Why Jason Momoa’s Aquaman Look is Causing a Huge Tidal Wave and Why That Tidal Wave is Stupid
Hubs and I had a lengthy chat regarding this very matter last night, triggered by the bitching and moaning he head on one of the geek podcasts (I’m honestly not sure which one else I would happily call it out). The gents in question, he said, had only negative comments: not enough orange, green, and gold; not enough clothing; hair too long; hair too dark (aka: not blonde); five pointed trident blad-y blah blah.
Everyone is, of course, entitled to his/her opinion. And sure, change is hard, especially when the dude in question has looked essentially the same (plus or minus facial hair and/or a hook hand) the majority of your life.
I’m calling bullshit in this case, however, in a manner similar to the way I called bullshit (IRL, believe it or not) when the inter webs exploded re: an African American actor being cast as Johnny Storm (not that I have any intention of seeing Fantastic Four Redux Again Bugaloo because I really don’t give a shit about the characters or the story). If I did give a crap about The Fantastic Four, I’d be super excited that casting went for the person they felt was best for the part rather than the person who was the best physical match vis a vis comic continuity.
Do physical characteristics matter in movie casting? Sure they do. I’m not naive. You’re never going to get a short, skinny Superman or a less than stacked Wonder Woman. Is it fair? No. It isn’t fair at all. But let’s put that aside for a moment and take a look at what, in my opinion, is really bothering people about Jason Momoa’s look and why it’s complete crap.
The answer is tripartite. Ready? Here we go.
1) Say we are concerned about accuracy of the physical.
The myth of Atlantis is first mentioned in the work of Plato. The story is an allegory for the bad shit that happens to people with too much hubris. Atlantis sends its navy against Athens, the Platonic ideal of the city state, and gets burned. There are earlier incarnations of the tale that may have served as Plato’s inspiration; one from Egypt, one from Sicily, and another from Greece (yes, I used Wikipedia, but I backed it up).
Ever been to the Mediterranean or Africa? Italy? Seen pictures of people native to those parts of the world?
Blonde hair and blue eyes aren’t so much in the native DNA. Things are different these days of course; people travel more widely, marry outside of their own cultures and ethnicities far more often than was the case even twenty-five years ago. My husband and I, for instance, are both Ashkenazi Jewish but our families are from totally different parts of Eastern Europe. My sister’s husband has one parent of Chinese origin and one of European while my sister is blonde haired and blue eyed (I have dark hair, dark eyes, and vampire skin). One of our friends, with whom hubs and I went to Hebrew School as kids, is married to a woman who has one parent who is from Japan and the other from China and who is, herself, Hawaiian. We have all spawned.
That doesn’t change the fact, however, that the myths of Atlantis originate in the Middle East, Africa, or the Mediterranean. Which, back in the day, general gave birth to folks with darker complexions and darker hair.
Observe, because one of these things is not like the others:
So what we have here is a far more accurate-looking Aquaman than we’ve ever had before (though Momoa’s own ancestry is Hawaiian and European, at least according to IMDB). Which is all we have to go on at the moment because we haven’t seen any actual footage.
The hair and beard? The Greeks had ’em or, at least, their representations of their gods did. The brightly colored suit? Dude lives underwater; colors are muted anyway and a full suit, even a tight one, would create drag. Besides which, the silver and black edge him toward shark-ness and yeah, dude is King of the Sea. Shark works. The integration of Momoa’s tattoos is amazing and beautiful.
No, he doesn’t look like you. Nor should he. He’s from an ethnic group that hasn’t had any contact with the human world for millennia. No, he doesn’t look like the comic book or animated Aquaman. Why would he? He isn’t half human He hasn’t spent any time on the surface. He’s from Greece.
He looks like himself.
All hail freakin’ diversity, yo.
2) Because Aquaman has evolved, in terms of powers and bad-assery, over the last couple of decades, but no one has bothered to keep up. People are fine with feeling inadequate when compared to Superman and Batman because hey, they’re Superman and Batman. One is an alien and one is a billionaire and they aren’t regular people. Aquaman got stuck in the Super Friends incarnation and never really recovered.
People ignored him after that because, seriously. Doofus. Doofus with no real powers. And while I love the Brave and the Bold Aquaman from a humor perspective, he doesn’t do the character any favors.
What about this Aquaman, though? You know, the one who cut off his own arm to save his son’s life?
In throne of Atlantis, he has gills. He actually evolved, by virtue of genetics, into an amphibian. With super strength and a whole buttload of other cool powers.
Aquaman was the hero we didn’t have to feel inferior to because he was even lamer than we were. I mean, seriously, what does talking to fish get you?
He was the hero who made us feel like we might have a shot at the pantheon too and we all want that.
No longer. Now, he’s taken his rightful place. Now, he’s a king and he is a god and we’ve lost our stepping stone.
3) To some extent (and I’m not going to go into “right” or “wrong” here because that’s a whole other can of worms), Momoa’s costume, or lack thereof, makes sense for the role. But you’ll notice they didn’t choose a Grant Gustin or even a Stephen Amell for this part, they chose someone huge and muscular and wowzah. A guy who is essentially universally seen as handsome by the sector of the population who appreciate the male form. We sectors have been here since the beginning but we’re less concerned about attracting attention or making noise these days. We’ve also become a much larger portion of the comics-related market share. I get at least as many comics as the hubs does these days and while he sticks primarily with DC tv and film, I’ve those plus all of the straight up Marvel movies thus far and consume more of the secondary products (t-shirts, Funkos, etc). Fanboy-dom is no longer restricted to the boys and I get the sense that’s scary for a great many of said boys. This casting job, this costume, are proof that ya’ll aren’t the only ones calling the shots any more, and perhaps aren’t even the majority.
Yes, this is a gateway comment. A gateway to a much larger conversation that will most likely start: “If it’s okay for you to drool over Momoa, why do you get pissed off when we drool over Godot?”
It is the nature of the drooling with which I take issue. Aquaman, in any incarnation, is a hero who happens to be hot. Wonder Woman is a hottie who happens to be a hero and has been so subjected since her inception as a bondage fantasy.
We will come back to this in an entry devoted to the aforementioned conversation.
Regularly scheduled program:
Fearing other influences is straight up stupid because we can all only benefit from having our world view broadened, in screens, in ink, and in real life.
We’re not trying to steal anything or take anything away, guys. We’re just trying to bring something new and fresh and different to the conversation. An equanimity (you get your Wonder Woman, no?) but also a different angle, a new lens, dark hair where once there was blonde, armor where once there was a boob window, love in the myriad form love comes in.
This is a good thing. Celebrate it.
And hey, if you insist on being a douche-bag, there’s always the Phantom Zone…