The Nerd community is a really tough bastard to please. The Black Nerd community, maybe even more so. Still, because we rarely get what we want, throwing us a really big bone is often a good way to buy yourself some goodwill and keep our adamantium claws firmly in our hands a bit longer. Storm is probably the biggest get out of jail free card that may never get played. Last year, Bryan Singer announced that they had found their next Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm for the X-Men: Apocalypse film.

Now, you probably noticed… they are young. Like, could be Famke Janssen’s kids young. But that was to be expected, considering that the Apocalypse film was essentially going to be set in the “First Class” timeline with no wonky time travel going on this time (new powered-up Kitty Pryde not included). So, we weren’t going to get the old Scott, Jean and Ororo in their Hollywood Geriatric state, and that’s fine ’cause bruh, that’s actually a good thing. So, we can talk Sansa Stark playing Jean Grey (I’m going to need more convincing) or Tye “You might remember me from Mud, actually naw, you probably don’t” Sheridan playing Cyclops, but come on, fam. You’re on Black Nerd Problems right now… you know we’re gonna talk about Ororo Da Literal Gawd.

I do not come to bury Alexandra Shipp. I don’t know Alexandra Shipp. I like her politics though. I like that she likes President Obama as more of my black friends complain about him (*cough*Omar Holmon*cough*).

 

I like that she is willing to take on big iconic roles that resonate specifically with the Black community. But I also know that the Aaliyah biopic was a derailed train into a forest fire. And when movies are that bad, but the lead actress or actor is amazing, that becomes the narrative. Like, Chadwick Boseman in Get On Up. Or most small films that Tom Hardy stars in. Or Viola Davis starring in this planet Earth. None such came out of that Lifetime feature except it might take a Lifetime to erase that from Aaliyah’s legacy. None of this is really about Alexandra Shipp though. Which, really sucks for her. But it isn’t.

What this is about is the way that Hollywood continues to pretend that no impact or history lies in the darkness of someone’s skin. Well, when I say Hollywood, in this case I mean Bryan Singer. And when I say “someone’s skin,” I really mean Black Women. Brothas can fall victim to skin shade discrimination as well, but, outside of skin color, they don’t have to deal with the impossible beauty standards of women, let alone a dark-complected woman. Plenty of people will say (with or without venom): “What’s the real issue, it’s not like they cast a white woman as Storm, does it really need to be this complicated?” Yeah, it kind of does.

Even as a fictional character, Storm is a feminist symbol for Black Women the way that most assume Wonder Woman has been for women all these years. Storm has always been powerful, goddess-like and African. And no, not Charlize Theron, South African. Her dark complexion has always been part of her appearance and it’s not by accident. The same way it isn’t an accident that Storm has become a beacon and symbol for women with darker skin for decades now. The unwillingness to recognize that is just another thunderbolt in the side of a demographic of women who frankly, are plenty used to it by now. Still not understanding the public contempt for this casting choice? OK…

Without turning a column centering around Storm into a column about slavery (where this really takes hold), I will say that the stigma of black women that are darker being ugly, less desirable or just plain less than, goes back a lot further than the X-Men. Unfortunately, time has done little to eradicate that notion. It’s why Lupita’s rise to fame was constantly met with, “I don’t get it, I don’t see why people think she’s beautiful.” Or the New York Times calling Viola Davis “less classically beautiful.” Or why there are about 17 things wrong with Zoe Saldana being cast as Nina Simone, but one of the most talked about is how much lighter she is than Nina was. Black does not equate to all black. For Nina specifically (but for other cases broadly), the disregard for her struggle in the world because she was dark complected is a disregard of her daily story. Her most honest story. Now Storm is a fictional character, she does not have a daily grind, struggle and catalog of insults, dismissals and micro-aggressions that have to be accounted for. But living and breathing Black Women that embrace the idea of Storm, do have to face those things. If you look at certain movies, editorials or documentaries, you’ll see this isn’t a new or unexplored conversation locally or out in the world. It’s a real thing that effects the public in a real way.

I do empathize with actors and actresses in these cases, to an extent. This is a passion and an art for them, but it’s also a job. And the economy might be doing pretty well right now, but you ain’t supposed to turn down gigs like that. Maybe Alexandra Shipp has been a Storm fan for years too. Maybe, the symbol that is Storm has been a source of power and pride for her just like many other Black Women and this is a dream come true for her. But that empathy doesn’t really do much to alleviate the consistent knocking in the back of Black Women’s skulls that have been passed over because they were too dark. To simply dismiss this as a non-starter of an issue is really just another level of “I don’t see color,” but instead it’s “I don’t see the difference between one black person to another.”

Because I’m an X-Men fan and because I’m an Ororo Munroe stan, I hope Alexandra Shipp kills it. Lord knows that we need a good Storm performance after all these years. But I think it would be foolish to say that many of us were surprised that an actress a bit on the lighter shade of the spectrum was cast. Dark girls even less though. Still, I’m rooting for Alexandra personally, at least she’s doing the work.

