The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Oscar Isaac, Batman, and the case for superhero diversity

Written by: Cesar Perez, CC2K Staff Writer

Image of Oscar Isaac via Gage Skidmore

Guatemalan-born actor Oscar Isaac reportedly had a meeting with Warner Bros. executives to discuss the possibility of the 39-year-old actor taking on a role in Matt Reeves’ forthcoming The Batman. Following these reports fans rushed to social media to voice their overwhelming excitement at the possibility of the supremely talented Isaac could being cast as Batman. Having anchored roles in some of the most acclaimed films of the past few years, such as Ex Machina, Inside Llewyn Davis, and the Star Wars franchise, one understands the enthusiasm.

Although Warner Bros. has yet to release an official report confirming or denying the meeting, that didn’t stop fans from speculating whether Isaac would play Batman or a villain from the Caped Crusader’s infamous rouges gallery. Hugo Strange, Penguin, and Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend-turned-foe Thomas Elliot aka Hush, are the villains kicked around the most. Casting Isaac in any major role in The Batman would be huge, but in terms of achieving true diversity in Hollywood, Warner Bros. needs to pull the trigger and cast him as the Batman. Casting him as arguably the most recognizable superhero off all-time would carry weight and be massive towards moving for diversity in the film industry.

Amidst excitement from fans there was also blowback from those arguing Bruce Wayne’s ethnicity should not be changed under any under circumstance. The notion that Bruce Wayne’s ethnicity must remain the same is wrong. Changing Bruce Wayne does not fundamentally alter the integrity of the character or any other superhero whose ethnicity is not an integral aspect of their history. Accepting that the default ethnicity is white for Bruce Wayne and many other superheroes is a mistake. There is room for a Latino Bruce Wayne, an African American Tony Stark, or an Asian American Nightwing.

Finding actors who can embody the attributes of these superheroes is above all the most crucial element when casting them. There are many capable minority actors who can fill these iconic superhero roles. Oscar Isaac has the ability to pull off the playboy persona of Bruce Wayne while matching the fierce devotion of Batman. John David Washington of BlacKkKlansman and HBO’s Ballers has shown he has the acting chops to exhibit Tony Stark’s hubris and intellect. Steven Yuen of The Walking Dead displayed the charisma and courage needed to play Batman’s sidekick Nightwing. These actors have what it takes to be leading men and need to be given an opportunity to carry a superhero franchise.

The recent box office performances from films spotlighting people of color is evidence that film studios should be aiming to feature more superheroes of color. Minorities have shown that if given an opportunity to support their culture when it is represented on film, they will come out in droves to the box office. Black Panther came out of nowhere to gross over a billion-dollars worldwide. Crazy Rich Asians became the highest grossing romantic comedy since Sandra Bullock’s 2009 film, The Proposal. Pixar’s Coco currently stands as the 15th highest grossing animated film of all-time while Moana sits at 24th on that same list. Furthermore, the 44 million trailer views in just 24 hours for Sony’s upcoming animated feature film Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse serves as a good indicator that it has major box office potential. Into The Spider-Verse features the half-African American/half-Puerto Rican Miles Morales as the web slinger and a strong box office performance could ascend  Morales to the big leagues with a future appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The lack of popular superheroes of color in comics makes it all the more critical that minority actors are given an equal shot to play a character such as Superman or Green Lantern when they are adapted to film. Pushing for an African American Green Lantern or a Mexican American Ghost Rider on the big screen is more impactful towards the push for diversity because of the characters large built-in audience, not to mention there is an established African American Green Lantern with John Stewart and Mexican American Ghost Rider with Robbie Reyes, which should make for an easy transition for the characters from comics to film.

Lesser known superheroes of color such as America Chavez, Blue Beetle, and Monet, should, in time, get a solo film of their own because their profile will definitely be heightened. Black Panther did wonders for the popularity of the character because prior to his solo film T’Challa was widely seen as a second-tier superhero at best. Now he is arguably one of the most prominent characters in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with communities of color proving they can support their own at the box office. Hopefully we will continue to see more films that follow in the T’Challa’s footsteps.