skin if they wanted to seems like an insult to their power). Anyone going to the Thor movie, or reading the comic, hoping for a religio-cultural thrill, will ultimately be disappointed. These are Marvel’s toys to play with, not divine beings (unless your Norse gods talk to you in a faux-Shakespearean patois and team up with enhanced human beings to defeat evil).

This controversy over what will most likely be an extended cameo by a black actor in an overwhelmingly white cast is entirely manufactured to draw attention to the CCC. They seem to miss being called racists so much that they are baiting comic book fans into doing it. Sadly, though I searched and searched, I couldn’t find their boycott pages for when Christopher Lambert played Raiden, or Keanu Reeves the Buddha. It seems their quest for purity only goes in one direction.

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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