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Old 06-18-2019, 03:26 PM
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Wow. I never thought I'd have to be on this side of the debate, defending when it is appropriate not to change the race. But them's the breaks.

Yes, obviously, you can choose to make a character be whatever you want. But that's with new characters. This thread is clearly about preexisting characters. So it does boil down to "is their race important?" They already have some story already, and it matters whether or not that story is changed by a change in race. They already have a character, and it matters whether the character will change.

Sometimes, the change just doesn't really matter. Other times, it matters, but that's the point. But sometimes it matters in such a way that, if you're not making a specific point, you might as well make a new character with a new story.

Superman being black? That definitely changes things. Even if we keep him being found by farmers in Kansas, one of two things will happen: he'll be found by black parents, and then face the racism of a small town, or he'll be found by white parents, and have the unique experience there. Either can happen, but it becomes the point of the story. It becomes "What if Superman were black?" If that's not your point, then you'd probably keep him white, where his backstory can remain unchanged. (Sure, you could rewrite the world not to have that racism, but then it will feel like whitewashing racism, so that's not a great idea.) I would be fine either way.

Now making Hermione Granger black? Meh. It was the 1990s, and she spent most of her formative years in a magical world where the racism is of a different kind. It would be easy for anything that would be different for her being black just to not show up in the stories. Especially assuming she remains middle class, the daughter of dentists.

Super Mario being Latino: changes nothing really. He's only ever in this magical world, and it can just not have racism. No big deal. The only thing that changes is his stereotypical phrases and accent. Maybe he says "ay ay ay" when he gets killed instead of "Mama mia!"

Archie Bunker becomes Asian? That's a completely different character, even more so that Superman. Even if you're wanting to tell a story about an Asian with similar bigotries, you might as well make him a different person. I mean, he's gonna have to have a different name, even. Why pretend he's the same guy? The only reason I can see to do it is some stunt colorblind casting, probably for comedic purposes, and I wouldn't trust that type of comedy to not actually be bigoted.

I'm sure there are other ideas. But surely at least that last one gets the point across, without needing to be about playing a real life person. Archie Bunker's whiteness is essential to the role.