The Suicide Squad: James Gunn Defends Racebending White Characters

As the world of superhero cinema continues to churn forward, Hollywood rightfully begins to introduce more properties featuring underrepresented parties, decades after cape flicks became the primary draw at the box office. It took Marvel Studios ten years and nearly 20 movies before the Burbank-based studio introduced Black Panther to the masses, a movie that's gone on to become one of the most profitable franchises for the House of Ideas. Even then, Kevin Feige and his team didn't hire a woman to direct one of the studio's movies until Captain Marvel, the 21st movie the studio released.

That's a large reason why The Suicide Squad director James Gunn has defended race-bending movie characters from how they initially appear in the source material. In a comment on one recent Instagram post, a fan asked the filmmaker his thoughts on David Ayer casting Will Smith as Deadshot in Suicide Squad. As the fan put it, Deadshot — real name Floyd Lawton — is white in the comics and appeared as such in the Arrowverse.

"Again, that's pretty simple - people aren't making movies about unknown superheroes," Gunn responded on the post. "In addition, it's innately discriminatory to think what makes a character a character is his or her ethnicity and not his or her personality. What is it, if not racism, that David Ayer, for casting Will Smith as Deadshot, and John Watts, for casting Zendaya as Mary Jane, got thousands of times more shit for those choices than I did for making Drax and Mantis aliens instead of humans in Guardians?"

As Gunn said, it's not about the color of a character's skin, rather it's about the attitude and personality associated with the character. As he puts it, Smith's personality as an actor is nearly identical to that of Lawton in the comics.

The filmmaker added, "In most cases, these are great casting choices - Will Smith is a lot like Floyd in the books, he just happens to be black. And it isn't done for no reason - it's usually done to more effectively reflect our world and to cast the best actor for the role, regardless of race. If David Ayer thought Mark Wahlberg would have made a better Deadshot, he probably would have cast him."

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The Suicide Squad is due out August 6, 2021.

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