Caution: This post contains tongue-in-cheek media criticism, casual activism, extreme nerdiness, obscure comic book characters, and an excessive use of adjectives.
So lately, I’ve been reading Marvel’s The New Mutants. They’re an X-Men spinoff, only instead of fighting super villains like Magneto and bigotry, they have slumber parties, inter-dimensional hijinks, and teenage feels.
Now, just as I was starting to get serious about tracking down back issues, 21st Century Fox announced that they would be making an X-Men spinoff movie starring The New Mutants and directed by Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars).
Oh hell yes.
Now, while I’m not familiar with Boone’s work as a director, I am familiar with a different aspect of film making: whitewashing.
For the uninitiated, “whitewashing” refers to Hollywood’s long, disturbing trend of casting white actors to play non-white characters. This long, disturbing trend is as old as cinema itself—think Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer and Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s—but it’s never exactly gone away.
I’m worried about this, because New Mutants is one of Marvel’s more ethnically diverse books, and there is a frustrating lack of diversity when it comes to superheroes onscreen.
So in the hope of heading off yet another instance of questionable Hollywood casting decisions à la Aloha, I offer my dream cast for the New Mutants movie:
Devery Jacobs as Danielle Moonstar (a.k.a. “Mirage”)
This one was tricky. Danielle Moonstar is the tactical leader of the New Mutants. She is fiercely independent, righteously angry, and immensely proud of her cultural heritage. Danielle is Cheyenne, one of the Plains Indian tribes, so the ideal choice for this role would be a Cheyenne/Plains Indian actress.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any. (Smarter than Google? Leave suggestions in the comments.)
I was, however, able to find this:
1:45: “You two have got to be the dumbest Indians since Bugs Bunny put on a headdress.”
If that’s not a Danielle Moonstar line, I don’t know what is.
Olivia Tennet as Rahne Sinclair (a.k.a. “Wolfsbane”)
I’m cheating a bit here, because the only redheaded Scottish actress I’m familiar with is Karen Gillan, and she’s already been cast in a Marvel-related property. Also—I’m sorry, fellow diversity advocates—I can’t really buy Gillan playing a young teenager at this point in her career.
I cast Olivia Tennet for three reasons: 1) she’s a terrific actress, 2) she’s capable of portraying teenaged characters with awkward social skills and interior conflict, and 3) she’s pretty much the only reason I watched Power Rangers: RPM.
Rahne is the youngest member of the New Mutants. Her power is that she can turn into a werewolf, and her secondary mutation is deep-seated psychological trauma. Rahne was raised to believe that she was a demon, which led to her isolation and stunted emotional development. Even after joining the New Mutants, she doesn’t quite know how to relate to other characters.
In short, she’s Dr. K with mutant lycanthropy.
Tristan Wilds as Roberto de Costa (a.k.a. “Sunspot”)
I’m putting my foot down on this one: Roberto de Costa is a) black and b) Latin American. He should be played by an actor who is a) black and b) Latin American.
“I get offered a lot of black roles, because apparently I don’t look Latino enough.” (New York Daily News circa 2003)
For those of you who need more convincing, Bobby de Costa is also devilishly charming. Here is an interview with Tristan Wilds in which he is devilishly charming:
Constance Wu as Xi’an Coy Mahn (a.k.a. “Karma”)
Xi’an is a difficult character for a number of reasons. She’s been inconsistently written, her name is unpronounceable in Vietnamese (disclaimer: I’ve forgotten my source for this one—feel free to “well, actually” this in the comments), and her backstory has more than a few unfortunate implications.
So I say this movie is the perfect time to reinvent her. She could be the New Mutant’s sardonic mentor: a mutant who is very much like the rest of the team, only couple years older, wiser, and with a wit so dry that her one-liners have been known to cause droughts.
What better way to reinvent a historically problematic character than by casting one of the most visible Asian-American actresses in American media?
Justin Deely as Samuel Guthrie (a.k.a. “Cannonball”)
Good lookin’, all-American boy from Kentucky. Nigh invulnerable while blastin’.
Josh Hutcherson as Doug Ramsey (a.k.a. “Cypher”)
I almost cast J-Hutch as Cannonball, but then I remembered how Peeta’s feelings of inadequacy in The Hunger Games line up perfectly with Doug’s feelings of inadequacy in The New Mutants. Few actors can pull off the self-deprecating shy kid act as well as Josh Hutcherson.
Cypher is a great character. He has one of the most useful superpowers (he can hear/read any language and understand it almost instantly), he’s a programming wiz kid, he’s self-sacrificing, and best of all, he’s best friends with my favorite New Mutant…
Danny Pudi as Warlock
Oh, yeah! Now that’s what I’m talking about.
Warlock is the best Marvel Character of all time period. He’s an alien computer organism who has difficulty with pronouns and tries to make friends with an airplane. Everything he says in endearingly awkward.
I’m guessing that Warlock will be entirely CGI, and I can’t think of a better person to base his looks off than Danny Pudi. Pudi’s already proven that he can do endearingly awkward, so all we need now is a vocal synthesizer, a few million dollars worth of visual effects, and we’re golden.
Last but not least, we have…
Dakota Fanning as Illyana Rasputin (a.k.a. “Magik”)
A sweet, innocent child corrupted by a hell dimension into a sarcastic, semi-demonic young adult who is constantly struggling to overcome her dark past. If you don’t see the resemblance, I’m not sure I can help you.
So there you have it: my dream cast for The New Mutants movie. I don’t expect 21st Century Fox to follow all (or any) of my suggestions—eight main characters is a lot, even for a superhero movie.
If nothing else, I hope that Boone and company stay true to the spirit of the New Mutants: these are characters whose ethnicity informs their character but, when they’re well-written, it does not define them.
The New Mutants are native, Asian, mixed race, European, alien, female, male, gay, straight, and everything in between. And as many (many, many) critics and social commentators have said countless times before, so is the movie-going public.
It’s about time we had a superhero team that looks like the rest of us.
Bonus casting not pictured: Hayden Panettiere as Amara Juliana Olivians Aquilla (a.k.a. “Magma”). They can save her for the sequel.