Also, if you want to do the work yourselves for Storm, hopefully you’re already supporting writer Greg Pak on his recent run of the comic.

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  • William is the Editor-In-Chief, leader of the Black Knights and father of the Avatar. With Korra's attitude, not the other one.

  • Show Comments

  • Omoizele Oz Okoawo

    The thing about Bryan Singer is that he doesn’t do great work. He has simply *notbeenfuckingup* when it comes to these X-men movies and I’ve gotten to the point where that isn’t enough for me anymore. And how Lupita isn’t the first thing on your mind when it comes to Storm, given how she dressed at all those award ceremonies she attended last year is beyond me.

  • Eye of the Squid

    Great analysis!! Yeah, fingers crossed she’ll pull it off. Ororo is one tough cookie.

  • Edward E Thomas Jr.

    For one they was looking for a younger actor not a middle age woman so the went with some one that like 20-23 now if the was going to recast an adult storm yes im all for it but Lupita Nyong’o is 31 and has only bee acting for a few your Alexandra Shipp hasi been been active since 2009 on abc family, Nickelodeon‎, [ 6 tv shows] 3 tv movies. Lupita Nyong’o has 1 short 1 tv series and 1 movie the younger actress has done more and now its her turn

    • Rory G. James

      Edward, are you serious? Do you know Lupita’s background? Shipp does NOT have more experience than Lupita. Lupita is a classically trained drama actor from Yale. She has chops on the stage and film so that trumps Shipp. Age aside she would have been a perfect casting, however, I understand why they went younger. But that doesn’t discredit the point that William Evans is making. He is right in his assertion that Hollywood has an issue with dark-complected women.

    • TJ

      You are missing the point of the article! It was not about the experience of the actress. IMO it was about why couldn’t Bryan cast someone who would identify more in the appearance of Storm. Not bashing the actress, but he could have done a better job.

  • Lucas

    Plus, shipping has been two horrendous tv movies, both of which she was the star of. She needs more training. I wholeheartedly believe she was picked for her looks.

  • venus baptiste

    I guess her mutant ability is the power to bleach her skin for the movies. Hawkgirl is gonna be played by a mullato chick too. Its hard not to accuse Hollywood of colorism when it comes to dark skinned sisters in sci fi movies. I’m surprised at the number of African American men who agreed, they’re usually the biggest perpetrators of colorism whenever they take over casting chores esp. in videos. They seem to be silent on this subjest since it doesn’t affect them…i wonder how if they’d be more vocal if Luke Cage was played by Dwayne ‘The Rock” Johnson? I shudder to think of a movie featuring Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) or Vixen another landmark black super heroine whose origins are in the darkest reaches of Africa!

  • Chaz Moore

    Totally agree with this article. I had the same thoughts. googled my perspective and found this article. It’s sad and this is just one way to diminish the black face on screen. Singer is a horrible director and not one dark skin actor throughout the Xmen series has lasted longer than 30 min on screen

    • Jeffrey Perot

      I don’t thinl this is Singer. This was decided above Singer’s pay grade. Note, also, that proor to Shipp’s (ororo’s) Cairo – some 5500 years before actually – there was not an African to be seen. Go figure?

  • Stacia Daniel

    Oh my gosh! Yay!
    I am white. I only know about skin color issues from reading them or through other peoples experiences. I did not want to seem or appear racist when I was reading all the posts about the new cast. And I did not want to be disparaging to the young actress that was cast. But all I kept thinking was, “Storm has a mohawk. Yay. Great…. But could we PLEASE make Storm black? SHE WAS FROM AFRICA.”

  • Jaimon

    I’m sure I’m going to be “micro-aggressing” like an SOB, but I’m 37 and don’t really know what that means.
    Here’s what I’ve seen. Hollywood uses: Dark haired white men as heroes. Light haired white men as villains. Balding white men as perverts. Dark complexion black men as scary criminals. Light complexion black men as good lovers. Dark haired white women as intelligent. Light haired white women as naive. Dark complexion black women as invisible maids. Light complexion black women as That Friend. Asian men as comic relief. Asian women as eye candy.
    Other Hollywood rules? More men than women. More whites than anything else. More brunettes than blondes. More light skinned blacks than dark. No more than two Asians together unless in Chinatown. All Asians are Chinese and know martial arts. If a white character has a group of “multi cultural” friends they only talk to her or about her.
    There are exceptions, of course, but lazy writing will always exist if it sells.
    That said, Zoe Saldana is so hot she breaks all rules.

  • rob I

    i agree with this article, but maybe theyve changed the origin? maybe she’s not from an african jungle? and i want to add the mohawk phase was dumb.

    • Kahleem Poole

      She’s African and last I checked, didn’t have Albino blood or white parents. Being from a “jungle” doesn’t make one more authentic African.

      Damn, how white kids can be this damn ignorant and dumb?

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